Retired astronaut Chris Hadfield experienced an astronomical level of cuteness during a recent visit to Falkland, B.C., when he visited a local elementary school after picking up a spaniel puppy.
Hadfield, the first ever Canadian commander of the International Space Station, was visiting the north Okanagan town on Friday, Sept. 17, to pick up a cavalier King Charles spaniel called Henry.
When Debbie Robinson received Hadfield's email enquiring about Henry, she thought it would be a great opportunity to have him visit the local school, Falkland Elementary.
Robinson, who runs the Caviolia Cavaliers dog kennel and bred Henry, said she initially laughed off his email as a ruse to get a puppy.
"In all honesty, I didn't know the name. I knew who he was, but the name didn't click right away ... But yes, it really was Chris Hadfield and his lovely wife," she said.
Robinson said she always makes her clients come down to Falkland to get their dogs, to show they cared for them, and that Hadfield accepted her offer to go to the school immediately.
"We're in a very small rural community and we don't get an awful lot of opportunities to have somebody really special come to our school," she said.
Falkland Elementary has kids from kindergarten to Grade 7 and 113 students total.
"They went absolutely silent when he walked in the room and their eyes got big," said Robbie McAfee, a kindergarten teacher at the school.
"I hope it shows them, you know, how early your dreams can start and that it might feel like a far-fetched dream when you're little. But watching somebody fulfill that dream is pretty inspiring."
'Special' visit for children
Hadfield had an in-person assembly with some of the schoolchildren and also showed off his guitar skills in the Grade 1-2 classroom.
Some of the curious children also asked him questions about his time in space, which included installing the Canadarm2 onto the International Space Station in 2001.
"I asked him what his favourite food is to eat in space ... he said he wouldn't go up into space for the food," said Darius Gervais, a Grade 6 student at the school.
"When we saw Commander Hadfield, what stood out to me was the fact that he was the first Canadian to spacewalk ... just because it just sounds really cool," said his brother Cohen, in Grade 5.
Falkland principal Shelly Cull said Hadfield's visit was "special" for all of the children at the school.
"What I remember being really impactful for the kids is hearing that he knew he wanted to be an astronaut in Grade 5," she said.
"I just remember the kids' faces, their jaws dropping ... thinking, "Oh my gosh. I can be starting to think about something like this."
Hadfield and Henry are now back at their cabin on Vancouver Island after the eventful visit, according to Robinson.
"I'm not on Instagram myself, but Chris has been posting all of the photos of Henry that he's got, all the time," she said. "[Hadfield's wife] Helene told me at one point that Henry has millions of followers on Instagram and it's like, Oh my God."