My new pup, Murphy. Yes, his ear always sticks up like that.


This week, I had to break into my apartment. 

Let me set the scene: a cold, snowy day in Rochester, New York. There’s been about a foot of snow on the ground for the last month or so, and when I went for my morning walk my weather app said Feels like -1 ℉, and by golly it did. 

I live in a medium-sized apartment on the third floor of a big, creaky old house. The outside is painted a garish teal with light-teal accents, and on this particular morning, it was just me in the house, roaming my apartment throughout the morning to sit in beams of sunlight while I worked from home. And my new dog, Murphy. 

I rescued Murphy about a month ago. He is the light of my life, but he comes with a lot of doggy trauma. Though we’ve successfully bonded, and he snuggles with me on my bed every night, if I am out of his sight for more than a few moments he becomes absolutely unhinged—barking, running, and all manner of stressed-out-doggo things. We’re working on it. 

Best practice is to slowly work up to leaving your dog home alone: leave for just a few seconds, then a few minutes, and they’ll slowly learn that you will come back. It was in this spirit that at approximately 9:32 on Friday morning, I told Murphy to wait while I strode down the stairs and opened my front door, intending to walk to the ground floor and then return immediately. 

No such luck. 

As soon as I closed the door behind me, I heard a terrible CRASH as Murphy slammed into the front door, which was crazy behavior even for him. I immediately turned around to go calm him down, but I couldn’t. Murphy had managed to lock the door.

I heard him clattering around through the apartment, barking in terror, and I pulled desperately at the door in terror myself. I briefly saw my life—and Murphy’s life, and the life of my work laptop open and unprotected on my coffee table—flash before my eyes as I rattled the door like a maniac. 

Okay. I have a spare apartment key, but it was inside. So was my phone. And my car keys. 

Thank God for my father, who for years has espoused the importance of car Hide-A-Keys, and who left a spare key in a magnetic box on the chassis of my car. I sprinted downstairs and leapt into my car, still freaking out and hoping against hope my landlord was just down the street at the antique store he runs. He was not.

I zipped back home and didn’t bother to park in the garage or even lock my car, instead climbing the fire escape like a crazy person in my t-shirt and slippers, tugging at the window. Of course, I keep that window locked—I wouldn’t want anyone breaking in, now would I?

Murphy was still bolting around the apartment, barking in fear, so I fairly leapt the three stories back to the ground and grabbed my toolbox from the trunk of  my car (another gift from my father). As I lugged the heavy box up the stairs, I was already making a Plan B: call a locksmith or the fire department or…? 

Back at my door, I pulled on the handle again, then grabbed a screwdriver in a desperate attempt to jimmy the lock. It’s an old house; it can’t be that secure, right? 

I managed to pry the striker plate loose a bit, but the door jam was still, infuriatingly, doing its job and keeping the door firmly shut. On the bright side, my desperate (and none too quiet) attempts to batter down the door had distracted Murphy. 

I sat and took a breath, nearly ready to give up and try Plan B. But wait! Old construction meant that the door to my apartment was originally an interior door, with the hinges facing out: I spied the already-loose top hinge pin and felt a glimmer of hope. 

I used my screwdriver in a way you should pretty much never use it: as a pry bar, leveraged by pounding from the heel of my hand. At first, nothing happened; afterall, the reason hinge pins work is because they fit snug. But eventually the top pin slid out and fell to the ground. The bottom pin was a bit more difficult to extricate, but in my deranged state I didn’t mind the bruise slowly forming on my palm as the door, too, finally came unhinged. 

I fully removed the door from the wall and cried into Murphy’s fur for a few moments before I reattached the door, put my toolbox back in the trunk of my car, and tucked my spare apartment key in the glove compartment in case of another emergency situation. God knows that wasn’t my ideal way to spend a Friday morning, but 27 minutes after Murphy locked me out, I was back in and sitting in a Teams meeting, pretending nothing had happened. Let’s keep this idiocy between us, shall we?



  1. Geneva Langeland

    In grad school, my roommate’s cat trapped himself in our tiny bathroom (he pawed open a drawer, thus blocking the bathroom door shut). After 30 minutes of trial and error, we ended up wedging a knife through the crack in the door and working the drawer shut with the tip of the blade. The hacks we do to rescue our pets from themselves…

  2. Kyric Koning

    “Unhinged” indeed. A nice sense of urgency in the piece.

    Old houses are surprising sturdy–only because they are failing apart and make their actual functioning less so. Reminded of when I had to break into my old house…

  3. Avatar

    You blended a sense of urgency, as Kyric put it, with a touch of humor so effortlessly in this piece. An entertaining read from beginning to end. Glad it all worked out in the end, too!

  4. Avatar

    You have my sympathy as a fellow owner of a dog with separation anxiety. Also, getting locked out of your place is an excellent way to learn it’s vulnerabilities. Thanks for sharing this very entertaining story 🙂


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