Northern Ireland

Pampered pooch takes to skies with owner

It was definitely a case of puppy love when Tony Conway took to the skies with his pampered pooch.

The canny collie cross-breed, called Harry, was strapped into a paraglider and enjoyed a tandem flight with his owner down Slieve Donard mountain.

It took about 20 minutes to glide the 2,700 feet from the top of the peak to the beach in Newcastle, County Down.

So was it a case of the dog being barking mad or did man's best friend enjoy the ride?

"He was really comfortable, he just sat there," said the Craigavon man.

"I think if a dog could smile he would have been smiling up at me. The way the harness attaches he ended up sitting on my knee. He wasn't trembling or anything.

"When I was petting him, he was looking up at me as if to say: 'This is great'.

Image caption Tony Conway has been paragliding for nine years

"He seemed to just love it. There was no issue with him at all. He never made a whimper. Even when we landed, he was quite happy... When I unhooked him from the harness he started running around the beach."

Tony, who has been a member of the Ulster Hand gliding and paragliding club for nine years, said it was quite unusual to have a canine companion along for the ride.

"We walk up the mountain and fly off it regularly," he laughed, "but I don't know anyone else at the club who has a dog harness."

Tony said he had been inspired by pictures of other dogs 'flying".

So, with the help of his wife, Donna, and a seamstress in Lurgan, they set about making a harness for Harry.

"I hooked him into the harness and walked about in the garden to make sure that he was okay and got him comfortable with it," said Tony.

"And he showed no signs of distress at all. He seemed quite happy; I think he was happy to be close."

So although a dog may not be the usual passenger on a paraglider, it may not be Harry's last adventure in the sky.

His fur was certainly not ruffled by his maiden flight - or maybe it was the cooked ham treat when they landed that had him smitten.

"Now when I lift the harness and hold it up and show him it, he starts barking and gets excited because he associates the harness with getting out for a walk," he said.

"Any time I do Slieve Donard I'll certainly take him up with me. It'll be a bit of exercise for him, exercise for me and a nice bit of company on the way down."