It wasn’t my fault that my dog developed a drinking problem. Really. It was the vet’s.
First of all, it is WAY too late to call the ASPCA on me. The dog and my liver are both gone. So is the vet. And the neighborhood where this takes place is totally yuppified. There are no witnesses. Except me, and I ain’t talking. Oh, actually, yes I am.
Anyway, like all drinking problems, Goliath’s started gently, innocently.
But I guess I’d better back up.
You see, if I’d had any sense, I wouldn’t have taken that psycho puppy home. He was past the cute stage, and had clearly been abused. He didn’t like me when I went to the door of the house where he had a short-term reprieve from the dog pound. Jeff, the man who advertised the puppy in the Washington Post, had taken the dog away from his friend who was abusing the dog, but Jeff couldn’t keep him. He was going to be taken to the shelter the next day to be put down unless a home was found. For $15, I got a teenage psycho dog, a leash and half a bag of dog food.
It was the best money I ever spent.
But still, I was stupid to do it. Totally out of my mind. He had greeted me at the door when we first met with aggression. Nasty, scary barking and growling. But as soon as he was in my car he loved me. He was never cross with me again. If you’ve never had a truly devoted dog, you won’t understand this; if you have you will nod your head in agreement. No one has ever or will ever love me as much as that dog did. Did he somehow realize that he owed me his life, or did he like the brand of dog food I bought? Hard to know for sure.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t equally devoted to other folks. Or they to him. It was way closer to oil and water.
He loved my roommate, Keily, too, which was convenient since she lived there with us. My mother, when she stayed with us later that year, became a favorite. But everybody else was greeted at the door by a growing maniac of a dog who didn’t want them inside his house. I would hold him firmly and assure my (gullible) friend(s) that Goliath would calm down once they were inside. But I lied.
He didn’t calm down. Not exactly. Once he accepted that it was OK for them to be there, Goliath assumed that they had come to visit him and that the reason they had come was to play with him. So he would bring his toys to them. Each and every one he owned (including his Ronald Reagan and Mikael Gorbachev squeak toys.) He would put his head on their lap and bounce his head up and down until they played — a particular favorite of visiting men. He would put one paw on them, then the other, then the top of his torso. He wanted to play. Period. And saying no to an ever larger German Shepherd that my friends were actually terrified of was generally not something any of them were really willing to do. So they played.
I have incredibly good friends, in case you can’t tell. Personally I have no idea why they came back. The dog drove many of them crazy.
Before you say it, Goliath got plenty of exercise. I took him on long walks morning, after work and often late at night. At night I would drive him to the grounds of the US Capitol where we’d walk around the buildings, he’d swim in the fountains, he’d be off the leash and had a great time. I threw sticks, I exercised him. He would pick up huge branches and ram them into me for fun. I was bruised from head to toe. And something story-worthy always happened.
For instance, one night we were on the Capitol grounds a few days after the Labor Day concert was held. It was lucky for me that there was a line of port-a-potties, because I was having GI problems that night and needed to go. I tied Goliath to a tree branch and went inside to use the potty, something I’d never done before. Goliath went out of his mind because he couldn’t see me. He broke free and started jumping up and down on the front of my port-a-potty, rocking it back and forth. I was terrified that he was going to up-end the thing. He didn’t calm down until I came out, which was hard to do as he was jumping against the damn door. The next day at the office where I worked as a paralegal, I regaled my friends about the Washington Post headline that almost was:
Paralegal Perishes in Port-a-Potty
Anyway, as Goliath grew into his name, it became obvious that something had to be done. I took him to training which was great for sitting, staying, laying down, heeling and the like, but my $200 fee didn’t cover rules for inside playing. Nor did it cover how to keep him from killing my friends who had the temerity to knock on the door.
And then it happened. When he was about seven months, I mentioned the situation to Goliath’s vet.
“Give him a tiny bit of beer,” she said. “It’ll calm him right down, and he’ll go to sleep and leave you and your friends in peace.”
It was brilliant; it worked like a charm. And it hardly took any beer at all for him to nod off, and he was content with the cheapest variety (as was I – hey, I was young and poor). It was the most cost-effective remedy I have ever seen.
For a while.
The trouble was, he liked beer. No, he loved beer. He was GERMAN for cryin’ out loud, of course he liked beer.
So instead of wanting to play with my friends, he wanted to drink with them. (Yes, he matured quite quickly.) And just as he refused to take “no” for an answer when he wanted to play, well, he was even more insistent when he wanted to drink. Every alcoholic beverage that was opened in my house for years required a “dog tax” – Goliath got a sip. And there was no way you were going to get away without paying. He was bigger than all of us.
If you read My Silver Lining, you know that my mother spent 2-1/2 months with me helping me recuperate from surgery. Well, Mom adored Goliath, and loved nothing better than to sit with me and him and have a beer. For Christmas that year, Mom gave him a special bowl. A red plastic, heart-shaped bowl that immediately became Goliath’s beer bowl. Using his feet to flip it up, he could pick up his beer bowl in his mouth, and thrust it at anyone who had an open bottle or a can. It was impossible to say no. And it was always just a sip.
Goliath played a huge part in my life in the 1980s, and was the most incredible dog. He had a brilliant sense of humor, and did so many crazy things that I always had a Goliath story to tell to divert my mind from the fact that I was then a very sick young woman. Amazingly, Goliath could always tell when I was really sick and couldn’t walk him from when I was feeling lazy. He never let me get away with laziness, but was gracious if I was really sick.
When my now-husband John arrived on the scene, Goliath loved him immediately. After our first date, Goliath and I walked John to his car, and Goliath, so intent on watching John, walked smack into a street sign, a complete Wile E. Coyote move. Goliath was hooked. So I had to be too, didn’t I?
John and I had known each other for years and had many mutual friends. When they heard we were going to move in together they all said “What about the dog?”
“Of course he’s coming,” said John. “It’s a package deal.” Goliath and I chose wisely.
Goliath lived until 1992. Interestingly, our two subsequent dogs, Charlie and Cooper, have both had liver problems, but neither of them were drinkers. Goliath’s? His liver was just fine.
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Goliath was a wonderful dog and a great drinking buddy. This is not an actual photo of him — this dog is actually a breed called a King Shepherd (the photo is from here: http://www.kingshepherd.com/) The breed didn’t exist when Goliath was around, but it is exactly what he looked like. As it turned out he was a cross between a German Shepherd and an Alaskan Malamute. He had longer hair than most Shepherds, thicker fur, and a straight back.
This dog is Goliath’s twin, except that Goliath had one ear that flopped over, making him look completely ridiculous.