Jason Howell is a soft spoken man of few words. And don't let this tall, burly appearance fool you. The father of four is a proudly self-proclaimed Christian who eschews what some would deem the more traditional tough guy choice in pets in favor of a toy poodle named Button.
One could say Button is Howell's “biker chick.” She sports a Harley Davidson collar and shaded goggles. But that's where her own spin on the “tough gal” role ends. Instead of riding behind her man, Button rides kangaroo style, nestled inside Howell's vest.
“Every day I take her for a ride if the weather is good,” Howell said. “I try to take her out for at least 30 minutes.”
Four year old Button started riding with Howell as a puppy.
“She's just a natural born biker,” he said.
When asked what people say when they learn who his four legged best friend is, he smiled and shook his head.
“People say I should have a pit bull,” he scoffed. “But my mother had poodles when I was a kid. They're very smart dogs.”
Employed at a local industry as a machinist, Howell explained his life-long love for bikes and motors.
“My mom says when I was little that I would go into my room with my Big Wheel and take it apart,” he recounted. “She'd ask me what I was doing and I'd say, 'I'm fixing it.' I'd put it back together and ride it.”
Howell's progression from that Big Wheel to a Harley Davidson reads like the list of most young men's. Howell has always had access to wheels.
“I've had skateboards, bicycles, go carts, dirt bikes, and now the Harley,” he said. “It's the first Harley I've had. I had a Honda before it.”
Howell's devotion to Button was apparent during his interview, and her demeanor?unlike that of many toy dogs?was a completely relaxed and comfortable one in her owner's lap.
Button wears a St. Francis of Assisi medal on her collar. The feast day of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals, is celebrated on Oct. 4 with many churches conducting a blessing of pets. And Button hasn't missed out on that benediction.
“I've had her blessed,” Howell said as he rubbed Button's ears. “She's just a really good dog.”
Howell rides with other bikers, some from work, and some from other walks of life.
“We meet all the time,” he said. “We are going to Sweetwater to a rally next weekend. But Button won't be able to go. It's a little too far to take her.
Button's trips with Howell are limited to surrounding area towns.
“We've gone to Granbury,” he said. “I take her to PetSmart in Weatherford sometimes. She likes to go there. I guess Weatherford is the farthest we've been.”
Response from people who catch sight of the man with his little companion is a favorable one.
“Everyone pulls their cell phone out and takes pictures of Button and me,” he said of their short sojourns in neighboring communities.
But he is pragmatic about the real culprit of the interest the team elicits on their excursions. Does he feel they have taken on a celebrity status?
“Well, she has,” he said with a proud grin.
Howell's upcoming plans will likely further Button's celebrity.
“Every Nov., a friend of mine puts on a toy run for New Horizons Children's Home in Goldthwaite,” he said. “We ride all the way there, take them money, gifts, stuff like that. I take Button with me and the kids go crazy over her.”
Howell hopes to join forces with other Christian bikers.
“I want to meet more Christians that ride,” he said. “There's a church downtown where a lot of bikers go. I haven't gone there because I am pretty devoted to my own church.”
But there are other avenues he endeavors to explore.
“I'm not actually involved with a Christian motorcycle club yet,” he said. “But there's a Warriors for Christ group here in town. I'd like to get involved with them.”
Whatever biker bunch is in Howell's future, they are sure to get a certain kick out of having a very special mascot around to lend them a little extra cachet.