Airline pilots apparently like to hang out together, so it is not surprising I met Randy Plante through my friend Tracy Prior Welch, who is also a pilot and whom I featured in my last month. Randy is a pilot for American Airlines as well, and now the proud author and publisher of his brand new book, "My Wingman Oliver." The book has just now been released and is available online and in The Virginia Shop in Old Town Alexandria, with more bookstores added soon.
I was lucky enough to receive one of the first autographed copies, and have been enjoying reading this memoir about a warm-hearted pilot on a mission to adopt a dog. But I'm jumping way ahead ...
With the intro from Tracy, I was able to schedule a meeting with Randy and Oliver out at Reston Town Center earlier this month. I was immediately struck by the very strong bond between them, and especially how relaxed and well-mannered Oliver was. And, his amazing ears (Oliver's, not Randy's). Oliver is a German shepherd mix, with a very sweet and gentle look, and ears that don't stand up straight like a shepherd's, but actually flap out to the side like airplane wings. Perfect match for this pilot! Oliver has a very soulful and wise expression, and it is hard not to be as smitten with him as Randy was when he first met and adopted Oliver as a young puppy nine years ago from the Washington Animal Rescue League.
In talking with Randy that afternoon, trying to keep warm with Irish coffees while we sat outside on a very chilly day, I was curious why a pilot, who was single and traveled for a living, would want a dog in the first place. Initially, it had to do more with his desire for a good social life and meeting women in a dog-centric city than pet parenting. But that all changed when he adopted Oliver and the reality of responsible pet ownership challenged him every day. From demystifying the adoption process to the basics of dog-walking etiquette to overcoming separation anxiety, and sucking it up during frigid wintertime potty breaks, Randy shares his learning experience in his book.
And due to his love of history and an abundance of historical places throughout his and Oliver's stomping grounds, he weaves in plenty of hometown facts and references. I must admit I learned quite a bit about Old Town Alexandria from his book.
I asked Randy why he chose to publish his book himself and he said this book was "part of his destiny." Three editors told him he couldn't do it, but he had a story to tell and he wanted to tell it his way. His writing style is very readable and casual, as if you were sitting in his living room chatting over a cold beer. His military training as an F-111 fighter pilot actually gave him the tools to see the mission through from its unofficial start back in 2003, to its culmination in 2011. To make it all possible, Randy created the Canine Wingman Company, and now has a website, which is a great resource for dog lovers.
There are many reasons why readers will enjoy "My Wingman Oliver": local setting (you will likely know many of the places Randy and Oliver frequent, from dog bakeries to parks), a guide to dog-friendly events (such as the famous outdoor Doggie Happy Hours at Hotel Monaco, and canine cruises), interesting historical snippets, humor (Chapter 8, Oliver's first birthday party offers some pretty good laughs at Randy's expense!), practical advice (especially for first-time adopters), great color photos of Randy and Oliver's first year together, and the added bonus section of useful references and lists in the back of the book. Personally, I love the adorable pencil drawings Randy did for each chapter.
I won't give anything away, but I wouldn't be surprised if there's a sequel in Oliver's future!
If you'd like to contact the author of "My Wingman Oliver," you can reach Randy Plante at Randy@caninewingman.com.