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2023 Top Stories

Tala Takes Flight

Ruffwear Ambassadors Becca & Tala are #UnleashingPossibility in just about everything they do together – on the water, over land, and yes, even in the air.

Tala loves to go everywhere with us – on the river floating by raft, paddleboard, canoe, or packraft; on the trail mountain biking, running, or hiking; or sitting on my knee in the passenger seat on the way to the next adventure. She is always ready for anything.

In early 2018, a little over 6 months since we had adopted her from a rescue in Arizona, we took Tala for her first paragliding flight at the Point of the Mountain in Utah.

Dog in a field at sunset with three humans in the background

At the time, we were flying every day of the year that weather would allow – so paragliding took up a significant amount of our attention and free time outdoors. 

There are certain paragliding sites that are far from roads and people where Tala can hike to launch with us, then follow us on the ground as we fly to the landing area. Oftentimes at these sites we’ll just let her run below us as we fly down to let her get some exercise and keep things simple.

There are other times when the distance from the takeoff to landing is too far or crosses a road, or even goes over a cliff. Rather than leave her behind for those days, what if she could join us for the hike to launch, and then fly with us on the way down?

Woman hiking with dog

We’d flown with our pup Rok in the past, and there are a surprising number of experienced paraglider pilots out there that fly with their dogs. Introducing Tala to the flying was not that far out of the ordinary for us.

We wanted Tala to feel comfortable flying with us. Since she was already an oversized lap dog, we thought she would adjust quickly to hanging out on our laps in the air. Spending some time in the simulator close to the ground helped to ease her into things.

Tala had spent a significant amount of time around paragliders – at launch, while ground handling, and in the landing area. So she was very accustomed to the sites and sounds that go along with the activity.

Dog running alongside a paraglider taking off

We also let her get used to spending time in the Doubleback™ Harness before attaching her to us. We were excited to have the option of using the Doubleback™ Harness to attach Tala to ourselves because first and foremost, we always want to keep Tala safe and comfortable. 

In the past, we’d used homemade setups to take our first dog, Rok, flying. And although they worked okay, the Doubleback™ Harness makes things really slick, easy, and significantly more comfortable for Tala.

The harness was designed for climbing/rappelling purposes, and it makes for a very secure and reliable harness for paragliding as well. Because of the rear leg loops and safety features, we feel very confident carrying Tala with us hundreds (or thousands!) of feet off the ground in the Doubleback™ Harness. 

Woman paragliding with her dog

Attaching Tala’s harness to our paragliding setups took a bit of trial and error as well. We did some experimentation on the ground before ever considering flying with her.

Differences in weight distribution can affect how a paraglider reacts (especially during launch and landing), so it was important to test out our attachments in a simulator on the ground before taking to the sky. 

We always use strength-rated and purpose-built paragliding and/or climbing carabiners and slings and double check all of our attachments prior to launching. Practicing the awkward transition from walking/running with 30+ pounds of weight hanging from the front of our harnesses on launch to sitting comfortably in the air was also really helpful.

Man and woman tandem paragliding with their dog

We took Tala up together on a tandem glider for her first few flights. Since Cade and I were both professional tandem pilots at the time, it made perfect sense for one of us to concentrate on the flying while the passenger was then able to completely focus on Tala’s comfort level and security, making any necessary adjustments as we went along. 

Paragliding is one of the most freeing feelings I’ve ever experienced. Slowly floating through the air in complete silence, above and disconnected from the ground, yet totally connected to the environment around me. It can be absolutely serene and peaceful, and always brings me into the present moment.

Being able to take Tala with us in the air is just icing on the cake.

Woman paragliding with her dog

Watching that new perspective through her eyes – sensing the tiny movements of her head and ears as she tracks other gliders in the air with us or people and animals on the ground below – adds a new dimension to an already very dynamic experience. There’s no place I’d rather be than in the air, and no two beings I’d rather share it with than Cade and the Tala dog.

Tala continuously makes us rethink what’s possible to experience with a dog. She is game for any activity or adventure, and quickly adjusts to novel experiences and situations.

I’m inspired by her adaptability and openness to new experiences, and try to use that as a reminder to approach the twists and turns of daily life with curiosity and openness to new experiences.

Want to see what Becca and Tala get up to next? Check them out here.