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The Day Our Dog Tried To Fly

November 16, 2012

Upon our third anniversary, having just relocated to California from Maine, we did as newlyweds often do: we decided to give parenting a shot.

We brought home a puppy.

She was a pot-bellied, sable-colored, wiggly little thing who cried half the three-hour drive, and peed on my lap about 20 minutes from home.

We loved her enormously. Her pedigree name, Katje von Sontausen, was too big for her 7 lb self, so we went with cliché and named our German Shepherd Dog Heidi. It suited her sweet, open personality far better than the sneeze the breeder had given her as a name. Heidi was a remarkable dog. We diligently taught her, schooled her, and left her Kongs filled with peanut butter and cheese to keep her company while we were at work.

She loved Sophie, our cat, who despised her then just about as much as she hates Betsy now. Heidi didn’t feel the slight. When Sophie would perch on the arm of the couch, waiting for her enemy to pass, just so she could bat her face and lash at her tall black ears, Heidi took it as affection and licked her in return. Sophie would bite her on the head, Heidi would knock her off the couch. Sophie would hiss and run away and Heidi would plop down on the floor, content. When Sophie would amble peacefully through a room, Heidi would skulk up behind her, stick her long nose under Sophie’s backside, and flip her into the air.

Working for the hip, Silicon Valley ad agency as I did at the time, it was customary that we would, on margarita casual Fridays, bring our dogs by the office. I waited, eager for my turn.

By the time we arranged our first visit to work, she was nearly full-grown at 65 lbs. I kept her leashed, and she walked primly by my side as we crossed the courtyard to the cool art building where the parties were held designers worked.

I had brought her to work once before, while taking time off for pup-ternity leave. She fell asleep in the middle of the art department with a stuffed frog in her mouth that was bigger than she was. I couldn’t wait for them to see how she’d grown.

As we walked up the stairs, I unhooked her leash and she dashed ahead of me into the room. Noah was there, and Margaret. Jumpy couldn’t wait to see her.

Heidi whipped across the floor in a blur to where Noah was standing at the balcony doors, a huge smile on his face. 

And she just… kept… going. Across the balcony, over the ledge, right off the second story railing. She sailed elegantly aloft – can you even picture it? She was at full stride when she hit the ledge – in my head she made an awesome sight.

Noah told me later he heard a car lock up its brakes in front of the building. I bet whoever was driving that car told that story all week long. “I was just driving down this street and this huge dog flew out the second story window!”

It happened so fast we all just stood there staring at each other, mouths open, too shocked to even scream. I turned, ran down the stairs and out the front door, Noah peering over the edge of the railing above.

I was certain she would be sprawled on the concrete stairs beneath the balcony, but instead found her trotting the sidewalk, chatting up the neighbors.

She was delighted by her freedom, playing a bit of keep-away before hearing Noah’s whistle and running back to where I stood, gobsmacked, flabbergasted, and stunned.

All’s well that ends well. We rushed her to the doggy ER where they X-rayed her furry hide, finding nothing worse than a fat lip. Big dogs tend to bounce, they told me. The little ones never could survive that kind of fall; we see this all the time.

Why on earth would my dog jump out of a second story window?

Was she trying to fly? The Great Heidi Dog? Was she chasing a bird, a plane, or Superman?

I think she saw the open balcony doors and assumed she’d go for a walk. I only later realized, it had been her first time in a two-story building. Her expectations were freedom, blue sky and green trees, not a 20′ drop and concrete.


Unrealized expectations are so often our greatest source of pain, aren’t they?

I expected parenthood to be different. Marriage. Working. Not working. Cooking. The craft projects I start and never finish.

I expected my Chicken Parm to turn out differently a few weeks back. I expected that my article would have been accepted by now at The Magazine I’ve been pursuing.

Disappointment ever flows from the fountain of unrealized expectations. Some are easy to laugh about. Others, not so much.

Unlike us, she wasn’t destroyed by her unmet expectations, just a little bruised.  Heidi didn’t learn to fly that day. She went on to live a happy life, graciously allowing another pack mate into the family who chewed her tail, stole her toys, ate her foot and crawled in her bed.

The vet told us Heidi might have arthritis one day, as a result of her adventure. A hidden scar that would slowly grow over time and cause her pain later on down the road.

Some of my unrealized expectations have left me bruised and sore, and others have left their scars. But we attract what we expect, don’t we?

Despite the bruises, I’d still rather risk the fall than stop jumping off the balcony. Despite disappointment, we keep hoping, just like Heidi, that one of these days, that open window really will lead to great things.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Bethany Hall Fitelson permalink
    November 16, 2012 9:45 am

    Wow, I can’t believe I’ve never heard that story! What a great analogy that she only knew open doors meant freedom, not falling, because she had never experienced a 2-story building before. I miss Heidi – she is the BEST dog! My favorite Heidi memories are me falling asleep on your couch only to be woken by Heidi licking my face and making me jump a mile. Or the time I sat snuggled under a blanket with her content by my feet, and only when I got off the couch realized that she was so content because she was sitting there eating a hole through the blanket. (Oops.)

    • November 16, 2012 9:51 am

      B – I can’t believe we never told you that story! Too funny…and you can stop feeling bad about the blanket…she destroyed many other things on our watch than she did on yours! On grammies watch she ruined not one, but TWO couches. She would have been a major player on…

  2. November 16, 2012 11:16 pm

    Mom’s family had an excessively large German Shepherd, Brandy. He loved the water. They took him to the beach regularly and he would jump off the bridge nearby to splash into the water. One visit, they arrived late in the evening, and Brandy escaped from the backseat of the car, raced over to the bridge, and leapt. Mom says the yelp was clearly the doggie version of “oh, bleep!” The tide was out. Hard wet sand was not so nice to land on, and Brandy had to be taken home to the vet for treatment of a sprained paw!
    We miss our silly mutts! 🙂

  3. November 17, 2012 3:25 pm

    Amazing story. I am so not a dog person, but I loved this story a lot. And the way you made it work for us 2-legged creatures, too. Thanks for it.

  4. Christi McGuire permalink
    November 18, 2012 5:08 am

    Ohhhh, love this!


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