The Dog Who Loved to Fly

The Dog Who Loved to Fly

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

The Dog Who Loved to Fly

Copper’s yearning to fly was apparent from puppy-hood. You wouldn’t expect a dachshund to want to spend his life airborne, but from the day he cleared the rail of the playpen that was supposed to keep him out of trouble while I was at work, to his last valiant effort at leaving the Earth, there was no stopping him.

It was Copper’s soaring spirit that made me choose him as my first dog. The rest of the litter was cute in the traditional puppy way. Copper, however, would have nothing to do with touching noses or cuddling up next to me. He managed to drag himself up on top of the sofa, and before anyone could stop him, off he jumped. He landed with a “poof!” as the air escaped from his tiny belly. Seven-week-old dog legs aren’t meant to support skydiving. I knew that, but he didn’t.

I’m not big on following rules either, so Copper was the obvious choice for me. I whispered in his little ear, “I like you, flying dog. Do you want to come home with me?” He stared at me intently as if to say, Okay, but don’t expect me to obey Newton’s Law of Gravity!

Copper’s pilot training began the moment we arrived home. He surveyed the landscape, identified the highest elevations and spent his days scampering up and flying down from everything he could. For months, every floor in the house was covered with pillows, blankets, towels and anything soft I could find to cushion his landings.

One day when he was about five months old, I came home to find Copper standing in the middle of the dining-room table with that look on his face that said, Fasten your seat belts and hang on for the ride! I ran as fast as I could toward him to catch him, but he hit the ground before I could yell, “No flying in the dining room!”

From that day on, I put the dining-room chairs upside down on the table every morning before I went to work. When friends and neighbors asked why, I’d just shrug and say it was an old German custom.

I wished Copper could be happy doing regular dachshund stuff—sniffing the carpet, rolling in strange smells, barking at squirrels and learning to be disobedient in two languages, but it just wasn’t in him. “What am I going to do with you, flying dog?” I’d ask him every night when I got home from work. I got him a dog tag shaped like an airplane and prayed that he was strong enough not to get hurt in his airborne escapades.

One day when he was five, Copper jumped up on the back of the couch and flew off. When he landed, he hurt his back. I rushed him to the vet, who said he’d blown a disc and would need surgery. My heart was broken. If I had been a good dog-parent, I thought, I’d have found a way to stop him from flying.

Copper pulled through the surgery with a wagging tail and that same rebellious spark in his eyes. And now that he had a reverse Mohawk from the surgery, he looked even more independent. The last words I heard at the vet were, “Don’t let him jump off things!”

I tried, really I did. For three weeks, whenever I wasn’t with him, I kept Copper in a crate. He gave me a look that said, How can you take away my freedom, my spirit, my reason for living? And he was right; I had grounded not only his body, but his spirit as well. So as he got stronger, I started letting him out of the crate. I gave him a stern warning to behave himself, but he and I both knew he wouldn’t.

As the years went by, Copper found it harder to get around. When he got too old to easily clamber onto the sofa with me, I built him a ramp. Of course, the first thing he did was to use it as a springboard to fly from. And he was just as proud of himself as he ever was.

Then at age thirteen, Copper’s entire back end became paralyzed; he couldn’t jump at all. I don’t know who was sadder that Copper’s flying days were over, him or me.

The vet couldn’t find anything wrong, so I got Copper a K-9 cart, a little wheelchair for dogs. “Now, Copper,” I said, “I looked for a little cart with wings, but they just didn’t have one. So I guess you’ll just have to stay on the floor like a real dog from now on.”

A few minutes later, while I was in the kitchen cooking dinner, I heard a noise in the living room. I ran in and saw Copper at the top of the ramp, with that look in his eye. Before anyone could stop him, he turned andwheeled down the ramp at full speed, his ears flying behind him.

Copper could still fly. I should have known better than to doubt his soaring spirit. And once he landed his new “aircraft,” he wheeled back up the ramp and took off again, as elated by his accomplishment as the Wright Brothers must have been.

Copper flew up and down that ramp with his wheels spinning behind him for almost three more years before he escaped the bonds of Earth once and for all.

Leigh Anne Jasheway-Bryant

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