When motorcross bike rider Mike Schelin, 41, first got his dog Opee in 2002, he had no idea the blue merle Australian shepherd would become his race partner.
"I love dogs and couldn’t believe how I bonded with Opee after we got to know each other," Schelin, who lives in Perris, Calif., with the now 8-year-old pooch, tells PEOPLEPets.com. "Right away we started playing in the desert on weekends, and I found he liked my dirt bike. He would run to chase me while I was riding."
So Schelin plunked down $3,000 to buy a four-wheeler that would fit them both.
"I bought it so we could ride together," says Schelin. "I started a construction business because I wanted a job where I could take my best friend to work. So I figured we could also spend our weekends together if he learned to ride with me along desert roads."
Once Schelin saw that Opee disliked getting dust in his eyes, he bought his pooch a pair of goggles. After a couple of heady turns when the goggles fell off, Schelin strapped them around the dog's chin.
"Opee showed a liking for my Harley so he rides on the tank with me and loves it," the motorcross racer tells PEOPLEPets.com. "I got him a half helmet and we both wear backpacks. When he's all geared up with a neck brace, inflatable vest, jerseys, etc., he weighs nearly 100 lbs. I call him my sack of cement!"
The pair have made their way around the country, including finishing the Baja 500 with three other team members. The team completed the race in 17 hours, 49 minutes, 36 seconds, ahead of half of all the racers. Schelin and Opee have also raced during Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Fla., and all over the west coast.
"Everyone loves Opee, and I have found that I don't even want to race without him along," says Schelin, who has secured his dog some sponsors and races three or four times a year. "I don't go fast enough without his support."
Opee has also become licensed in search and rescue as well as assisting his owner in helping disabled kids, a lifelong passion of Schelin’s. They visit children in hospitals, hoping to make their days a little rosier.
"Nothing makes me happier than to see the smiles Opee puts on kid's faces when we visit them," Schelin tells PEOPLEPets.com. "I knew he was a special dog when we met, but he has turned out to be a marvel. He is the most important thing in my life."