HARRY, the 10-year-old crossbreed Collie who attained fame with his paragliding antics, is no stranger to newspaper headlines. And he found himself back in the public eye this week after he was reunited with his owners following a three-week disappearance.
Harry gained a local following after hitting the headlines earlier this year when he paraglided from the top of Slieve Donard down to the beach at Newcastle while seated on his owner’s knee.
But in the past fortnight his owner, Tony Conway, put out a heartfelt plea in the media after Harry went missing.
Then on Tuesday Harry was once again in the spotlight after a family that had adopted him in good faith saw the appeal and tearfully returned the pet to his rightful owners.
Tony said: “Harry is not really a dog – he is a child stuck in a dog’s body. That is what we always say about him.
“He is so needy that he cannot sit anywhere near you without prompting you for some attention.”
As he was speaking, Harry was laying his head on his owner’s stomach while Tony was stroking him.
But Tony only had to remove his hand for a few seconds before Harry got up in protest to look his owner in the eye and push his nose under his hand before nudging back in underneath it.
“I am not in the least surprised that the family that took him in were heartbroken to let him go after only two weeks,” Tony said.
“He came back to us probably in better condition than he left. His coat had been well brushed and he was well fed.
“There was no malice. The family that adopted him were eastern European and did not know that you can trace dog owners here here by their tag or by their microchip as well.”
Harry’s temporary family had made him a special bed and renamed him ‘Bolt’.
Tony said: “They even embroidered his new name on his bed. We had a couple of false call-outs so when we went to this family we were shaking in case it was not him.
“But the wife had tears in her eyes when they were handing him back, as did their son, who was about 10 years old.”
Tony felt so bad that he has arranged a replacement for Harry to be delivered to the family.
Harry has recently fathered a litter of puppies and one of them has exactly the same colouring as him – black with white paws.
“We have offered them this pup as a sign of our gratitude, which they have gladly accepted.”
Harry first hit the headlines in August for his paragliding exploits on BBC Northern Ireland, which also carried his missing appeal.
Tony said: “I am always walking Harry in the Mournes and I also do some paragliding. I said to myself I would really like to take him up some time.
“So my wife and I made a harness for him and got him used to wearing it around the garden and in the house sitting on my knee.
“When I finally took him up, he was so used to it that he just sat on my knee as normal. He was just quite relaxed as we descended, because as far as he was concerned he was just sitting on my knee. Dogs just trust you.
“But now when he sees me taking the harness out he goes mad – he thinks he is going up again.”
Harry originally belonged to Tony’s parents but he took him in after his father died and his mother became too ill to care for him.
Tony said: “He was used to roaming around. He has become quite a celebrity around here since he was on television paragliding.
“If there is a female in heat anywhere near here he will be there, just sitting there even in the rain.”