Normally, I am the best person to have around in a crisis.
I keep my head. I think the problem through. I react intelligently, organize other helpful responders and do what needs to be done. Yes, that’s just the sort of person I am in real life.
Generally, I also manage to keep a running humorous commentary which is invaluable to the hoards of folks standing around doing the wrong thing at the wrong time. Because, let’s face it. Not everyone handles stressful situations without becoming certifiably stupid.
Of course every rule needs an exception, and this story is no exception to the exception requirement.
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It was just after John and I bought a house for Goliath because nobody would rent to a young couple with a gigantic dog.
We were incredibly lucky in buying our first house. It was a tiny split level cape cod type that defied description. But it was just right for newlyweds. The whole inside had been redone – we bought it from a contractor who’d lived there. The kitchen was new, the paint unmarked. Everything was bright and clean. The coral colored carpeting was newly installed and didn’t have a single blemish on it.
It had been a long stressful day at work for me, so after John and I walked Goliath and had dinner, I decided to take a long, hot, relaxing bath. The one bathroom was on the “second floor” which was four steps up from the living room. As it turns out, it was my last relaxing bath. Ever.
So I wasn’t far when John announced from the living room below
“Uh, Lease? We have a problem.”
John was fairly calm, actually. Of course that would change.
“What’s the problem?” I said. The water was still warm and I was just starting to wash away the day.
“The red ball is stuck in Goliath’s mouth.”
Shit! I thought as I got out of the tub and grabbed my robe. Why couldn’t he just pull the damn ball out and let me have my bath? I was a tad annoyed at my new husband at that moment.
I went down the two steps to find John holding Goliath steady, calming him down, even though Goliath was relatively calm.
Goliath turned towards me and I immediately saw what John was talking about.
Goliath’s favorite tease-toy, a hard red rubber ball with a bell inside, was there in his mouth. But it didn’t look like any big deal. I looked at John with an I can’t believe you can’t handle this without me look. John didn’t notice.
Still available. Photo Credit
That ball really was Goliath’s favorite. He’d pick it up and taunt us when he wanted to play. He’d wag his tail ferociously, and drop the ball, catching it in his mouth long before we could grab it from him to throw it. It never hit the floor. Goliath would drop and catch, drop and catch, drop and catch. The bell inside would ring and he would wiggle his eyebrows and his back end. Come on, grab the ball, he was clearly saying. Let’s play. But of course, he would never let us.
This time, as I dripped on the new carpet and assessed the situation, I could see that Goliath had caught the ball too far back in his mouth. He couldn’t drop it again, and the ball’s size was just a little bit larger than his windpipe.
First I petted Goliath, soothed him, although he wasn’t really terribly upset. In fact, he was just a little bit confused and uncomfortable. I looked at John, astonished that he hadn’t just reached into Goliath’s huge mouth full of huge teeth, and pulled out the ball.
So I did. Or at least I did the first bit — I reached into Goliath’s mouth, firmly placed my thumb and forefinger on the ball, glancing at John to make sure he would know what to do next time. John and I watched in horror as the dog-slobbery ball slipped out of my fingers, lodging further into his mouth, right at the top of his windpipe, blocking most of his throat.
No longer able to breathe comfortably and no doubt pissed that his Mommy had made things worse for him, Goliath began to panic. He started running around the house with John and I chasing after him. Trying to catch him, trying to pry the damn ball out of his mouth.
I’ve never felt so helpless. So terrified. It was later when I felt like an idiot.
John and I tried everything we could think of – we put the stem of a wooden spoon behind the damn ball and tried to pull it out. But it didn’t budge. The spoon broke, naturally. We went through a lot of kitchen equipment that night.
Stupidly, in spite of the fact that it hadn’t worked, we kept reaching into his mouth and trying to pull the ball out. Each time we made it worse and the ball went down further. With each effort we only made it more difficult for him to breathe, and the more panicked poor Goliath got.
Goliath ran back and forth between the kitchen, the dining room and living room – the three tiny rooms of our tiny little house. John would catch him as he ran by and try something. I would catch him on the rebound and try something, anything else. Poor panicked Goliath raced across the three rooms, a half-dozen times. And then a half-dozen times again.
Once when he caught Goliath, John reached into Goliath’s mouth behind the ball. Goliath’s gag reflex, in constant action by that time, led him to clamp down on John’s right index finger.
“Shit!” John shouted as he pulled his hand away from Goliath and let him go. Blood dripped from John’s hand.
Almost immediately I caught Goliath and did exactly the same thing, only Goliath bit my left pointer finger. Then it was John’s turn again to be bitten, and Goliath got John’s left middle finger. Blood was flying all around our new house, our new carpet. We didn’t really care, though, Goliath’s panic had spread to John and me.
Goliath was going to die.
There was nothing we could do. My boy would choke to death on that goddam ball in front of us. And with each movement that Goliath made, the cheerful bell inside of it rang. Alfred Hitchcock was directing the scene.
Maybe the image of Alfred Hitchcock led me to do what I did next. Yeah, let’s just assume that that’s what happened. It is the only explanation.
I had to do something or my crazy, psychotic, beloved life-saver of a dog was going to die. I was about out of ideas, and then I remembered a show John and I had watched on TV just the night before.
I went into the kitchen and took out our largest knife, knowing I had to give my dog a tracheotomy.
At the time, I was not yet a fake medical professional. I had never done a canine tracheotomy. I did not, in fact have a clue if dogs have tracheas, and if so, just where Goliath’s might be located. I didn’t know if it would make a difference if I, ummm, otomied it.
But just the night before, Radar had done a tracheotomy on a wounded soldier on M*A*S*H. And if Radar O’Reilly, another animal lover, could do it, well, so could I. Goliath needed me.
Besides he was going to die. That reality had become crystal clear. I had to do something. Something drastic. And likely messy.
So I took the butcher knife from the kitchen to the living room to perform my surgery there, on the new carpet in the room that was now looked like a crime scene. My blood and John’s was speckled all over the living room and dining room rug and smeared onto the walls and door frames. I stood, knife in hand, and looked around the living room for a clean spot on the rug.
Also still available here where I got the photo
John had at that time caught Goliath who was still terrified, still panicked, but running out of energy and oxygen. When John saw me with the knife in my hand and heard my plan, he must have thought
“This woman can never get near my (future) children.”
But “Are you nuts?” was all I recall him saying. Perhaps there were expletives mixed in there, somewhere. Maybe.
At just that moment, Goliath keeled over.
“Oh my God,” I shouted. “He’s dead.” And I began to sob.
“No,” was all John said. But he started punching Goliath in the stomach, which did not seem like a very respectful thing to do to a dead dog. To my dead baby.
Out popped the ball. John, holding tightly to Goliath’s muzzle with his two bleeding hands, breathed into Goliath’s mouth. Magically, Goliath’s eyes opened. Goliath took a very deep breath indeed. So did we.
The Heimlich maneuver. It works on dogs.
There’s another thing I should tell you about the Heimlich maneuver. It’s best to try it before attempting a tracheotomy.
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