Two Trips to the Tidal Basin

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

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 Malamut looks very much like Tess

This Malamute looks very much like Tess

Photo Credit

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.


Filed under Dogs, Family, Goliath Stories, History, Huh?, Humor, Pets, Stupidity, Wild Beasts

42 responses to “Two Trips to the Tidal Basin

  1. Eva

    That crazy goose, Goliath. Poor Tess. That was lovely of her to forgive her boyfriend. 🙂


  2. I think your Goliath & my Bandit would have had so much fun together! Maybe they’re playing even now . . .


  3. Good grief … the Goose dang near created a disastrous end to an already disastrous beginning. It must have felt awful to leave Tess in the water in order to catch Goliath and get him tethered, so you could go back to her and (hopefully) help her up. Thankful that it all worked out, but I’ll bet that was pretty much a heart-stopping trip to the Tidal Basin, and I’m not talking the pitter-patter of my-heart-is-falling-in-love kind of heart pounding, but more along the lines of I-hope-nobody-dies kind of heart palpitations. Whew! Great story, but I’m sure that living it was fairly terrifying. Goliath. Puppy Love, or Canine Killer? 🙂


    • Actually it wasn’t so terrifying at the time. Freezing. Annoying. Infuriating. Somehow it never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to rescue Tess or that I would somehow manage to not kill my own dog or him me! It was much later that I thought “HOLY SHIT! HE NEARLY KILLED US ALL!”


    • Hope you had/are having a nice visit.


  4. Whoa! I’m so glad this story had a happy ending. When I think how close you came to having 2 lovely ladies (one much hairier than the other) in the water….so scary.


  5. I love your Goliath stories, but was terrified for you in this one. What a dog! What a dog owner, I would have wanted to beat him with rolled up newspapers for days after that experience. Thankfully he had you and Tess to forgive him.


  6. This is such a scary story and I can imagine my (special) dog doing something very similar. I’m so glad you were able to pull her out of the water like that… Agh.
    I was just telling someone today about how my dog seriously thinks she can walk on water… Like the Messiah. She’s always incredibly surprised when she goes plunging into the water depths and must swim her way back out. Special, I tell ya.
    What a scary story.


    • At the time it was happening, it didn’t seem scary at all. At first, even, it seemed mildly funny, until it became clear that he was going to push me in too, and prevent me from getting Tess. And then I was pissed! Anger gives you strength!

      But he was a furry adventure, more often than not. And when things were going badly, particularly in those days with my health, Goliath was the perfect, albeit psychotic, distraction!


  7. Your adventures with Goliath never sound dull. Our dogs are really like our babies in so many ways.


    • Goliath was quite a handful. I still don’t know quite how I survived him (or him me!)

      I so miss having a dog since Cooper died in August. John wants to wait a bit longer and it is killing me! As a dog person, I’m sure you understand!


  8. Poor Tess! Poor You! Thank goodness you have your wits about you and don’t panic in these, what for you I guess is common, things happen. I’m glad you all made it out safely. That Goliath, you’ve got to love him.


  9. Yikes, what a story!!! You make me feel better about my own big dope of a dog, and all the mistakes we’ve made with him! Glad it all turned out well in the end!


    • Glad I am not the only dopey dog lover. There are so many things that I did wrong with Goliath. I was completely stupid. I shudder to figure out just how I did similar “What was I thinking things with my son!


  10. So scary! I bet you were shaking from the terror and the cold. This story reminds me of how I used to take my dog walking in a frozen field when I was young. She’d take off like a shot, dragging me behind her like I was waterskiing on the ice.


  11. To be fair, it also sounds like Goliath did a bunch of stupid things with you, too.

    Glad the story had a happy ending!


  12. A Goliath story with a moral of the story … wonderful. Yes, you I was chuckling, but thinking about what the point would be. … well done.


  13. Wow! Scary! It’s funny how dogs remember things like that ice.


  14. Oh jeez, that’s horrifying. How lucky it didn’t end more tragically. Gives me chills just reading about it.


    • It was one of those times when I realized I was not capable of murder, no matter how much I wanted to kill him, I somehow managed not to. But it was close.


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