Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Dogs Who Fly (and the people who love them)
This morning, in those bleary moments of first-wake, sounds of the sleepy neighborhood seeping through the bedroom window, it suddenly occurred to me that Ernie had once again resumed efforts at learning to fly.
Ernie’s attempts at flight go way back. As a pup, he once launched himself from our 12-foot backyard deck, managing several seconds of flight before hitting the ground, unscathed.
He likewise made practice jumps from furniture, stairs, the front porch, and even from people’s arms, each time seeking the exhilaration of foiling gravity and soaring into the sky. It’s a noble calling, and one that many have pursued, both as hobby and avocation. The lore* of Poodle Flight is strong—some simply can’t escape its pull.
*For example, see: Collins, Roland, photographs by W. Suschitzky, The Flying Poodle (London: Harvill Press, undated, probably 1950's; might be pre-war), approx. 32 pp. Poodle named Mandy who talks to goldfish, misses Christina, a kitten friend. Or, the 'flying poodles' scene in UHF. A persistent Hollywood rumor suggests that the flying monkeys of The Wizard of Oz were almost replaced with poodles in the film version. Also, for historical completeness, don't neglect the stories of Snoopy and his Sopwith Camel, which have given inspiration and impetus to dog-fliers everywhere.
But as we know, gravity inevitably wins, and for a while Ernie seemed to internalize this lesson and turn back to earthly pastimes, keeping all four feet securely on the ground. This was especially true in the last year or two, as his eyesight failed and the infirmities of age began to settle in.
Things changed a couple of weeks ago. One night after I’d come home from school, Ernie followed me down the front porch, stopped midway, and then suddenly gathered up and launched himself into the black night. The landing didn’t go well. He crashed on the concrete walkway three feet below, limping and yelping with lip bloodied. The next morning he was good as new, but the incident made me wonder whether he’d finally give up and turn in his wings.
But a couple of days later, he tried again—this time launching himself off the corner of the bed. Alas, he hit the wall. The bedroom wall. And then sort of slid to the floor as if in one of those Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote cartoons.
He’s been quiet since, rethinking the situation. It’s a hard thing to readjust one’s dreams in the face of reality. But given his advanced age (going on 18) and poor eyesight, it may be time to leave the pursuit of flight to the younger poodles. That doesn’t mean he won’t still dream about it. Yesterday I caught him deep in a doggie dream that had him whining softly, all four paws stirring the air and his tail ruddering behind, no doubt steering him through the clouds.