Belfast Telegraph

Harry, the paragliding dog

By Jamie McDowell

Most dogs like spending their time snoozing, digging holes and chasing cats.

Not Harry. He prefers to take to the skies for some paragliding.

Yes, you read that correctly. Harry, the 10-year-old Collie, is a paragliding dog.

The plucky pooch from Craigavon got in to the unusual hobby through his owner Tony Conway.

The 49-year-old, a member of the Ulster Hang Gliding and Paragliding Club, decided to take his pet on sky-high adventures with the help of a harness made by his wife Donna.

The pair have now been on four flights together, including one which marked Harry becoming the first dog to ever jump off Slieve Donard and glide 2,700 feet down.

“I think he enjoys it,” said a proud Tony.

“He now starts barking at the harness we put him in because he gets excited at the prospect of it.”

Tony, currently studying to be an instructor, explained: “Harry hangs underneath the paraglider like me and he has a specially built harness that my wife Donna made.

“He's strapped into a position where he sits on top of my knee and he's really secure. It doesn't bother him at all. You can see by the expression on his face. It takes nothing out of him.”

Harry is certainly a pioneering pet in Northern Ireland, but it's not the first time paragliding dogs have taken to the skies elsewhere.

“I know that there are other dog owners who've taken their pets up with them,” said Tony, who's been a paraglider since 2002 and has flown in countries such as Morocco, France, Spain and even in the Himalayas.

Tony recently feared his pet’s flying days were over when Harry went missing from his home for more than three weeks.

“I had taken Harry out for the day last month when he ran away on me,” added the dog owner who works with the Prince's Trust at the Southern Regional College.

“We couldn't find him anywhere. We were absolutely distraught and feared the worst, but thankfully we later found that a Lithuanian family had found Harry and had taken him in without reporting that they'd found him.

“Thankfully they took really good care of him and when we found out he was safe it was fantastic news.

“In the time he had been with them their wee lad had become really attached to Harry and was very upset when we came to take him away.”

There was a twist in the tail however, as it turned out Harry the adventure dog had stumbled upon a neighbour's female pooch who was ‘howled'-over by him.

“We've just found out that the neighbour's dog is to have a litter of pups with Harry,” said Tony.

“So we're going to give one of them to the young lad to say thank you for looking after our dog.”

Daring dogs

  • Laika became the first living creature from earth to orbit the planet. She travelled on Sputnik 2 into space on November 3, 1957. The stress and overheating of the flight proved too much, however, and she died before she returned to earth.
  • Appollo is a police German Shepherd who was on the scene of the 9/11 attacks in New York 15 minutes after it happened. Having initially almost been killed by fire and falling debris, he ran back into the Twin Towers and continued to find people.
  • Loukaniko the dog became famous during the recent Greek riots after joining in the trouble. He was seen running towards police lines and nipping at their feet.

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