Glacial blue lakes ripple below and a green pine tunnel flits by on either side. Sharp snow-covered mountains move slowly right to left as the helicopter twists and angles in their shadows. All the elements of a good action movie are here: a little terror, an awesome beauty, and a brave hero. Only, instead of Tom Cruise or the newest hottie to shake a Bond martini, the star of this film is a short, chubby guy with wrinkles, saggy jowls, and a tendency to drool. All of which is extremely handsome when you’re an English bulldog.
Our brave boy is Mr. Bentley. His Instagram account, @mrbentley_thedog, shows him dressed up for holidays, looking cool in mirrored sunglasses, and protecting his floppy little ears with a dog-sized headset as he looks out over his world through the bubble of a Robinson R44 helicopter, flown by his good buddy, Bradley Friesen. He clearly loves airtime, but flying isn’t Mr. Bentley’s only adventure. Like any good action hero, he enjoys snowboarding, kayaking, paddleboarding, and riding in the sidecar of a motorcycle, all of which came as a bit of a surprise to his owner, Alycia Foy. “He’s my first dog, and I was pretty set on an English bulldog, because I’d always heard they were lazy!” She and Friesen both laugh, and I imagine I hear Mr. Bentley snort in the background too. Bulldogs aren’t lazy, they’re just bored doing normal dog stuff when they could be flying.
“We’d talked about if he would like flying,” says Friesen, who has been a pilot for almost 30 years. “Bentley loves cars,” adds Foy. “If you even say the word ‘Car,’ he cocks his head completely sideways and runs to the door. One time, we took him on a boat that was tied up at the dock, and we didn’t even go anywhere, and he loved it! He would drag us back to where the boat had been any time we walked near the water.” Mr. Bentley’s obvious interest in motorized transport made Foy and Friesen wonder if he’d like going up in the helicopter.
“One day I had to move the helicopter — it was parked at one side of the airport, and I had to fly it to the other side for maintenance — so I figured, ‘It’s only a two-minute flight, let’s try it,’” says Friesen. “We strapped him in and flew across the airport, and when he got out, he had the zoomies. He obviously had the best time, so we started taking him on longer trips after that.” In the cockpit, Mr. Bentley looks totally at ease, geared up in his safety harness, goggles and flight helmet like a real-life Snoopy ready to meet the Red Baron. He turns his head to follow the winding rivers and tree-lined ridges below, looking for moose, or bears, or squirrels. Maybe living life at knee height makes rising above it all even more exciting.
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As irresistible as a flying bulldog is, Mr. Bentley’s most famous move is ground-based, if not earth-bound. He moonwalks, and he’s good at it. Down hallways, across kitchen floors, out the glossy foyer of a high-class hotel, Mr. Bentley slides his back paws like Michael Jackson and backwards-scoots to his destination. If it’s funny to read about, it’s downright hysterical to watch, but it wasn’t until he’d been doing it for years that Mr. Bentley’s moonwalk went stratospheric. Because Mr. Bentley was Foy’s first dog, she didn’t realize that his reverse gear was anything unusual. “He just would do it based on his own weird dog logic,” she says. “I thought every dog did it.” Then she started dating Friesen, who immediately recognized Mr. Bentley’s dance moves as something special. Friesen suggested that Foy share the bulldog back-up with the world. “I was playing with him and throwing his toys, and he would pick it up and bring it back backwards,” says Friesen. “I thought she taught him to do it, but she said he just did it on his own. And then she said, ‘Why? Is that weird?’”
Foy can’t remember the exact moment that Mr. Bentley first showed off his moonwalk, but she thinks it had to do with her first apartment, when he was a puppy. “It had a long, narrow hall, and we’d play fetch in it. He would be so excited to bring the ball back that he didn’t even take the time to turn around; he’d just back up so you could throw it again as fast as possible.” Later Mr. Bentley started using his back-up walk to keep an eye on things that startled or confused him: big trash bags, shiny reflections, untrustworthy extension cords. “I really have no idea what goes on in his head half the time,” says Foy with a fond chuckle.
Maybe it was the comic appeal of this little bulldozer of a dog going backwards, or maybe it was the relatability of finding a coping mechanism for free-floating anxiety, but when Friesen posted video of Mr. Bentley’s moonwalk to a Reddit forum around 2015, the clip went viral and the Instagram numbers rocketed. “I never intended to start a famous dog account,” says Foy. “I only even made Mr. Bentley’s account so I could post puppy photos without people getting tired of seeing them on my personal account.” At this writing, Mr. Bentley has 452,000 followers, a YouTube channel, and a beer named for him, along with many celebrity friends all over the world. And it all started with his tail-forward trot.
Keeping Mr. Bentley safe on his adventures is the number one priority for Foy and Friesen, and they have a large collection of dog-specific head, ear, and eye protection, as well as harnesses for flights and motorcycle rides. The secret weapon for bulldog health, though? Cucumbers. Friesen explains that short-nosed dogs like bulldogs can get easily dehydrated and “tend to gulp water, or they lie in the sun and forget to drink.” Cucumbers, which are mostly water in a crunchy, delicious, portable form, are a great way to get any dog to rehydrate, and Mr. Bentley loves them. “We keep them in the fridge and it’s a perfect way to cool him down on a hot day.”
Mr. Bentley’s love of the green fruit is so famous that a Canadian brewery came up with a cucumber beer and named it after him. Mr. Bentley’s Cucumber Sour is sold through Russell Brewing, and a portion of any proceeds go to charity. “I didn’t intend to have a famous dog,” reiterates Foy, and says that while she enjoys how happy Mr. Bentley makes people, and appreciates all the chances to travel and meet interesting individuals, she doesn’t want to be seen as using her pet to make a buck. “I don’t know, it seems weird expecting money, and I don’t want to do any partnerships that aren’t relevant.” When she does find a good match, she tries to include some charitable element, something that helps either children or pets. “We like to do the annual Walk for Dog Guides to raise money to train and place guide dogs with people who need them. I just feel better if there is an element of charity in what we do with Mr. Bentley.”
None of this really concerns Mr. Bentley, who is only excited about his next adventure. “No matter what you ask him, the answer is ‘yes’ to everything, at all times,” says Friesen. That enthusiasm for the world — and yes, even the hesitation about the scary parts — makes Mr. Bentley a relatable hero. He’s an everyman kind of dog. An everydog? Foy and Friesen are happy to share him. Friesen says talking to fans and other dog owners about Mr. Bentley is a kind of universal bonding moment. “I love my dog, you love my dog. It’s cool. You know what I mean?”
Follow Mr. Bentley on Instagram: @mrbentley_thedog
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