Hang gliding service dog sticks by owner’s side

SALT LAKE CITY — A hang gliding Utah man has made a special harness to allow his dog to take to the skies with him, and he said going airborne was his canine companion’s idea.

Shadow is an Australian cattle dog, and Dan McManus said the name was earned rather than given.

“He named himself really,” he said. “He would follow me absolutely everywhere. When the name Shadow came up, it was obvious that was his name.”

McManus said that tendency to follow him didn’t just go away when he took to the air in a hang glider.

“He always liked to chase me,” he said. “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.”

McManus said Shadow is a protective and jealous dog that doesn’t like to be left behind. He said he thought the only way to get Shadow to stop giving chase was to let him fly.

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

Shadow is protective with good reason: He is a psychiatric service animal who has helped McManus with separation anxiety. McManus struggles sometimes when he has to be alone, but fortunately for him, his Shadow doesn’t let that happen often.

“He seems to know he’s a service dog,” McManus said. “He seems to know what his job is. If I’m anxious, he has that calming effect on you.”

McManus said Shadow enjoys flying and does his part.

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

On the ground, people like Salt Lake City resident Jeremy English smile to see Shadow fly.

“It’s such a cool thing to see,” he said.

Paraglider Emily Yates said Shadow and McManus may not stand out at first, but people notice them when their flight’s begin and end.

“It’s more on takeoff and landing that people are like, ‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute. That’s a dog next to that guy,’” she said.

McManus said it may seem strange for a dog to fly, but he said Shadow is where he belongs.

“As we always say, home is where the heart is,” he said. “And I think this is where his heart is. He was born to fly.”

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