Randy Plante is a pilot who has a wingman, but the wingman isn’t a pilot. For that matter, he isn’t a person.
Plante’s wingman is Oliver, a 75-pound German shepherd/Lab mix with ears that stick out to the sides. When Plante isn’t flying MD-80s for American Airlines, he spends time with Oliver at their home in Alexandria, Va.
My Wingman Oliver is Plante’s self-published book about how he found a new best friend when he went about adopting a shelter dog in 2003. It is also a how-to guide for prospective dog owners, and a detailed guide to the city of Alexandria from a dog owner’s point of view. Alexandria is one of the most dog-friendly cities in the nation, with 20 dog parks and businesses that cater to pets and their owners.
The Canine Wingman website serves as a portal not only to sell the book, but also to provide links to pet adoption sites and rescue groups and a community calendar of dog-friendly events. It promotes the social aspect of dog ownership—something Plante understands very well, as he and Oliver are fixtures at dog parks, dog-friendly happy hours, and other pet-centric events in his city. “Dogs unite people,” he said.
Plante began keeping notes for a book shortly after he adopted Oliver in 2003, but wasn’t able to set aside time to work on it until he was “sitting at home on reserve” in 2010. Based in Washington, D.C., he has flown for American Airlines since 1991, and has crafted a network of dog sitters, friends, and family to watch Oliver when he has to be on the road.