We had had such a lovely evening, Goliath, John and I in January 1985. And so two weeks later, Goliath and I went back without John. What could possibly go wrong? Of course you’re thinking that with Goliath, something was bound to. You would think I’d have learned. And you’d be right on both counts.
The Jefferson Memorial is a lovely place – always. There is something peaceful in the round, unadorned dome, of Mr. Jefferson standing majestically in the center of the white marble atrium. In the quotes from the Declaration of Independence and my favorite:
“…I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
Photo: The Washington Post
Goliath, of course, wasn’t allowed in. But he was pretty used to me tying him to a tree to go inside to use the bathroom. So John and I left Goliath briefly and went inside for a quick visit to Mr. Jefferson.
It was a beautiful winter evening – late January, 1985. And John and I were falling in love.
It had been cold as could be in Washington for weeks. So cold, in fact, that the outdoor ceremonies for Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural had to be mostly cancelled or moved indoors. Washington was in a deep freeze.
Still, Goliath had to go out.
Besides, a quarter moon shone, lighting up the gray bark of the famous cherry trees that ring the Tidal Basin. The Tidal Basin had frozen over and the moon shimmered on that too. It was the perfect night for a romantic night-time stroll with my two guys.
Goliath fell in love with John at first sight, just a few days earlier. And that night at the Jefferson Memorial cemented the affection. John fell in love with my crazy dog too. Not that he had any choice; Goliath and I were a package deal.
What happens when you combine a frozen pond, sticks, a crazy dog and two lovesick people? A night to remember.
The Tidal Basin was completely frozen. At first Goliath was reluctant to step down off the concrete onto the ice of the Tidal Basin. It was about a foot down, and Goliath, the Goose, was cautious. Once John stepped down onto the ice, though, Goliath was game. The three of us slid and slipped as we threw sticks, watched Goliath imitate Bambi on the ice, and rough-housed a bit. John and I managed a smooch or two along the way.
Yup. A memorable night.
So nice, in fact, that about two weeks later, Goliath and I went back, unfortunately without John. Tess was with us, though. Goliath’s girlfriend. After all, it is a very romantic place. Somebody needed a date.
This Malamute looks very much like Tess
Tess was an Alaskan Malamute, and she and Goliath were in love. She belonged to our neighbor and friend, Linda and her two daughters, 8 and 5. Tess was a beautiful, gentle, huge furball of a dog with a thick white and gray and black coat. Linda and I had long been walking the two dogs together. Tess had a calming influence on Goliath, and he behaved better when Tess was around. Well, usually.
In fact, Goliath was so well behaved when he was out with Tess that it was generally easier to walk the two dogs together. Sometimes Linda would join me and we’d go to the Capitol. Other times I took the two of them on late night walks; Linda and her two daughters often did the after-work walk. It was a terrific partnership. Goliath always behaved for Linda and Corbin and Ashley. And he behaved better for me when we brought Tess along. Goliath would rarely come when I called him, but when Tess was with us, I could always get him to come. Because Goliath was a show-off.
Since capturing Goliath was such a challenge, I’d leave Goliath’s leash attached to his collar when we walked. I’d drop it when it was time to let him run by himself or with other dogs, and he’d drag it around after him as he ran and played. Linda and I left Tess’ leash on too.
When it was time to leave, I would say to Goliath:
“Go get Tess,” and he would run, pick up the end of her leash and bring it back to me. I’d grab his leash too, and we were ready to go home, without the usual 30 minutes of me chasing my dog like a dork.
Anyway, about two weeks after that memorable night with John, Goliath, Tess and I went to the Jefferson Memorial to walk around the Tidal Basin. The moon was full, and it was a beautiful night. It had, thankfully, warmed up. The deep freeze of late January had ended, and bundled up, I was quite comfortable as we started around the cement path next to the water.
And that of course, was the problem. The Tidal Basin had thawed. There was still a layer of ice on top, but it wasn’t nearly thick enough to support any weight. There were puddles everywhere, and the ice had pulled back from the concrete edge leaving a rim of water. Seriously cold water.
Enjoying the beautiful evening, I let my two charges go, and I watched the two doggy lovers play. Of course, I thought of John and the lovely, fun walk we’d had here so recently.
Goliath remembered it too. I’m sure of that. Because he wanted to play on the ice again. And so he used his head and the force of his body to push Tess off the sidewalk and into the water of the no-longer-frozen-solid Tidal Basin.
“Goliath, NO!” I shouted.
Tess, suddenly finding herself in icy water over her head, panicked.
I leaned over the edge to get her. While frozen, the surface of the Tidal Basin had been about a foot below the edge, because ice has more volume than water. The surface was now two to two-and-a-half feet below the edge.
I ran to Tess, reached way down to her, and tried to calm her while I grabbed her collar and her front leg and started hauling her out of the water.
“Good Girl, Tess. I’ll get you out of there,” I said with a calm resolve I didn’t feel.
But Goliath wanted to play. On the ice. With Tess. And with me. Just like that other night. He rammed his head into me in an attempt to push me onto what he no doubt thought was ice.
“Goliath NO! BAD DOG! NO!”
His eyes sparkled as he pushed me again.
(“Come on, Mom, remember how much fun we had?”)
He didn’t understand that there was no ice. And that he was going to end up playfully drowning his two best girls.
Just when I nearly had poor, soaking wet, panicky Tess pulled out, Goliath pushed us both again, after getting a running start. Tess slipped from my hands, and she fell back in again. I managed to stay out of the water, somehow. But I thought of stories where a drowning person surfaces three times before drowning. I wondered how many times a dog could go under. How would I be able to explain to Linda that Goliath had killed her dog?
There was no way around it. If I was going to save Tess, I had to do something about my own crazy dog first.
I reluctantly left terrified Tess, and chased after Goliath. When I caught him I tied him firmly to a tree and went back for Tess.
Tess was tiring, giving up. She had no energy left when I got back to her. Thankfully, she had stayed close to the edge. Without Goliath’s, ummm, assistance, I was able to reach down, grab Tess’ collar and then her legs. I hauled her out of the water. We both fell backwards; Tess landed on me in a heap. We sat there on the sidewalk at the edge of the Tidal Basin and rested. I comforted her while the water from her thick coat soaked through the few dry spots on my coat, my pants, my shoes and deep into my skin and down into my bones.
“Good girl, Tess,” I said, “good girl.” When we had caught our breath, I grabbed her leash and led her back over to our abuser. I have rarely been so cold.
Goliath was still ready to play. After all, we hadn’t been there for more than half an hour. He was delighted to be untied from the tree, but I held fast to his leash. And I led him away from the water — the long way back to the car. I took no more chances.
“Too bad, you maniac,” I told him as he tried to pull away to go off and play. I pulled him towards the car to leave. “It’s your own fault we had to cut the walk short.”
We drove back home, and dry Goliath and wet me returned a soaking wet Tess home to Linda.
“What happened?!?” she asked, not surprisingly.
“My dog is nuts,” I replied.
Tess managed to forgive Goliath pretty quickly, even before we got back to the car. Me, I waited to determine if I was going to die of pneumonia before forgiving the Goose completely. But of course I did as soon as I was warm and dry.
We scratched the Jefferson Memorial off our list of places to walk.
Dog owner alert: Don’t be stupid like I was — Don’t leave your dog’s leash on him. It is a stupid, dangerous thing to do with a dog. A dog can get it caught in something and break his/her neck, hang himself, or injure himself in a zillion different ways. Don’t do this to your furry friend. In fact, do not take any dog tips from me. I did an incredible number of stupid things with Goliath.