When I arrived at a Las Vegas coffee shop one afternoon during the sweltering heat of summer, I rushed inside like a firefighter into a burning building — only I was the one on ﬁre, and the sweet air conditioning inside was my only hope for survival. It was 106 degrees outside, and I sat there sipping a cold brew, asking myself, “How could anyone live here?”
Jean proceeded to order a drink and asked me if I was one of those goofy guys that wears a rainbow-colored bubble shield helmet. Nothing like a little jab to break the ice. I laughed, told her “No,” and thought, “What did I get myself into?” We spent a half hour or so making small talk and planning out a route to go ride and snap some photos of her and Cricket. Jean has a calm and confident demeanor, with plenty of attitude. I get the sense that she’s seen a thing or two — the type of person with more life experience than most. She’s a person with many layers — a badass on the surface who would slowly reveal an endearing softness. It’s always refreshing to meet unique and interesting individuals like this.
Jean was born in Washington State as a Navy brat. Her formative years were spent living all over the United States and abroad. Always on the go, always landing somewhere new; that’s how she caught the gypsy bug. She carried that sense of wanderlust into adulthood, living in both Northern and Southern California, Nevada, Colorado, Virginia, Japan, Washing-ton, Oregon, and Utah, to name a few, never staying in one place for too long. She told me that she has always had a love for the South-west, which is why she ended up moving here.
To anyone who knows or follows her dog, Cricket, on Instagram, it’s clear that Jean is an animal lover. The origin of this love for animals, and her connection with animals and motorcycles, goes way back to when she was just a little girl. Motorcycles and horses were simultaneously integrated into her life at her uncle’s farm, where she learned to ride her first bike and also learned to ride horses. She spent her youth riding dirt bikes on the farm and competing nationally in equestrian events, including show jumping, dressage, equitation and trials. She eventually graduated to street bikes, accumulating over a million miles in 18 countries and across all 50 states. Throughout her life, she has refused to choose between riding bikes or horses, and still rides both to this day.
“Horseback riding and motorcycling are so intertwined, I feel like they are two of the most similar experiences you can have in life,” Jean tells me. “With horses, you have a large, powerful animal that you control through gentle and sensitive movements. You build a bond and rely on each other in a deeply connected way. Motorcycles are the same for me; you have a powerful machine that you are more successful operating with ﬁnesse. You eventually get to know every part of your bike. And the feeling of freedom, the power, and the adrenaline you feel when riding horse or motorcycle are the same.”
It’s an interesting connection, and cool to hear how these life-long passions helped that little girl develop into the woman she has become. “As a young woman, being able to command a large horse or a powerful machine forces you to learn about your strengths and weaknesses and to mature rapidly to avoid being injured or hurt. You have to build and maintain a relationship with an animal that, quite frankly, could kill you or cause great injury. It’s the same with a motorcycle. Learning to communicate non-verbally with a horse, to read their behavioral cues, and to react appropriately definitely helps in interpersonal relationships within your own life. Horses and motorcycles both taught me about the respect, conﬁdence, and the hard work required to achieve my goals.”
Jean’s love for animals goes well beyond just riding horses. She has owned bison, ostrich, emu and various other exotic animals, mostly coming from rescue situations. She has also bred over 100 species of reptiles and amphibians. But one of the most interesting things I learned about Jean during our afternoon together was her current career. She works for the federal government, traveling across all 50 states and U.S. territories via motorcycle, with Cricket by her side. Her job is to work with veterinarians at zoos and other federally regulated facilities that exhibit animals to the public to guide them and ensure humane animal care and welfare. “I am grateful that my experience with exotic animals allows me to work behind the scenes with some of the very best zoos and marine mam-mal parks in the world,” she tells me. “It is literally a dream job, and I love that I can make a positive impact on so many endangered and threatened species.”
Getting to know Jean and learning about her story was inspiring, but let’s not forget the main reason I drove all the way out to this god-forsaken desert in the ﬁrst place: to meet Cricket, the sweet little Bos-ton terrier who has racked up more than 300,000 miles on the back of Jean’s motorcycle across 48 states, Mexico, and Canada. Her full registered name is Cricket Outlaw Moonshadow. In Native American culture, animals with two diﬀerent-colored eyes are thought to be connected with the spiritual world and considered to be good luck. Jean lived in Japan for a while, and in Japanese culture, crickets are a symbol of good luck. So, “Cricket” comes from good luck, “Outlaw” is an ode to her biker lifestyle, and “Moonshadow” represents her multicolored eyes and the unique markings on her face, like the light and dark sides of the moon. Jean says, “It took me three months to name her after I got her. She was an old soul even as a puppy, and I wanted to take time to ﬁnd a name that was as special as she was.”
Jean and Cricket are basically on the road full time, typically spending only 45 to 60 nights at home per year. They travel by motorcycle as often as they can, and Cricket almost always travels with Jean. That dog has seen more miles in the last five years than most humans do in a lifetime. She’s got more friends than you do, too. In addition to visiting zoos across the country, Jean rides to various motorcycle shows, rallies, festivals, and gatherings through-out the year. Cricket has become engrained in biker culture and is a well-known member of the motorcycle community. With over 113,000 followers on Instagram, it’s clear that people love her. She’s become quite the inﬂuencer, even racking up a few sponsors along the way.
Dogs are wonderful companions, and humans have bonded with them for centuries, but these two obviously share something special. “Cricket came into my life after a significant loss that left me pretty shattered,” Jean says. “I wasn’t exactly looking for another dog at the time. I got a call from a breeder with a special-needs puppy. She had failed her hearing test and was almost completely deaf in her right ear, and very significantly hearing impaired in her left. The breeder knew I wouldn’t be able to say ‘no’ once I met her, and she was right. We quickly bonded, and I decided to keep her.”
Jean continues to explain the impact Cricket has had on not only her life, but also how she helps other people. “Cricket is exceptionally sensitive and perceptive to people around her. She seems to always find the person in the room who needs comfort and goes straight to them. It’s almost inevitable, if I’m at a big event, some-one ends up on the ground with her, with tears in their eyes, as she comforts them. They tell me about some major traumatic life event that has recently occurred (like the loss of a longtime pet or family member), and how they really needed her love at that moment. She has a way of finding the one person going through some type of internal trauma and smothers them with love. I’ve literally had strangers sobbing, holding my dog, thanking me for sharing her with them. I also take her to the VA hospitals and veterans’ homes as a therapy dog, where she spends time with veterans who have PTSD and traumatic brain injuries. She has also done quite a bit of therapy dog work with pediatric brain tumor warriors. She is so gentle and loving to everyone.”
Jean and Cricket are a dynamic duo that have been gifted with the amazing opportunity to live a life in motion, chasing experiences, seeing new places, collecting beautiful moments, building community, and making a positive impact on the world. I drove out here to tell the story of an amazing dog, but I ended up getting to know an inspirational human as well. The wheels keep turning, and Jean and Cricket keep moving, making this world a better place one day at a time.