Miracle dog survives 11-story fall from Florida balcony

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Bonzo, a 12-year-old Pekingese, is a fighter.

His owner, Kimberly Bellinger, rescued the New York City stray several years ago. Since then, he’s had a stroke, and he suffers from arthritis and hip dysplasia. Bonzo, who weighs 22 1/2 pounds, needless to say, doesn’t get around very well.

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So Bellinger wasn’t expecting him to wander off the balcony of her mother’s 11th-story condo in the Rapallo tower in West Palm Beach, where she was visiting from New York, this past Thursday. She took Bonzo to go to the bathroom on one of his pads and went inside to finish dressing, with her mom near the balcony. When she came back, he was gone.

“My heart just stopped. I looked over the balcony,” Bellinger said. “I saw his little body lying there on the grass all the way down. I was sure he was dead.”

But Bonzo was still breathing. A manager from the complex who said he saw the Pekingese motionless on the ground called vets as Bellinger cried. Bonzo took a trip to Palm Beach Veterinary Specialists, where the veterinarians treated him in case he had a head injury.

Bonzo spent some time in an oxygen chamber and on sedatives, but escaped with a fractured rib. Dr. Ellen Gray, one of the emergency veterinarians who cared for Bonzo, said there’s something called high-rise syndrome.

People think the higher the dog falls, the worse the prognosis, but it can actually be the opposite. They have more time to brace for the fall from a higher story, she said.

“It’s pretty interesting, and I think he’s kind of a classic case,” Gray said.

Bonzo’s fall would be the highest Gray’s ever seen an animal fall and recover. With his limited mobility and weight, Bellinger said she didn’t think Bonzo would be able to get off the balcony. He has mild dementia, she said, so he might have been confused.

She considers Bonzo’s recovery a miracle, as she’s already had her share of loss. Her father was admitted to the hospital for organ failure exactly a month before Bonzo fell off the balcony. The family buried him four days prior to the scare. Bellinger’s other dog died Aug. 1 of a serious disease she had been fighting for months.

After a few days in the animal hospital, Bonzo is eating, drinking and snuggling again, just like normal, she said.

“It’s crazy. It’s completely mind-blowing,” Bellinger said.