As we move into the hottest part of summer in Japan most people will be aiming to stay out of the sun as much as possible, but not Maho and Duane Cavalier. Maho, who is Japanese, and American Duane will be taking off on a cycling trip from Niigata to Toyama. They’re not barking mad, however — the dynamic duo are aiming to raise funds for dogs at animal charity ARK’s facility in Sasayama, Osaka with their “Pedaling for Paws” sponsored ride.

The couple will set out at the crack of dawn on August 18th from their home in Tokyo, bike to Tokyo Station and board a bullet train for Niigata-shi. From there they will bike 250 kms along the Sea of Japan coast, staying in a tent en route, before eventually arriving at Toyama-shi on the 25th and catching another bullet train back to Tokyo.

Maho and Duane Cavalier

Maho and Duane Cavalier

This isn’t the first sponsored ride they have done. A similar effort a few years ago met with a good response, prompting the Cavaliers to organize another one. “We thought it was a little bit of an unusual thing to do, so maybe the novelty would attract people and we could do some good as a result. Last time was a lot of fun and I think we raised over ¥100,000 yen for shelter dogs. Luckily, this year we finally had time to organize another one,” says Maho.

According to Duane, the main challenge will be keeping cool during the journey. “We both ride a decent amount in and around Tokyo on a regular basis so as far as legs go, there’s not a lot of training (needed). Also, the distance we plan to cover each day isn’t very far, between 40 and 70 km. It’s the heat we are concerned about. We’ll be in the sun all day, every day, and in a tent at night without air conditioning. We have some strategies for dealing with heat on the trip, but we’ll have to become accustomed to it by riding on some hot days leading up to the to the trip.”

The Cavaliers have always been impressed by the kindness they have experienced when cycling around Japan. Maho recalls one episode when the couple was visiting Hochijojima, an island 300 km south of Tokyo. “There was a taxi driver who came to the campground and helped me carry Duane out of our tent. He got him to an acupuncturist when Duane had thrown his back out and was in agony. He couldn’t walk or even stand up!”

Maho says the couple is hoping people will get behind their efforts by pledging donations, sharing information about Pedaling for Paws with friends and family, and by following them on social media. “But really, the best thing is if this event can spark someone’s interest to become involved in helping shelter dogs on a regular basis or maybe adopting one and giving them a good home.”

The couple has a menagerie of rescue pets at home. Having previously adopted senior dogs, they know the special joys that come with offering a home to an older animal that might be otherwise overlooked. Funds raised from their trip will be used to help the “Old Dogs Club,” a section of ARK’s new Sasayama facility that is specially devoted to senior dogs ranging in age from 14 to 17.

“These dogs live in a separate air-conditioned section of the shelter and have special dietary needs. The funds will be used for their care and comfort,” says ARK representative Jeff Bryant.

ARK’s director Elizabeth Oliver has likened older dogs to a pair of old shoes. “Although not flashy or in fashion, older shoes are well worn, comfortable to wear and perfect for a leisurely manner. In the same way, older dogs are usually house trained, aren’t looking for excitement or adventures but just a leisurely pace in a warm safe place,” Bryant explains. “They make perfect companions for anyone taking things at a slower pace.”


To pledge money and follow the Cavaliers’ ride, check out their bilingual website:

For more information on ARK: