You have the magazine, the t-shirt, the bumpersticker—what about the song? Song? Who knew there was a song? Not us, at least not until Bark reader Sara Wagner pinged us that Ben Hassenger had written a tune that could have come out of the Berkeley offices of The Bark.
In “Dog Is My Co-Pilot,” Hassenger celebrates all the ways that a dog is a pal on the highway of life. One of my favorite lines, “…when the traction slips, he will be my rumble strips.”
But Bark magazine’s slogan was not Hassenger’s inspiration. “I wrote this song about my dog Jake, who looked sort of like a big Jack Russell,” the Okemos, Michigan-based singer-songwriter explained in an email. “I adopted him at a flea market (he didn’t have any on him, thank goodness) in Royal Oak, Mich., in 1993. The song is probably the most popular one I have ever written and has been a hit in performances from Michigan to Vietnam and China. It seems to strike a chord with dog lovers everywhere.”
An English as a Second Language teacher, Hassenger uses music in his work. “It helps with pronunciation, vocabulary and culture and it’s more fun than the standard approaches to language learning,” he says.
Hassenger performs as a solo artist and with various duos and combos and plays the guitar and ukulele. He even started a ukulele orchestra at his school. He has also traveled to Vietnam, China and South Korea, using music to teach English and American culture.
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Jake died in August 2009 at the age of 15 years and 8 months, and for now, Hassenger rides without a co-pilot. But he says he’s not lacking for animal companionship because he spends lots of time with his girlfriend’s Aussie/Blue Heeler mix and her Calico cat and he dog-sits for friends. “I’m sure I will get my own dogs and cats again in the future,” he says. “It’s just not the right time at this moment.”
You can experience a little more of the magic of Jake in another original Hassenger tune, “Jake,” with a slideshow.