DEARBORN, Mich. (WXYZ) — With a ride like a 1949 CJ-A Willys-Overland Jeep, it’s easy to assume that was the sole reason Rich Margittay, for years, has turned heads around the city of Dearborn.
It's a family heirloom on wheels that Rich lovingly restored — a gift from a relative that meant quite a deal to him.
"He was my favorite uncle. And he had this on his property when I was 5," said Rich.
But as show-stopping as the vehicle is, it was really just the chariot to the main attraction: Alaskan Malamute duo Cheyenne and Yukon.
"I'm not such a celebrity. I just ride their coattails. You know, everybody wants to see the dogs," said Rich. "They give me just tremendous amount of joy."
When we caught up with them in the spring — we didn’t realize it would be one of their last adventures as a trio. Yukon would pass away just a few short weeks later.
"All three of us turned 77 the same week," he said. That was 77 for Rich and 77 in dog years for his furry companions.
With the wind in their hair and Rich at the helm, littermates Cheyenne and Yukon seemed to relish their daily cruises around town.
"I put them in right away as babies … they never wanted to jump out. And 11 years later, they have good balance. I drive carefully and maybe a lot of people don't like the idea of having an open Jeep with with dogs in it, but they're safe," he said.
People definitely took notice. There was even that one time Yukon almost got off on the wrong paw with former President Bill Clinton.
"He didn't he didn't extend his arm, and he went right up to almost to hug Yukon. And so, you know, at the time I didn't really notice ... but when I looked at my pictures, I saw Yukon's eyes ... he was actually getting ready to snap and give President Clinton a fat lip," said Rich.
Luckily the crisis was averted — and Rich got the dogs tags to encourage people to ask before they pet.
But Cheyenne and Yukon were not Rich's introduction to the breed. Before Cheyenne and Yukon — there was Woolly, the OG of Rich's Alaskan Malamutes to ride in the classic Willys Jeep.
In fact, Rich has had quite a few dogs over the years — rescuing his first Alaskan Malamute, Jason, while he was on patrol working for the Dearborn Police Department.
And then there was that one time he made a trade.
"I had a '65 GTO that I was getting tires for at the tire store. There was a little baby Alaskan Malamute running around. And so I found the owner of the Alaskan Malamute baby, and I asked him if he would trade for the GTO, and he did. So he got a GTO and I got a female puppy," laughed Rich.
But, he says, Cheyenne and Yukon, Alaskan Malamutes number 10 and 11 were extra special.
"They're my life because when I got them, my wife was was ailing and she was in the hospital about two months after I got home. She ended up in the hospital and never came out. So a piece of her is with my two puppies Cheyenne and Yukon. They brought me through her death," he said.
Now through another loss, Rich cruises on with Cheyenne, fueled by the memories of his beloved Yukon — and the adventures yet to come.