The Story Behind That Video of Whisper, the BASE Jumping Dog
You just watched a video of four-year-old Whisper, the world's first wingsuit-clad, BASE jumping dog. She was strapped to her owner—Adidas-sponsored, Santa Barbara-based free climber and BASE jumper Dean Potter—when she took a dive from a 13,000-foot mountain peak in the Swiss Alps. The footage was captured with a GoPro camera. The YouTube video, posted on Tuesday, currently has more than 450,000 views and has received enthusiastic coverage from USA Today, the Daily Beast, Glenn Beck's TheBlaze, The Today Show, and BuzzFeed, among other outlets. "So it looks like Whipser lives her life by the YOLO philosophy," Mashable reported.
"I got Whisper when she was a little puppy and I hated leaving her at home, because I would go on these six-to-eight-hour hikes—I would BASE jump every day, and I'd have to leave her behind," Potter tells Mother Jones. To solve this problem (at least for one jump), Potter got to work on a special backpack to safely hold Whisper on his back. "It took three times, and the first two prototypes, we didn't even get out of the shop," he says. "And we finally got it on the third try. We did some test runs with her favorite stuffed animal, her lion toy…And just to make sure she was okay with speed, I rode around with her on my bicycle and motorcycle, cruising at about 80 miles an hour…So I knew she liked speed."
The short video is sneak peek at When Dogs Fly, a 22-minute film starring Potter, his girlfriend Jen Rapp, and Whisper. (Potter and Rapp produced, and Potter directed.) According to Potter, various networks, including National Geographic Channel, Discovery, HBO, and CNN, have shown interest in purchasing and airing it.
The video has also provoked criticism from those who see Whisper's BASE jumping as animal abuse. "Although both the dog and owner land safely, being strapped to a person's back and dropped by parachute is likely to be a cause of significant stress and fear for the dog," a spokesperson for Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said, for instance.
Potter insists that he and Rapp had already taken this into consideration: "BASE jumping is dangerous, and it made me and Jen think a lot about whether we were doing the right thing," he says. "We're not stupid people, and we questioned if what we were doing was the right thing to do, just like any parent would."
Potter wrote in a recent blog post:
I want you all to know that I do not force Whisper to do anything she doesn't want to do. When we wake up in the morning, if Whisper wants to stay at home or camp, she is free to do so…Last summer when I was wingsuit BASE-jumping with Whisper she never once didn't want to come along. In fact, whenever I put on my wingsuit or pack my parachute, little Whisper nestles close and begs to come along.
In no way do I want others to try to emulate what I do with Whisper without proper knowledge and training!
So what's next for Potter? Along with selling When Dogs Fly, he says he is currently working with NASA scientists, finding new ways to trick out his wingsuit. "One of the fundamental dreams man has ever had is to truly fly the human body, so that's my biggest fascination right now," he says.
Now here are a couple pics of Whisper, courtesy of Potter's Instagram account: