‘The two were a fixture in downtown Bethesda’: Popular dog who rides on the back of owner’s bike dies

Rudder passed away on Wednesday, leaving not only owner Richard Hoye in mourning but many in the Downtown Bethesda community.(Courtesy Richard Hoye)

When Richard Hoye rode his bike around downtown Bethesda, Maryland, his black Labrador retriever, Rudder, would be right behind him in a pedicab.

Hoye, 68, and Rudder were the best of buddies for 14 years until Rudder passed away on Wednesday, leaving not only Hoye, but many in the downtown Bethesda community in mourning.

While holding Rudder’s Snoopy blanket — which he’s now gifting to his goddaughter — Hoye reflected on how his companion and co-pilot will be remembered.

“Rudder has taught me a lot about companionship and unconditional love,” Hoye said. “I have been the student. I could never measure up to the unconditional love that Rudder gave me.”

Increasing community interconnectedness and sharing the joy of living in an urban community is part of Hoye’s mission. The retired firefighter and transportation advocate said that Rudder helped him encourage others to pursue more human interaction through the smiles and greetings the pair would elicit throughout town.

“We are therapy animals for each other,” Hoye said. “I’d like to remember him as bringing out the joy in strangers that become closer as a result.”

The impact Hoye and Rudder had on the community was also evident by the community coming together to hold a celebration of life for Rudder. Their neighbor, Shahim Sebastian, organized the memorial and said when she heard the news, she knew she had to do something.

“Rudder was the first puppy we interacted with when we moved here,” Sebastian said. “My kids love dogs, so his going away is like a valuable member of the community. Richard and Rudder are like shadows to each other.”

Hoye said he got Rudder at just a few months old, along with his mother Liesel, who passed in 2015 at only four years old. After Liesel passed, Hoye said he and Rudder became closer because he suffered from separation anxiety.

Naturally, having not owned a car in nearly 30 years, Rudder riding on the back of his bike became the norm.

David Bondareff, the owner of Pedego Electric Bikes and friend of Richard and Rudder, said wherever Richard was, you could expect to see Rudder.

“My heart was broken when he told me that Rudder passed,” Bondareff said. “I always looked forward to seeing Richard and Rudder when they would come to the shop to say hello or for a repair. The two were a fixture in downtown Bethesda.”

Longtime neighbor on Lucas Lane, Michele Givens said she was filled with great sadness when she heard the news. And while there are many ways she could have spent her Friday evening, celebrating Rudder felt right.

“Things change so much here in Bethesda and other parts of the area, but there are a few constants and one of them was Richard with Rudder,” Givens said.

As for what’s next, Hoye says he plans to one day get another dog and continue to bring the community together through casual encounters and a feeling of togetherness through loving something like a pet.

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Cheyenne Corin

Cheyenne Corin joined the WTOP News team in February 2023. Prior to this role she was a Montgomery County, Maryland, bureau reporter at WDVM/DC News Now.

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