FAYETTE COUNTY, Tenn. — It's a skydiving partnership unlike any other. Desoto County Sheriff's Deputy and skydiving instructor Alex Coker has a one-of-a-kind partner who's jumped from a plane with him four times.
He's a 75-pound dog named Duke — and Duke is 21 jumps short of receiving an honorary skydiving license.
"It's nothing better than having a battle buddy that's with you every where you go," Coker said.
Just 12 miles outside of Somerville in Fayette County there's a field full of risk takers at West Tennessee Skydiving.
It's the only place in the county where you can fall from at least 28,000 feet in the air in what's called a "HALO Jump," and people from all over the world come here just to fulfill their dangerous wish.
"You're falling at roughly 70 to 80 percent faster than the normal skydive speeds," instructor Kevin Holbrook said. "You're on blind faith because we have to hope that you're really where you need to land."
As Duke makes history as the first and only dog skydiver at his location, he could also make history as the first dog with a license.
If approved by the parachute association, Duke will be allowed to jump without a human. Coker doesn't know if that has ever been done before.
Like many skydiving instructors, Coker is ex-military. It's not unusual for military trained canines to go airborne with their trainers. But Coker says Duke is a bit different.
He's a pet, not a military dog. And he's also a bit large.
"Not too many people jump with their dogs who are this big," Coker said.
He says he knows Duke enjoys the jumps because his ears point straight up. He also says Duke loves riding in the car with his head sticking out of the window, which is the same kind of feeling as a skydive.