By Lynn Hayner | Posted: January 6, 2015, 6 a.m. PST
Yes "fly-ins" are real events, and yes my dog and I have attended some. And no, dogs (with a handful of exceptions) don’t typically go airborne. But it's not uncommon to see dogs joining their owners for these hang gliding events, even if they are just sitting on the sidelines.
In the spirit of high-flying fun, we thought we'd take a look at the dog breeds whose personalities would make them great options for an adventuring owner.
Coton de Tulear: Why do you look rather surprised to see me here? Remember those charming tales of my predecessors surviving shipwrecks and swimming ashore from pirate ships? Indeed I come from a long line of adventurers. And while I’m the royal dog of Madagascar, I’m sturdy enough to camp and play outdoors, and besides, hanging around with pilots sounds like a blast! On top of all that, my clownish streak comes in handy when it’s too windy to fly and we have to entertain ourselves. Did you know I can even do jigs on my hind legs? Okay, well that sounds silly I admit, but these pilot-people run off cliffs, so who are they to judge?
Labrador Retriever: You sure knew I’d be on this list. I can play all day while you fly, entertaining myself chasing sticks and rabbits in the landing zone. Plus I love everybody so I can chill with the other pilots and their white fluffy dogs (what in the world is a Coton de Tulear anyway?) while you’re in the air. I was bred to be outdoorsy and sporty, just like pilots. I’m pretty stoical about weather too. I can sit outside in the Texas heat at the national competition in Big Spring, and still have energy for an impromptu party at night. And speaking of weather, why does this weather thing so often waylay the pilots from their plans? Just launch already! How bad can a little dust devil be?
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: A chance to spend time with people and other dogs outdoors sounds like just the day for me. I’m an especially well-mannered canine companion too, so I won’t chase the other dogs or bark at new pilots that wander over to admire your wing. In addition, I’m willing to emcee the Coton de Tulear’s performances, keeping you entertained between flights. I’m all about socializing and I have bedroom eyes to die for, so if you came without a date, I’ll charm someone over to your tent. And I’m patient compared to many breeds: I won’t moan about how long we wait for wonder winds…whatever those are.
Cavalier King charles spaniel, Ti with Katie Buchsteiner -- courtesy Nancy Melvin.
American Cattle Dog (ACD): I’m a tough breed, ready to be outside all day. No complaining from me about a full day of activity. You can even go cross country and I’m independent enough to keep myself occupied. And because I’m also loyal, I won’t wander off and join another group like those paragliders (what’s up with all that colorful fabric tangled in the trees around launch?). If the weather delays your flying, design a game and I’ll join in. I can fetch toys or listen to your long-winded flight reports. Luckily for you, I’m so devoted I’ll even pretend I’m interested. I also know how to stay focused, either on you as you glide across the sky, or on an audacious squirrel trying to steal your beer and pretzels while you’re airborne. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, no I don’t beat up the little dogs putting on their shows; I may herd them a little, but there’s no harm in that, is there?
Patrick Kruse and Mavis. Patrick waiting to be towed into the air, Wallaby Ranch Florida. Photo courtesy Patrick Kruse
The German Shepherd Dog: What the heck? This is absurd. The only reason I’m on this list is because the author drags me to these crazy events. German Shepherds were bred for real work (guarding, searching and rescuing, military work), not dillydallying around, waiting for cumulus clouds to appear (who cares what a cumulus cloud is anyway? It’s a travesty for such an intelligent breed to listen to weather chatter). I try to put my talents to use and herd the pilots into the launch line, but honestly, no one pays attention. And worse, they all camp and set up their gliders in communal space. Argh! I demand you remove me from this list!
The (sort of) Common Denominator
Okay, my own humorless Shepherd aside, you’ll notice a common thread to our "best breed for attending a hang gliding fly-in,” and it’s a willingness to socialize. So yes, the Australian Cattle Dog’s hardiness helps on hot, long days, but in general, the trait that best matches a dog to a hang gliding event is whether he enjoys hanging around people. Because between you and me, I can assure you hang gliding pilots do a lot more talking than gliding.
Mavis. Photo courtesy Patrick Kruse
Hang gliding lingo and additional dog knowledge courtesy of pilot Patrick Kruse of Ruffwear, Inc., and his (surprisingly verbal) American Cattle Dog, Mavis.
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