If you live in Brooklyn Park or Brooklyn Center, you may have seen Marvin Johnson and his girls, Chloe, Tootsie and Holly. He proudly chauffeurs them around town every day, stopping often to show them off to looky-loos.
He says he loves them all equally, but it’s pretty clear Tootsie is his favorite. Sometimes, he brings others along for the ride. He said he loves them all as if they’re his own.
Johnson’s vehicle is his bicycle, and the passengers are his dogs. On his bike, with trailer in tow, Johnson rode more than 1,000 miles last year. He’s on pace to reach that mark again this year as he pedals from home and loops around Palmer Lake Park every day — sometimes twice a day.
It’s made him a bit of a neighborhood curiosity, maybe even a modest celebrity. Many wonder what his story is.
Johnson says he’s a simple man with a simple tale: He’s just a retired guy who loves biking and dogs.
The dogs are “the best companion you can have in life. They never complain about your driving,” Johnson explains with a chuckle during a stop.
It’s also a good way to stay in shape.
“It’s a workout when you are pulling an 80-pound load with six or eight dogs in there,” he said.
Johnson, 73, was born and raised on a farm 50 miles east of Duluth in Oulu, Wis., population 500. He was one of 12 children and he always had a fondness for animals. He worked as a cook and most recently in the nickel plating shop at Technical Plating. The father of five retired and decided to pursue his hobbies: biking and dogs. His wife, Jeanette, tolerates the hobbies.
Johnson’s daughter Wanda Beldshaw give him the bike trailer a few years back.
“He said, ‘I can probably pull my pooches around in that,’ ” Beldshaw said. “It’s hilarious. It’s kind of become an icon of the neighborhood. He’s replaced the tires on that thing I don’t know how many times.”
Friends and neighbors rely on him for dog sitting, and his charges often go along for the ride.
Carolyn Lakanen of Andover drops her dogs off with Johnson.
“He is kind of a character, but when you talk to him you can see how much he loves dogs,” Lakanen said. “He is just a very kind and compassionate person. When I leave my dogs there, he loves them like children.”