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Adventurous service dog hang-glides with owner

Thursday July 11th, 2013

By DogTime Staff

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Shadow has a specially designed harness under the hang glider’s canopy (Photo credit: Fox 13 News)

If you look up to the skies over Salt Lake City, Utah, you just might spot Dan McManus and his service dog Shadow, flying over the countryside.

McManus first got Shadow to help him cope with separation anxiety, a psychiatric condition that makes it difficult for McManus to be alone.

“He seems to know that he’s a service dog, not just that he’s been trained as one, but he seems to know what his job is,” McManus explains. “So if I’m anxious, he has that calming affect.”

He would soon understand that loyal Shadow would follow him anywhere and everywhere—including into the great blue yonder. After all, the name Shadow, McManus says, fits his dog to a T.

“He named himself really,” McManus tells FOX 13 News Salt Lake City. “He would follow me absolutely everywhere. When the name Shadow came up, it was obvious that was his name.”

Shadow, an Australian Cattle Dog with a protective streak and nerves of steel, often joins his hang-gliding owner in the clouds, strapped safely into a specially designed harness under the glider’s canopy. And Shadow is more than just a passive rider — he seems to get into the spirit of the flight.

“He’ll put his little paws and arms out around me and hang onto my arm and get right with it,” McManus says with a smile. “He shifts his weight. He looks down at the ground. He looks around at the other gliders in the air.”

McManus used to leave Shadow behind on the ground during his flights, but it was clear Shadow wasn’t content to remain a wallflower for long.

“He always liked to chase me,” McManus says of Shadow. “So I would be out here flying, and he would chase me and jump up at me and sometimes get my foot and hang on a little bit.”

“He wanted to go along, and he didn’t really like to see me up there by myself,” McManus adds. “He needs to keep me safe, so he needed to go flying with me to keep me safe.”

Shadow wanted nothing more than to come along for the ride, so McManus decided to see if his dog would take to hang-gliding — and boy, did he ever. Since Shadow’s initial trip, he has enjoyed his role as McManus’s co-pilot.

“As we always say, home is where the heart is. And I think this is where his heart is,” McManus says of Shadow. “He was born to fly.”

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