Crisis Management

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.

*    *     *

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.

Red ball with bell

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.

Henkels Butcher KnifeAlso 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.

*     *     *

Other Goliath Stories:

For Medicinal Purposes Only

Dogs and Other Nuts

What’s In A Name?


Filed under Dogs, Family, Goliath Stories, Health and Medicine, Hey Doc?, History, Huh?, Humor, Science, Stupidity, Wild Beasts

101 responses to “Crisis Management

  1. Oh. My. God. This gave me a panic attack just reading it. I have chased a bleeding dog around with flour and duct tape in an attempt to slow blood loss until we could get to a vet so I understand the way a peaceful living room can be transformed into something out of a CSI episode very quickly.


    • It was horrible. Just horrible. All the traumas we go through with our special friends are, though. This was the worst one I have ever had — including all the emergencies with humans that I’ve handled rather well.

      BTW, A wet tea bag also helps stem bleeding (black tea). It stains but it’s easier to hold in place.


  2. JSD

    I can’t even imagine the panic you must have been feeling. Thank God he got through it okay…you, too.


    • Thanks JSD! It was horrible. But he recovered faster than John or I did. Between the trauma, the bitten fingers and the cleanup, we got the worst of it. And I still, almost 30 years later can’t take baths!


  3. Intense story. I kept waiting for you guys to try the Heimlich! Easy to say, though, while just reading.


    • This happened in the early days of the Heimlich — just a few years after publicity about it started, so it was all that well known, especially for dogs!


  4. That story had me terrified, even though I knew that Goliath would be okay at the end. And I wouldn’t have thought of the Heimlich maneuver either.

    I’m not sure whether I remember that particular tracheotomy from MASH, or whether there were just a lot of emergency tracheotomies on TV at around that time. But I remember enough to know that a kitchen knife isn’t enough. You also need a ball-point pen.


    • At that time, the Heimlich was just starting to be known — I might have thought of doing it for a person, but not for a dog.

      But I didn’t remember the pen part, so it’s just as well that I didn’t have to do it. I might have done it all wrong!


  5. Yikes. I haven’t googled it and I don’t intend to, but I bet there’s a video on Youtube on how to perform a tracheotomy on a dog. Thankfully, the Internet wasn’t around back then 🙂


    • You are probably right there will be video. I’m not going to look, either. The one on MASH was bad enough!


    • I actually DID Google it, and you’re right. There are YouTube videos — ewwwww. Glad they didn’t exist way back then! (Of course, that was before PCs so I wouldn’t have been able to Google it if Google existed.)


  6. Wow! That was scary. I was holding my breath through the whole thing (in sympathy for Goliath of course).


  7. I don’t think the Dalai Lama could keep his cool in a situation like that, Elyse. I’m glad it worked out alright. But I bet His throat and your fingers were sore for a while!


  8. You certainly got my pulse racing this morning. Sending to my wife with instructions to dispose of the hard rubber dog toys.


  9. It was really scary. But thank god the story ended with you and Sir John saving Goliath. I do not think I am ever going to give my dog a ball to play with again after reading this one.


    • It was Sir John all the way, Arindam. I would not have improved the situation (except perhaps to put Goliath out of his misery).

      And do avoid balls. They make some that have holes in them for just this reason, but never use the hard ones. Especially ones with bells because that bell ringing throughout our panic STILL gives me nightmares!


  10. Oy! You have sufficiently raised my blood pressure to a dangerous level. You know I’m not a dog person and this story seals that deal. I am currently traumatized, Elyse, my dear! It is gold fish as pets for me. 🙂


    • Sorry about the BP, Eleanor. Perhaps I can grab that ole knife and see if I can relieve it a wee bit. I still have the knife …

      Somehow, I don’t think that my Goliath stories would lead any non-dog person to suddenly decided to get one! While you don’t have to love dogs to find the funny in the stories, you do have to love them to be willing to get one!

      Happy New Year, Eleanor!


  11. I just had a few heart attacks reading this one. I’ve no doubt you would have done anything to save him.

    Not to make light of the horror you witnessed, but have you seen The Heat with Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy? There is a scene where she almost does just what you did at a Denny’s. It is probably one of the funniest things I’ve seen in awhile (the entire movie killed me)

    Happy new year to you, Elyse!


  12. I’m sweating and my heart is racing at the thought of this entire scene. Let me just say I was glad when you got the knife and never for a second doubted your ability to perform surgery…I’m not sure what that says about me, but it confirms my feeling that you are badass or McGyver.


    • Tops, I appreciate the vote of confidence, and I really am normally good in a crisis. Now, anyway.

      But don’t let me operate — even if guided by Hawkeye. I always mistake my right and my left.


  13. I was scared to death for you and Goliath, even though I knew he had a long life for some reason I was jumping up and down saying nooooooooo, don’t do it.

    Poor puppy. Thankfully they forgive easily and he likely didn’t understand the meaning of that large knife in your hands.

    However did you get all the blood out?


    • Strategically located scatter rugs and an agreement to replace the carpet when we sold the house! Blood does not come out no matter what they say!


  14. OMG I got goosebumps. I can’t believe you were going to do a trach on your dog. Our dog Sally started choking on a spare rib yesterday and I wondered what I would do – thanks for the info.


    • It was an insane idea, the tracheotomy. Seriously stupid.

      But glad to pass on the technique. Although the problem with bones is that they splinter! You might need a kitchen knife for that!


  15. Oh no, how terrifying. So glad all could breathe… a sigh of relief or otherwise.


  16. As I read this, I kept thinking, “I wonder if she tried to Heimlich him.” So glad that happened BEFORE the tracheotomy. But what a brave woman you are. Willing to do what it takes to save your pooch. Any ER would be lucky to have you. Or would they?… 😉


  17. Snoring Dog Studio

    I forced myself to read to the happy ending. Wow. What a frightening experience.


  18. Scary for sure. i can image the intense emotion. Now that you are a fake medical professional, that knife will be able to perform a trach on John if ever necessary.


  19. I just love the fact that you were ready to perform an operation. I’m also loving the fact you didn’t!

    Happy New Year Elyse!


  20. I’m glad that Goliath was saved. i would have done the tracheotomy – on the BALL.


  21. Oh, my God. And I was one of those completely neurotic dog mommies who wouldn’t let my pups have a ball (except for a football) and who lived in fear of the squeaky toys (I read that dogs can ingest them)……. I would never have thought of the Heimlich! I would still be running around in circles screaming if it was one of my “babies”.


    • Phew is right! No balls is a good policy — I’ve never let another one have anything that can get stuck again. Nope, I never will. I haven’t worried too much about the squeakers, though, because it usually takes a while for them to get to them and by the time they do, I cut them out.

      As I’ve said in other responses, this happened in 86 or 87 — the Heimlich was not as well known as it is now, and nobody — not even the vet — thought of it at the time. Thank God John did, though.

      Happy New Year, Moms!


  22. And now you know what our living room looked like when Sam keeled over – less the blood, since he dropped suddenly. I’ve only done CPR on a dummy before, but I literally busted a gut trying to get that big Mastiff to start breathing again. Unfortunately, our story did not have the happy ending.
    But thanks for sharing this. It further convinces me that Sam is due his turn on my blog. Something happy – like him using the upstairs gas heater to tune his bark, so the whole house would vibrate. And I’m very glad Goliath, you, and John all survived, un-otomised. 🙂


    • Oh John, I’m sorry to stir up painful memories. I didn’t know (remember?) the particulars of Sam’s passing. This year was not a good year for our canine friends — I lost Cooper this summer and several friends and relatives lost their pets as well.

      Do write about Sam — I want to hear about the vocal tuning! And I wrote most this piece with Cooper at my side for the last time: ( It helped me more than I can possibly say.


  23. Oh my Gosh you just gave me the most unbelievable anxiety. What an absolutely terrifying story. I’ve never even thought about something like this happening to my dog… Now I’ll know. I’ve heard of people doing CPR on dogs but not the heimlich. Wow.. Ugh, so scary.

    My dog somehow managed to knock over a table and get the tendon of her leg totally wrapped up in the wrought iron thing at the end. We tried every way to get her free and eventually I called my boss at the time (who bred dogs– not sure why I thought this would make her an expert on the situation) and she and her husband drove half an hour to my place at 11PM to try and saw the table leg off. It was horrible. My dog was so scared she shit herself. Might have to blog about it. AGH.

    So glad you’re all still alive!


    • Sorry for the New Year’s anxiety attack. (I have no idea why I posted it today — folks waking up with a hangover and thinking SHIT!). I’d never heard of CPR on a dog either — although truthfully, I’ve read too much about CPR to really want anybody doing it to me, either.

      Your story sounds equally terrifying. Dogs do so many stupid things — and it sounds like calling your boss was the perfect thing to do — she helped, didn’t she? I’ll look forward to the non-abbridged edition of it on your blog. (My readers love dog stories …)

      Sadly, while Goliath survived this experience and many other nutty ones, he died in 1992. He saw me through the most difficult years of my life, through dating, marriage until shortly after we adopted our son Jacob. And then he got leukemia and slipped away. He is still in my heart, though. Always.


      • Aw, I’m sorry to hear that about Goliath 😦 I was making senseless assumptions. It’s amazing how a dog can carry us through some of life’s worst moments though. At least you have some good–if not terrifying– memories with him 🙂


  24. I am also one of those people who handles crises well, but I would have been freaking out over my dog with a ball lodged in his throat too! But I might have tried the Heimlich maneuver before running for a knife since I have training in the maneuver & not in tracheotomies. Happy New Year Elyse!


    • My exploration of Wikipedia actually made me feel better about not thinking about this myself, and about John not thinking of it until it was nearly too late — because the maneuver really wasn’t that common before the 80s — this happened in ’87, I think. And the idea of doing it on a dog was never mentioned. I’ve said in comments that the vet was surprised. We have since told anybody we know with a dog that it works. And never, ever to give their dog a hard rubber ball. (I can’t believe they are still sold!)

      And Happy New Year to you, too, Benze!


  25. cooper

    and we voluntarily bring pets and kids into our homes to test our crisis preparedness. we really aren’t that bright on a larger scale you know???


  26. What a horrible experience for everyone, but I’m glad it (the ball and the story) came out okay in the end. Well done!


    • I will pass that “well done” along to John, the hero of the story. Had I gone through with MY plan, well, I doubt I’d be writing about it!


  27. Deborah the Closet Monster

    This sounds terrifying, but I love your parting conclusion! 😀

    Li’l D had a difficult time eating peaches one afternoon when he was maybe 8-9 months old. I found it strange but not scary, until I noticed he was starting to wheeze. I went through all kinds of disaster scenarios in the few seconds before I walloped his back and scooped something out: a little piece of plastic our dog had chewed off some knick-knack or other. I feel a little silly when I think of all the terrifying situations I was already racing through facing, but glad that instincts responded better than did my brain. May I always be so lucky? Um . . .


    • I hope you WILL always be so lucky.

      Somehow, Goliath did survive many of the stupid things I did (or didn’t do) for him. But he certainly made life, ummmmm, interesting!


  28. I was thinking Heimlich all through your story. I could visualize the whole scene.


    • If only WE had thought of it! But I actually just looked it up online, and the Heimlich maneuver was really only just starting to be used in the late 1970s and 80s and then on people. I knew about it, but hadn’t for long, and never in terms of dogs. When we told the story to our vet, she hadn’t known it would work on dogs. So really, I’ve always felt lucky that John was smarter than I am!


  29. That’s scary. But the thought you running around during this crisis naked is all kinds of funny.


    • Now TwinDaddy. I might have been incredibly stupid in this situation, but I did have sense enough to grab my robe as I went down to “fix” the situation right when it started. Not that I remained decently covered the entire time, I will say. And of course, had any neighbors dropped by, they would have found me in a blood smeared house and robe, with a large knife in my hand. It would have been really easy to explain what happened to the police …


  30. You were a psycho (in a Hitchcock sort of way). Crazy woman wielding a large knife, eyes bulging, blood dripping. What a great story, and so glad that you guys finally managed to get the damn ball out (without any surgical intervention). You really could write a book filled with nothing but Goliath stories, and people would be wetting their Depends. Happy 2014!


    • Yeah, that just about summarizes the picture. And the ringing bell would have to replace those zip-zip-zip sounds from Psycho’s shower scene.

      I was actually working on a book of Goliath stories — esentially the rescue dog who rescued me. But when our dog Cooper died (and while he was dying) I couldn’t quite bring myself to write about Goliath. I’m going to get back to work on it though.

      Happy 2014 to you, too!


  31. I’ve been reading this at stop lights for almost an hour now and my heartbeat has been racing the entire time. I’m so unbelievably relieved that Goliath was alright!

    Very well written…you’ve taken years off of my life with this stressful story and I’m thrilled about it! Hope you continue writing this wonderfully all year!


    • Thanks, Brantley. Glad it was at stop lights, though. My Goliath stories are very close to my heart. He was quite a source for stories!

      Happy New Year!


  32. In the immortal words of Lucy Van Pelt: Dog lips!!! I’ve got dog lips!!!

    So did you immediately replace the ball with something bigger?


  33. bigsheepcommunications

    Thank goodness – I’ve been yelling “HEIMLICH” since the very beginning of this post!!


  34. I’m just happy you never had to try your tracheotomy skills on Goliath. I’m not sure what kind of stupid thing I would try, if I ever ended up in the same situation.


    • I’m glad too. I have since learned — as a direct result of this nightmare — how to NOT PANIC. I am now the one you do want around. So it was a true learning experience. I am glad, too, though that I didn’t learn surgical techniques that night.

      You w.ill do fine in am emergency. Just make a list of 10 things to do!


  35. I hope you aren’t in a restaurant when I get something stuck in my throat. A tracheotomy? You could hit the jugular vein. At least I know I could. Or behead the poor thing. Sometimes it’s amazing that pets survive their crazy owners (mine included).


  36. Good grief! I’m usually good in a crisis as well, but I do tend to panic a bit in animal-related scenarios. Perhaps because they’re a different species and do not speak human. And they can’t make the universal sign for choking with their paw.
    Hope this new year finds you well and that you have a happy one ahead!


    • Is it the fact that it was dog related the reason I was a moron? All this time I was blaming it on the movie “Psycho” which was fitting for me in this situation, and Goliath in every other one!


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