Animal names have been applied to plenty of aircraft, and canine connections are no exception – Beagle, Bulldog, Husky, Terrier, for instance. We love our dogs every bit as much as our airplanes.
Imagine the scene in the distant past, a pack of wolves hungrily eyeing early humans feasting on a recent kill. Some were more curious, bolder, and ventured close to the fire, where one amused diner threw the canine a morsel. Perpetuated, this led to domestication and a phrase that was first used by Frederick the Great of Prussia, who described his Italian greyhound as his best friend. Ogden Nash wrote of the dog:
The dog is man’s best friend.
He has a tail on one end.
Up in front he has teeth.
And four legs underneath.
But dogs have so much more to them. Yes, association with us gives them shelter, regular food, better health, and companionship. But they give back plenty.
There are, of course risks; dogs can bite, jump up and knock over small children or the elderly, and may make a nice vehicle to bring ticks and other unwanted visitors into your home. Shedding hair can provoke adverse reactions in the allergic, and poor training – or old age – can lead to deposits of the unwanted kind. But in the years I have had dogs these are minor considerations.
I would encourage any pilot who has a dog, or is thinking of getting one, to consider how he or she would fit into your flying. Everyone has seen dog cones, a device that looks like the pet is trying to imitate a radar installation. These can be modified by adding padding around the collar and a clear plastic front with a tube to deliver oxygen so when you fly high, you can breathe easily knowing your dog can also (check out www.4pawsaviation.com). Teaching the animal how to sit in a seat with a modified harness is not too challenging and once they are used to it you will have a happy cockpit cockapoo. Ear protection is also necessary – standard headsets work well so you can even have a nice chat during low intensity parts of the flight – along with a decent pair of goggles or sunglasses to protect their eyes from the UV – no, I am not joking! Of course, ensure you have taken your Portuguese Water Dog co-pilot for a walk to relieve themselves of excess water before taking off!
I recently read a wonderful book, Inside of a Dog by Alexandra Horowitz, and I recommend it to all – the author provides a wonderful and well-researched perspective that certainly changed the way I viewed these lovely creatures.
As a pilot, I am sure you have taken one or more planes up for a test flight, so why not consider taking a dog out for test walk, something a number of shelters will allow one to do. My guess is that this is one puppy that will be hard to return to the hangar and you will be better off for the ride.