About a year ago, the New Zealand Herald ran a story about a historic bridge on the west coast of Scotland that had become the site of an unprecedented series of canine suicides. Apparently, in the months preceding the article, so many dogs had taken to leaping over the railing and plunging to their deaths that the locals had taken to calling the spot “Rover’s Leap.” Scientists dismissed this tale of doggies with death wishes as nonsense, pointing out that other than the occasional wolf spider or praying mantis — which offer themselves to their mates as meals during intercourse — suicide is not common in the animal kingdom. Which brings us to my dog Ahab.
A few weeks back, on my way home from seeing the Pogues at the Wiltern, I turned down my street and noticed a gaggle of folks standing in front of my apartment building staring straight up at the sky. Since I live in Hollywood, these sidewalk throngs are something I’ve grown accustomed to, but why everyone was suddenly stargazing had me curious. As I swung my car past the crowd, I followed their stares up three stories, to a small window ledge on the corner of the building, where a large dog was standing and staring out into the abyss — apparently contemplating a life-ending leap of his own.
It took me about 10 seconds to realize the ledge in question was the one directly outside my living-room window, and 10 more for it to sink in that the dog in question was Ahab. I don’t quite know what happened next — somehow my car got parked — but I have no memory of such things. What I recall is dashing through that assembled crowd, thinking, “Don’t look up, don’t look up,” as people shouted, “Is that your dog?” at me. Some suggested using a taut blanket as a landing pad, and some questioned my fitness for dog ownership — but I didn’t have time for that stuff.
The hubbub continued as I bashed into some gentleman (my apologies) fumbling for his keys outside my gate, and tore up three flights of steps. When I got to my floor, I found a security guard — who knows where he came from? — standing in the hallway outside my door. He probably was unwilling to break inside for fear of startling the dog, but, again, I didn’t stick around long enough to ask.
When I got the door open, the first thing I noticed was that my second dog was sleeping peacefully in the middle of the floor. The second was that my front window, which had been locked before I left for the show, was now open about 6 inches. The third was that Ahab stood perfectly calm on the foot-wide ledge, on the other side of that window.
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I should point out that I didn’t really have a plan beyond grabbing my dog, but Ahab seemed to have other ideas. When I got within three feet of him, he lifted his head to meet my gaze, grunted once, nudged his snout beneath the window sill, lifted the pane a few more inches, and dropped back to the floor as if nothing odd had occurred. Down on the street I heard cheering. Back in the apartment, Ahab went over to his water bowl, had a gulp or two, and walked over to his bed for a nap. Apparently, Ahab had no intention of ending his life; he just wanted a better view.