Other dogs go for walks, Woody of Blackheath prefers paragliding.
With owner, carpenter Andy McMurray, 43, the Jack Russell wiry haired terrier cross loves it when his dog harness is strapped around his belly and he’s ready to launch off Mt Blackheath.
“When he’s with me, he’s calm,” said Mr McMurray. “He just seems relaxed in the air, he’ll fall asleep in my lap up there, or if it’s rough he’ll look around.”
He’ll fall asleep in my lap up there
Search the internet and you will find other paragliding dogs around the world, but Mr McMurray doesn’t know of any others in Australia.
As a former president and safety officer of the Blue Mountains Hang Gliding Club, Mr McMurray has been flying for more than a decade and has spent 1500 hours in the air. Woody is “still a novice” with eight hours under his belt.
They have had a few interesting moments this spring, with “juvenile wedgies” [wedge tailed eagles] showing interest in the glider.
“They [the eagles] are very territorial, they attack and try to tear the glider … you can flap them away.”
Last month in a two-and -a-half hour stint, Woody and his owner became the first dog and human to glide over the Grose Valley, flying up to 2,200 metres in temperatures of minus 5 degrees.
Mr McMurray has had a few hair-raising experiences without Woody, but it has not put him off the sport and he always travels with a reserve chute.
“Some people see it as an adrenalin sport but it’s quite the opposite. It can be quite intense … but for me it’s meditative, it’s being in the moment [and] there’s a real community, a lot of kindred spirits.
Woody turned up as a stray on Mr McMurray’s doorstep about seven months ago, and after four weeks at the pound was reunited with the carpenter.
“He was scruffy, full of fleas and very hungry. I gave him an organic steak, which was all I had … he’s a very famous dog, he’s cute, he flies and well, those two things together, everybody loves him.”
The Blue Mountains club has been in operation since 1987. The sport costs about $6500 to get started – with courses averaging about $2,500 and second hand flying gear about $4000. The sport continues to grow in popularity with the peak season from spring to summer.
Those interested can contact professional paraglider pilot, Che Golus at www.paratothepeople.com.au.
This article first appeared on the Blue Mountains Gazette website.