It is said that truth is stranger than fiction. Every once in a while, you read or hear of a true story which illustrates this point perfectly. It's the kind of story that follows you around for awhile, lurking in your brain and popping up in your conscious thoughts at odd moments.
Some years ago, I read such a story, and I've never been able to forget it since. I started thinking about it again a few days ago and it won't leave me now. I've never been able to put it to rest because I was left with so many questions.
I'm no longer certain of all the details, but I seem to recall that a pilot had made a water landing in order to visit a friend of his. This friend also happened to own a dog. Apparently, the dog took a shine to either the pilot or the airplane, because as the pilot took his leave and climbed back into the plane for takeoff, the dog hopped on one of the pontoons used for landing gear in order to ride along. Unaware of the stowaway, the pilot took off. Sadly, somewhere along the way, the dog fell off the pontoon and straight through the roof of a house far below.
That was the end of the news story, but only the beginning of the questions it raised in my mind. I have turned this story inside out and upside down, trying to imagine what it must have been like to be a player in this drama.
The first, and briefest, appearance would be that of the dog. It was probably one of those dogs who just love to ride in the car. So, he probably decided to expand his horizons. But at some point, he must have thought, all of a sudden, "Ruh-roh!"
Then I imagine the owner of the house through which the dog fell. What was he doing at the time of the dog's arrival? Talking on the phone? "Uh, Jane, I have to hang up now. A dog just fell through the ceiling." Or, he may have witnessed the event from outside. Since dogs are essentially land-bound creatures, not given to plummeting from the heavens, he must have rubbed his eyes a time or two.
How did he explain it to the roofing contractor? I can almost see the contractor hitching up his pants, squinting at the roof and saying, "That's quite a hole you've got there, mister. What is it you say fell through it? A dog? Musta been a mighty big one. Oh? Fell right out of the sky, did it? Uh-huh."
Did the homeowners call the police immediately? Maybe even call 911? How did he report it? Attack dog? Or just a stray? And what did the officer think? "You say a dog just crashed through your roof, sir? Came out of the sky? Have you had anything to drink today, sir?"
I must say it was a fine piece of police investigation, though. They did manage to trace the dog to its owner and learn the circumstances of the accident. It's always hard to break the news of the death of a pet, though. "Mr. Smith, this is Officer Jones at the police department. Are you the owner of a dog named Rover? Well, I'm sorry to inform you of this, sir, but Rover is dead. Hit by a car? Well, no, not exactly..."
Then we come to the pilot. "Sir, when you were flying your plane today, did you happen to notice anything unusual? Like a dog on your landing gear?"
Perhaps the strangest part of this stranger-than-fiction tale was not the story itself, but the manner in which it was reported. The account was a brief one. But the news piece ended with a sentence that I've never been able to dismiss from my mind. "No charges have been filed." Charges??? What charges? Whom would they charge? The pilot? A dead dog? The owner? And what would they charge them with? Flying without a license? Littering? Failure to restrain a dangerous animal?
The one somber note of the story was, of course, the demise of the dog. Even amidst the absurdity of the circumstances, it's hard to dismiss the tragedy involved.
But dog's lives are generally brief, filled with mundanities like scratching, eating, sleeping, and romping. I'm sure the same was true for Flying Dog. At least Flying Dog had one shining moment of glory. He took a daring step into the unknown, did what no dog had done before, and made the world take notice. How many dogs could make the same claim? I, for one, will never look up in the sky again (particularly over a house) without thinking of Flying Dog.
I guess the old saying is true. Every dog has his day.
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