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Meet Shadow the Hang-Gliding Service DogMeet Shadow the Hang-Gliding Service Dog

Meet Shadow the Hang-Gliding Service Dog

Kirk Simoneau

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For his entire life, Utah resident Dan McManus has suffered from several mental health issues, including generalized anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, night terrors, and severe panic attacks. Over the years, he’s utilized numerous coping mechanisms to stave off the symptoms, but there are two things that calm him more than anything else: hang gliding across the Utah skies and the companionship of his service animal, an Australian cattle dog named Shadow.

Over the course of 37 years, McManus went from being a hang-gliding hobbyist to an expert instructor in Salt Lake City, going out gliding as often as possible. But it seemed that his passion gave his pup a bit of anxiety of his own. Whenever McManus would take off, Shadow always wanted to chase him. “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 … It felt like he wanted to keep me safe,” he says. And when he left the dog at home, he’d often come home to a scratched-up floor and doors. It seemed that Shadow couldn’t bear to be away from his owner. So, about 12 years ago, McManus had a special harness made for Shadow, enabling the pup to join him while he took to the skies. They’ve been side-by-side on nearly every flight since.

Some pet owners might balk at the idea of taking a dog on a hang glider, but it’s clear that, in this case, Shadow definitely wants to fly. Whenever they go out, Shadow wraps his paws around McManus’ arm, remaining stoic as they survey the landscape together from high above. While we all struggle with our own obstacles in life, it’s nice to know that our canine pals will always be there to offer their furry support. As McManus and Shadow demonstrate, it’s a bond that remains strong even hundreds of feet above the ground.

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