Debra Jo Chiapuzio
Culture: Readers Write
Emma Zen Rolls into Sturgis
Meet our biker dog ambassador

By Debra Jo Chiapuzio

Emma Zen canine ambassador for biker dogs. Quite a title but what does a biker dog do? What makes one an ambassador? And are we making this up or is there really such a thing?


Emma Zen, the Labrador/Great Dane shelter survivor and therapy dog from Orange County, Calif., is just that! She has been riding since she was six-months-old. “How did you train your dog to do that?” many have asked. Well, it sort of just came naturally for her. It is who she is. My husband, Jim, and I have never tricked her or teased her and she trusts us with all that she is. Your dog jumps in your car and hangs its head out the window. Well, we just have a different mode of transportation.   And transport we do. With more than 17,000 miles under her tail in three years, this seriously authentic pooch is bringing more light to traveling with your pet then any one “attention” grabber could bring. It is sort of hard to miss a 106-pound canine in a sidecar with Doggles, and even harder not to smile when you see her! We didn’t set out to have a canine ambassador, we just offer our pet nothing less then what we thought would keep her safe and in the process many have taken note.   During Sturgis Rally Week this year in South Dakota, Emma Zen could be seen all over the Black Hills. Some pointed and laughed, some smiled, some chased us down the freeway, and everyone took photos. I asked one of the many rough-and-tumble bikers, “Why does she grab you?” He said, “Because she warms my heart and I left my dog at home.” He hugged Emma Zen. It was the first time I’ve seen a big biker cry.    We’ve learned that you can take the dog out of therapy but you can’t take the therapy out of the dog!   If the public is going to pay attention, we feel it is our duty to do something worthy. We are becoming fundraisers for canine charities, including our recent goal of having people sponsor Emma Zen’s 2011 trip to Sturgis so that oxygen masks specially designed for pets can be purchased and given to the local fire and emergency response teams.   So is there such a thing as canine ambassador for biker dogs? I think so and her name is Emma Zen.   For information on the 2011 Ride4Life, please visit www.emmazen.com.