Learning To Fly

Rhodesian Ridgeback, Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago, Adventure, Marking Our Territory

In the Marking Our Territory circus, Penny was my tumbling acrobat while Eko was my soaring aerialist. I loved capturing his casual grace mid-air. From the nonchalant takeoff through the smooth landings, Eko made his flights look effortless.

As a young upstart, Penny wanted to follow her big brother into the air. But given her propensity for causing mayhem I trained Penny to wait for me to pick her up over the fence. These days, the air above the beach fence is one of many empty spaces reminding me of Eko.  My heart soared with Eko, and it plummeted without him. My challenge over the past months has been salvaging the scrap metal of that crash, building new wings, and discovering the courage to lift off again. It seemed only fitting then that Penny and I learn to fly together.

Last week I unleashed Penny just outside the fence at the dog beach. But instead of lifting her over as I normally do, I stepped over alone and walked a couple yards towards the water. The whining started almost immediately. Penny paced along the fence in earnest, begging me to pick her up. She’d go as far as placing her front paws up, but she wouldn’t jump over. Like me, my wild and fearless Penny was still bounded by the past.

I climbed back over to show her how it’s done. We backed up a couple yards, we sprinted towards the fence together, I hopped over alone. Penny pulled up short, but when I turned around with my camera I saw the light bulb go off in her head.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago, Adventure, Marking Our Territory

“Wait, he’s going to let me to jump over!?”

Penny backed up, galloped towards the fence and flew! 

Rhodesian Ridgeback, Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago, Adventure, Marking Our Territory

Well, she less flew over and more threw herself over

I burst out laughing and gave my girl plenty of praise. We began bounding back and forth across the divider in a game of aerial tag. What Penny lacks in Eko’s grace she more than makes up for with enthusiasm.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago, Adventure, Marking Our Territory

Penny does not have a future in Olympic diving

Since that first day we’ve practiced jumping at each beach visit and I’m happy to report Penny’s form is improving.

Rhodesian Ridgeback, Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago, Adventure, Marking Our Territory

Rocketship Penny is now much more aerodynamic 

Rhodesian Ridgeback, Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago, Adventure, Marking Our Territory

She’s figured out how to tuck those back legs and really glide

Rhodesian Ridgeback, Montrose Dog Beach, Chicago, Adventure, Marking Our Territory

My puppy rises, and so too does my heart

So we rise. Unsteady and ungraceful on these new wings, but grateful for the opportunity to fly again.

51 Comments

Dear Will,

I found your blog a few years ago during our ‘research phase’ of adding a dog to our family. My boyfriend and I have since been following your journey and feel like we have shared the highs and the lows. I particularly remember your post about losing Dutch, which I saw one week before we lost my family’s beagle, Devon. I remember re-reading your post and re-watching your video and crying throughout but strangely finding this so helpful.

After three years of researching, we felt the time was right to add a little pup to our family and we found an amazing breeder and subsequently an amazing little pup whom we named Kgosi. He’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback and I believe following your story with Eko and then Penny definitely influenced our decision. So thank you, for blogging and ultimately providing us with such a rich narrative of raising and sharing a life with one of these amazing dogs. I have also been inspired by your blog and have started one myself – primarily to serve as a home for all the memories we have and will create.

I was so devastated to see that you had lost Eko and can only express my deepest condolences. I believe that these experiences serve as a reminder to cherish every moment with our best friends and provide them with a safe, exciting and loving life. Each time I look down at our little Kgosi, I am overwhelmed with both the love I feel for him and the responsibility we have to keep him safe, happy and adored.

Thank you again for all your posts, it certainly contributed to our journey and I guess a thank you from Kgosi as he now has and will continue to have the best life we can possibly provide!

Thanks so much for taking the time to share your story. My heart is still raw from losing Eko, but I can imagine no better legacy than the ripples of love which continue to expand across space and time. It brings me such joy to know we played a small part in you finding your own joy. Best of luck to you guys and Kgosi on your new adventure!

Absolutely, I’m sure Eko has touched many hearts around the world as well as us! I look forward to seeing more of Penny’s adventures and creating our own with Kgosi. You may recognise some of the games we will be teaching him – we’ve already started teaching him to pick the cup with a treat in and I fully intend to give ‘scatter brain’ a go (I think that’s what you call it).

Your writing always warms my heart. It helps me look for the more wonder with my dogs. Happy or sad, amazing….I am grateful… thank you.

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