Mo Thompson never planned to be a dog walker — and she certainly didn’t set out to go viral on TikTok. But recently, her videos of the puppies she walks have gotten millions of views, especially the ones showing how she picks them up: the puppy bus.
“They get on the bus and they sit in their seat and the Internet just lost it,” she said. “50 million views. It was crazy.”
The videos feature the groups of dogs that Mo and her husband Lee take on their off-leash walking groups as part of their walking and training business, Mo Mountain Mutts.
After picking up the pups from around their small town of Skagway, Alaska, their minivan takes them on hikes, hikes, and swims. The dog’s dutiful boarding and individual personalities have endeared viewers.
“There are so many different dogs and there are so many different breeds and ages that there are lots of dogs on the bus that you can relate to,” Thompson said. “So people are like, ‘Oh, my dogs like Lola,’ or ‘I’m like Carl.’ They kind of identify with the dog.”
There are certain fan favorites, like Jake.
“Someone made a comment about ‘I bet you Jake buckle up,'” she said. “He gets on the bus, he says hello to his friends, he makes a circle, and then he sits in his seat. Every morning. It’s like the same thing. If he was a person, he’d be like, have coffee and toast every morning for breakfast and read the paper.”
Or Amaru, who is shown in videos sitting out in the snow alone, waiting for the bus to stop:
“You pull up and he starts wagging his tail,” Thomspon said.
“He gets on the bus just covered in snow.”
Their popularity surprised the Thompsons.
She initially posted on social media to keep the parents of her dog clients updated. But then again, Mo never intended for dog walking to turn into a business either. It started just as a service for her colleagues before she even had her own dog.
“It’s just kind of a thing in our town where people walk each other’s dogs. It’s like a real little community,” Thompson said.
Mo took her friend’s dogs on trails or out into town to get exercise and keep her company in the wilderness. When she got her own dogs and went with friends, the groups got bigger and bigger. Eventually, people started calling her for help with training or behavioral issues.
“And it just kind of became like, OK, guys, I’m going through a lot of treats and a lot of poo bags,” she said.
“Can you guys, like, throw me some money?”
She didn’t always have a bus. She used to drive the dogs around in a van, and before the van she would put them on a humble bicycle.
“I’ve been known in my community for a while, but not on the Internet,” she said. “It took the bus.”
This digital story was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.