When Debbie Robinson looked at her email earlier this summer and saw a message from Chris Hadfield, she had a good laugh.
“All of us who breed and show dogs have been barraged with requests since the start of the pandemic by people who want dogs in their lives,” she said.
“So I was in the car with my husband when I got the request, and I started to laugh and I told my husband, ‘People will do anything to get a puppy now. I have one who even said he’s an astronaut.”
Her husband took a look at the message and told her the news – that is the real Col. Chris Hadfield, the astronaut.
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Robinson wrote back right away, then she and Hadfield spoke on the phone. In short order, a little tan and black spaniel named Henry, born on the day that the town had to evacuate due to the White Rock Lake Wildfire, was matched with the Hadfield family.
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From that time until Friday, however, a few things transpired. Among other things, Robinson told her two grandchildren about their famed future visitor and they, in turn, told their friends, and their friends told their friends, and so on.
They go to Falkland Elementary School, which has about 150 students from kindergarten to Grade 8, and as word spread and the day Henry would be adopted crept closer, Robinson had an idea.
“I thought it would be easier to have him go to the school than to have 300 people line the road before he turned the corner to go up to our house,” she said.
She broached Hadfield with the idea and he took on the task with enthusiasm. As Robinson pointed out, when he was in space he often reached out to children.
“Unfortunately with COVID-19, he couldn’t have the whole school at his presentation, so some of the senior kids were in there and the other kids had it streamed into their classroom,” she said.
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Then he went from classroom to classroom and spoke with the kids.
“I am so grateful that he was willing to go there and share with the kids. It was inspirational for them. They were in awe, and he had a wonderful message for them to hear about reaching for their dreams no matter how hard it looks,” she said.
And her two grandchildren had an even more special visit.
He spent some time with both of them. He read through a book with my grandson, who is five years old, and he brought me some books, for me and my friends.
Falkland Elementary school put out a statement about the event, saying “we feel so fortunate that he was able to pop in for a visit to share about his accomplishments and experiences in space.”
Hadfield’s many awards include the Order of Canada, the Meritorious Service Cross and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. He was named the top test pilot in both the U.S. air force and the U.S. navy and was inducted into Canada’s Aviation Hall of Fame.
He has flown three space missions, building two space stations, performing two spacewalks (EVAs), crewing the shuttle and Soyuz and commanding the International Space Station. He shared with students that he has been around the earth 2,650 times, saw the sun 16 times in one day, lived in space for half a year and was the first Canadian to leave a spacecraft and float freely/walk in space.
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