• Jamie Rothberg

The Famous Sporty

Sporty is a popular golden retriever in downtown Chicago. It's not just his looks, his wide smile, or amazing tricks (even though those are all pretty amazing). Sporty walks himself around River North, amongst other towns, blocks, and trails.

You may wonder, "he just walks with his owner and that's it?" No, sir. Sporty still has the leash attached to his collar, yet he is the one that holds it, not his loving owner, David. In fact, David has become more of Sporty's paparazzi.

Growing up, David always had golden retrievers. "When I first moved here, I befriended a coworker who took her dogs to agility competitions." This was where David met a plethora of goldens. One thing led to another, and David found himself driving to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to meet a breeder that managed to have a slightly older male ready to be adopted.

From day one, David knew there was something special about Sporty. As an alpha dog, Sporty needed to be the only dog in a family, the center of attention. David has given him just that.

David beamed, "I could tell right away he was a very special pup and he would have a big impact on my life, I was very excited!"

Sporty was trained with the basics: bathroom, paw, stay. But David wanted to imprint his own skills into his new companion. "I did do some additional training with him to develop our bond. The training helped me affirm my alpha status over him so he would listen to my commands!"

David learned through the previous owners that Sporty constantly needed something in his mouth, as if this was his daily duty. Some days it was a tennis ball, others it was a squeaky toy. Eventually, Sporty graduated to the leash. In the past, Sporty was just "let out" to run around, but in a city like Chicago, David knew he had to keep Sporty on a leash. "It was a new experience to go for that long of walks while leashed," David explained. "So once he realized that the leash was gonna be there, he would reach back and bit it, holding it in his mouth while I was still holding the end."

David and Sporty's bond is so strong. There is nothing that cannot be predicted between the two. "I also think he has a way of telling me, or other people, are in a downer mood. He will be extra loving and lean on you to let you know he loves you and not to worry."

It didn't take David long to instill full trust in Sporty, allowing his golden to walk the entire blog with the entire leash rolled up in his mouth's grip. Each time, David would test the waters, going on longer walks with his dog, but not holding on to the leash. To no one's surprise, Sporty "succeeded with flying colors."

Sporty's self walking is not just restricted to Chicago. "Pretty much wherever we go, he will walk himself once he gets acclimated! Some places are back in Michigan where my parents live, a city called Birmingham as well as Royal Oak." Described in his name, Sporty also enjoys the Colorado hiking trails.

Sporty is a smart dog and, of course, his talents stop many people on the street. Since day one of his River North walks, he has had people turning heads. "He creates so many smiles and happiness that I thought it was worth continuing and seeing how far he could go!"

From the smiles on the street came the birth of @sporty_thedog's Instagram page. David knows how much joy Sporty brings to people in Chicago, so he wanted to extend the opportunity for others to smile. Sporty even knows when he's being filmed. "He really started figuring it out and walks with more confidence!"

David loves the time he spends with Sporty. When they aren't out on walks together, Sporty and David cuddle constantly (even though the golden takes up the entire bed if he wants). "I also really enjoy hiding treats in my apartment and having him hunt them."

Sporty really is the whole package, isn't he?

Over the past few years, especially with the rise in Instagram stories, Sporty's popularity has slowly increased. The most interesting part about Sporty walking himself is that people mostly stare, rather than interact.

"I think one thing that is noticeable is how few people try to pet him when he walks right up near them. Maybe they think he's a service dog? I'm not sure, but I know Sporty would like it if every person he walks by gave him a little pet!"

Hear that world? You don't have to ask us twice, David.

The bond between a dog and his owner is incredible, but Sporty and David are definitely a special duo. "I honestly can't imagine my life without him in it. Unfortunately I know that will not be the case forever, so I am grateful for every minute we spend together. He is my best friend and makes every day I have in this world better, I'm very lucky."

Follow Sporty and David on Instagram: @Sporty_thedog

Check out The Dodo's piece on Sporty here.


Jamie Rothberg | Writer | Chicago

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