Alaska’s ‘Puppy Bus’ is a Social Media Sensation

A tail-wagging success story.

Feb 15, 2023


Pets, Community
Alaska’s ‘Puppy Bus’ is a Social Media Sensation | A tail-wagging success story.

What started as a side gig has now become Mo Thompson’s full-time job, complete with a spectacular “puppy bus” that she uses to collect her clients for their walks.

Business began slowly for Mo Thompson, (31). A native of Michigan, reported The Washington Post. Thompson moved with her husband Lee to Skagway, Alaska, in 2014. While working at a restaurant, Thompson began walking her co-worker’s dogs in her free time.

 “It just started with my co-worker and me walking each other’s dogs,” Thompson told The Washington Post. “I ended up having more time available to get them out.”

 With a population of less than 2,000, word spread quickly in Skagway about Thompson’s ability to charm dogs. With three dogs of her own and parents who are dog breeders, She recalls that “I just started picking up dogs slowly, to the point where I needed to make a second group. It really just evolved out of that.” Thompson became a full-time dog walker in 2016.

When the school that Lee Thompson worked for closed due to Covid in 2020, he joined his wife in running their business, Mo Mountain Mutts. The pandemic triggered a rise in dog owners, and the Thompsons started leading off-leash pack walks up to three times a day.

Going Viral
Things took off when the couple bought a used passenger bus last winter and outfitted it for the dogs they walk.   

“Lee and I together are just a couple of goofballs. So Lee just started pointing the camera at me or he would have a silly idea on the bus. And that’s really what went viral,” Thompson said in an interview with KTOO.

The photos and videos that Thompsons posted of the dogs on Instagram were initially only for her clients. When they hit a million TikTok subscribers on New Year’s Eve, they popped some champagne and opened a new bag of treats for their dogs. 

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Then, one video of the couple collecting several dogs for their daily walks captured more attention than the others. It has now received more than 50 million views on TikTok alone and garnered fans who refer to the dogs by name in their comments.

The video highlights the Thompsons’ regular pickup routine, according to People. When the video stops by the home of Amaru, a 5-year-old rescue dog, he is expectantly waiting for them. The door to the bus opens, and Amaru happily jumps in, sniffing and greeting his fellow passengers, and making his way to his “assigned” seat, where he is secured to the seat by a harness.

As they board the bus, Thompson conducts an obedience drill with the dogs and gives out treats for good behavior. Just like humans, the dogs must remain buckled in their seats while the bus heads out to the trail they’ll be walking that day. The dogs are seated based on their age, personality and manners, according to the Washington Post.

Comments on the video often tag the dogs by name.“Otis is all business… straight to his seat. Amaru wants to socialize,” one person observed. “Jake hopping on his seat is always my fav,” another commented.

Admirers of the puppy bus claim that the videos boost their moods.“Can we all agree that this video heals all sadness? Cause I was crying two minutes ago. I am not anymore,” one person wrote. “It’s bringing me so much joy,” another user commented.

Planning is for the dogs
The couple have an 8-month-old son named Vern who often accompanies them on their daily outings. She leads the morning walks while her husbandy supervises the afternoon jaunts.

When it comes to planning the dogs’ walks, “there’s a lot of thought that goes into where we’re going and what we’re going to do,” Thompson explained to The Washington Post. “If it’s hot, we need to find a water source. If it’s icy, we’re not going to do an incline. If I have a puppy, we need to be on flat ground. If I have a large group, we can’t go places where there are tight corners and blind spots.”


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The dogs are trained to behave well before they join the off-leash excursions. “All the dogs that go on my pack walk need to know my rules and expectations,” she said. “We try to encourage good doggy citizens.”

“We usually have everything to ourselves. Nobody’s usually outside. And we can play the in-and-out game. I usually leave my vehicle running and the dogs can kind of come and go and warm their little toes up in their seats and come back out,” Thompson shared with KTOO.

The Thompsons admit how lucky they are to do something they love for a living. “I look in the rearview mirror of the bus as I’m driving sometimes. And I see all the dogs back there. And I can’t believe we do this for a living,” she said.

The puppy bus is operated year-round and the Thompsons have no plans to expand their operations. They do hope to capitalize on their TikTok and YouTube videos. Mo Mountain Mutts offers training (virtually and in-person), solo walks, socialization lessons, and other services. So hop on the puppy bus!

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An award-winning poet and author, Miriam is a freelance writer with a passion for telling stories. When she’s not writing, Miriam loves to read, cook, and take long walks.