Climbing legend and well-rounded aerial bad-ass Dean Potter has done some extreme things in his day, from slack-lining the Yosemite to setting new BASE jumping records. Yet few of his stunts have caused more of a dust-up than a movie he made last year, in which Potter documents a wingsuit jump with someone I’d say is probably his best friend.
The issue isn’t the age, identity or anything else you might suspect. It’s more of a species issue, actually, as in, it’s his dog – a 22-pound Australian Cattle dog named Whisper, whose penchant for following her master takes her pretty much to every jump Dean Potter does. Then last year, Potter chronicled their adventures together, in the aptly named ‘When Dogs Fly‘ – an upclose look at a pooch who looks, well, pretty darn happy doing 200 mph in a wing suit through the Alps.
Dean Potter – A Man and His Dog
You can expect such a stunt would raise a few eyebrows, and not all of them good. Coming from an animal lover, I admit my first thought was it’s inappropriate to strap a pooch in a wingsuit, and indeed, there’s a shot where Whisper (briefly) dangles high above on a slack line as Potter sends her to their jumping off point. I didn’t like that – but I watched his recent interview with EpicTV in which he discusses the film and why he chose to take the leap with his canine companion.
And what I saw was two things. First, Dean Potter is, in his own words, a pioneer. Granted, those are his words, but we know they’re true. Just look at the jumps his done – he’s set records and paved the trail for other rock jocks – literally, in some cases. He’s set the bar for others to follow all his life. We’ve already seen Aro the BASE jumping terrier. Is it really that much of a leap for Potter to share that passion with his most trust-worthy friend?
Whisper Loves Her Wing-Suit
Watching his interview, I admired the love he put into this film, and that leads to my second point. By his own words, he put seven times more safety gear into her jumps than he’d have done if he’d jumped on his own. Watch her response too – she follows up eagerly up the mountain and clearly enjoys the rush of air blowing past her. Heck, it can’t really be much different than a dog sticking his head out the window of a moving car. Except this is probably safer, because she’s buckled up with one of the best wing suit/BASE jumpers on the planet.
Admittedly, this would not fly (natch) for most canines. It takes a rare breed to pull off something like this. But in the right circumstances, heck, why not? Whisper’s probably the only pooch on the planet to have a wing suit jump notch on her collar.