Labrador survives six-story fall

By Dong-Phuong Nguyen, Times Staff Writer
Published February 8, 2008

TAMPA — You would think that a jet landing at Tampa International Airport one day in December would be nothing out of the ordinary. Except this was no aircraft.

It was a black Labrador retriever named “Jet” that fell six stories from an airport parking garage and survived.

On Dec. 31, Jet and his humans, Clayton and Jessica Tieman of Largo, were on the ninth-floor short-term parking garage of the airport waiting to pick up Jessica’s parents. Jet, who had just turned 2, was inside a parked truck when he slipped out and dashed toward Clayton Tieman, who was standing next to a four-foot wall.

Tieman screamed “no!” as he reached for Jet.

Jet went over and Tieman fell to his knees crying: “Oh God, please no.”

He heard a thud and then a whimper.

“When Jet got to the wall, rather than crash into the wall, he just hopped over,” said Lee Rivas, Tieman’s father-in-law, who emerged from an elevator onto the ninth floor just moments after Jet fell.

Jessica Tieman ran to her father, hysterical. Clay Tieman wouldn’t look over the wall. He was afraid of what he might see, Rivas said.

So Rivas dashed to the wall and looked down. No dog.

But there was a man a floor below looking up at them, his eyes “as big as they can be,” Tieman said.

“Your dog just got up and walked,” Tieman heard the man say.

Rivas and his 22-year-old son David, both of Valrico, made their way down six flights while Tieman called airport police.

Jet, who has a black coat and weighs 65 pounds, had apparently fallen about 70 feet and landed on the roof of a third-level walkway, that leads from the airport to the Marriott Hotel. Airport police helped the men get to Jet, who by this time was hobbling and wagging his tail.

David Rivas instructed Jet to lay down, which the well-trained dog did immediately, Lee Rivas said. Blood soaked David Rivas’ white t-shirt as he held Jet, who continued to give kisses.

They took Jet to Florida Veterinary Specialists where he was treated for cuts and bruises and a punctured lung that healed that night.

“I can’t explain why he didn’t die,” Clayton Tieman said. “When he jumped, he landed in God’s hands.”

It seems the fall was harder on Jet’s best friend Rocky, a 10-year-old Lab who witnessed Jet sail over the wall.

“Rocky was in the car, the windows were cracked and he saw the whole thing,” Rivas said. “I’m not making this up. He would not eat.”

Only after Jet came to visit two days later did Rocky eat again.