Author: Christie Solomon | Photographer:
Meet the rescued stars of Robin’s Bikes & Fitness family: Bubba, the shop cat, and Paige and Denny, the shop dogs. Their humans are: Owner, Robin Wilkes; Store Manager, Amy Yanora; and Service Manager, Tommy Sager. The family is often joined by guest stars, Lulu, and, most recently, Koda, the Dog-Harmony foster dog that is working on his socialization skills. Lulu belongs to Robin’s better half, Renee Broxson, and she is a frequent canine ambassador at Dog-Harmony’s Kids & Canines Camps.
Trek, named after the bicycle brand, was Robin’s original shop dog, who is fondly remembered each year with a paw print on Robin’s new team cycling kit designs. Trek came home with Robin in 1990 and worked with Robin at Bob’s Bicycles in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. He even helped Robin open his very own bike shop in Miramar Beach in 2000. Trek accompanied Robin on trail rides and bike races, where he would wait at the camp or sag wagon stops until Robin passed by.
After Trek passed away in 2004, Lance joined the Robin’s Bikes & Fitness family, which, by now, consisted of Amy and Tommy. Not long after, Renee discovered a female, brindle-colored, mixed breed dog in Chipley that was in danger of being euthanized within 24 hours. Renee drove to Chipley right away, adopted Paige with the intention of eventually finding her a furever home. Paige was very skittish and food aggressive in the beginning. Robin began taking Paige to the bike shop with Lance and training with her every day to set her up for success in life.
Every Saturday, Tommy comes early to the shop before the group of riders arrive for a morning cycling spin and brings a special breakfast from Waffle House for the four-legged family members. He gets his coffee and the family follows him into the office to eat breakfast together and watch the news. Paige had obviously found her fur-ever home at the bike shop and with Robin and Renee.
Robin decided that Amy needed a shop cat after she lost her cat, Ben, brother to Jerry, in 2008. Robin took Amy to Hibiscus Coffee & Guest House in Grayton Beach under another guise (coffee). At that time, Cheri Peebles, the General Manager of Hibiscus, was active in trapping, neutering and returning (TNR) feral cats in the area. She had a collection of kittens and told Robin that Amy could have her pick of the kittens to take home (to the shop). To everyone’s surprise, an orange tabby came right up to Amy in the parking lot. He had let the adoptable kitties loose and no one knew from where he came. That orange tabby, who is now considerably bigger, became Bubba. He had chosen Amy that day to be his fur-mom.
Lance and Bubba became inseparable best friends. Bubba even jumped through the air into the middle of a near fight between Lance and Paige one day and left a claw lodged in Paige’s forehead between her eyes. (This is not Bubba’s first rodeo with a dog.) Eventually, Paige and Bubba became the best of nap buddies. Bubba always greets the first person in the shop at around 6am. He is a dog disguised as a cat and has won the hearts of many, including customers that come in to visit with Bubba (and not necessarily buy anything) and a Walton County police officer who used to check on the shop (specifically, Bubba) after hours. They had conversations through the door during each visit. Uncle Tommy checks in on Bubba every Sunday, when the shop is closed. If the dogs are at the shop while Robin and Amy are out on Sunday bike rides, Tommy takes them for walks.
After Paige settled into her furever family setting, Amy concluded that Lance had taken a back seat to his new sister. Amy taught Lance many tricks, all of which he decided to perform one day on his own with no commands! Amy decided that Lance was her dog. She informed Robin that Lance was coming home with her. Stunned, Robin asked her how this would be settled. Amy decided that they would both open the doors to their trucks at the end of the work day and see where Lance wanted to go. After that fateful day of stealing her boss’s dog, Amy had Lance with her for six years, during which time she neutered Lance at age 8 while Robin was away on a bicycle tour in France.
Enter the next, but not last, character: Denny. Renee, who is on the Board of Directors at Dog-Harmony, continued bringing Dog-Harmony’s adoptable puppies from a rescued litter by the shop towards the end of 2018. At a Dog-Harmony fundraising event, Amy noticed one of the puppies, Denny. She was heartbroken after Lance passed away and thought she could never have another dog. Renee, however, strategically and persistently brought Denny by the bike shop. Amy finally decided that fostering was the way to go – and that Denny would be her first of many Dog-Harmony foster dogs. Her husband, Mark, surprised at the new arrival, joked, “Oh, I thought you were bringing Foster, the dog, home – not a dog home to foster.”
At first, Paige and Bubba didn’t like Denny, the puppy, very much. Soon after Amy began fostering Denny, Hurricane Michael hit the Emerald Coast in October 2018. Robin, Renee, Amy and Mark packed up the animals, including Bubba and Denny, and evacuated the Panhandle in a caravan to Greenville, Alabama. During the first night in Greenville, Mark slept in one bed with Bubba and Amy in the other with Denny, who wouldn’t stay in his crate. Denny was most comfortable sleeping around Amy’s head that night.
After fostering Denny for one month, Amy still refused to give Dog-Harmony adoption photos of Denny to post on social media or put on the website. She said, “My job is to be a nurturing foster parent - not the photographer of the cutest dog in the whole world.” (Interestingly enough, Amy has many photos of Denny.) The longer Amy and Mark fostered Denny, the more they realized that they could never give Denny to another home. Amy now knew with certainty that she was not – and never could be – a good dog foster mom. She was a foster failure.
Today, Bubba rules the roost at the bike shop. Paige and Denny are truly brother and sister. Bubba still takes on the role of protecting his canine siblings from danger. (He’s left more than one claw in a canine guest’s craw!) Uncle Tommy, who is a self-proclaimed “cat man” with three cats of his own at home, has adopted all the dogs in the Robin’s Bikes & Fitness family. Uncle Tommy even has food-focused Paige and her brother, Denny, happily sharing milk out of a shared bowl together during his special Saturday morning breakfasts! These four-legged members that have claimed Robin’s bike shop and its humans as their own are truly a modern day, blended family.