My little chihuahua Goliath (the brown one on the left) died last week. While he was only about six pounds, the impact he’s left on my life much larger. I lost my father to cancer in September 14, 2003, as the leaves were just boasting their autumn colors, setting the Arkansas countryside afire with color.
Those first days — I have little recollection. The fog of grief is powerful, and it’s able to obscure many details. One thing I do remember is waking to find a tiny puppy on my chest. My husband knew I was lost–and wanted me to be found again. What better way to come back to the land of the living than to have a puppy to take care of?
Little did I know how much he was taking care of me.
Here are 5 things my chihuahua Goliath taught me.
1. Size bears no importance to authority. Even though he was the smallest of our three dogs, he was definitely the Alpha. The other dogs listened to him and obeyed his commands to check the yard for intruders, to get OFF his pillow, to let him go first at the food bowl. I remember this as I rapidly become the shortest in my house!
2. Sometimes just being there is enough. There are so many times I was upset or sick and Goliath would join us, sitting on our laps or nearby. It’s not as if he could sing me a love song, send flowers, or convey words of wisdom to help me with my problem. But he didn’t have to–his warm puppy presence cheered my heart and slowed down my manic mind.
3. Resting is important. I’m a type A personality and find it hard to just relax. Even if I’m in front of the television, I’m often writing, grading, planning, researching, returning emails–long into the night. Goliath was the King of Comfort. He would always find the fluffiest pillow, the coziest blanket to lie on. He had to keep up his strength as Alpha in case the family needed his help barking. He learned to do this in power naps–VERY powerful naps sometimes lasting 22 hours out of the day. He was like a bully baby.
4. Protecting the family is a duty. Goliath took this job seriously. Well, he took the job of telling the other dogs to take it seriously seriously. This is how it works. Rocky will perch on the top of the recliner, peering out the window into the dangerous neighborhood, scanning for gang activity or potential killers (or postmen). If a threat hovers, Rocky will sound the alarm, waking Goliath, who will join in the warning call. Lucy, the German Shepherd and self-proclaimed Family Police Force will burst out the doggie door with enough power to shake the house, teeth bared. Usually it’s just a squirrel (we call him Henry and he loves to mess with Lucy–but one day…). Goliath was more of the Police Dispatcher.
5. Dogs (and pets) are irrevocably part of the family. They accept us in any manner we present ourselves: grouchy, unshowered, whatever. That day when he just rested his head on my hand for the last time–I knew that would be forever seared in my memory as a day I lost a dear friend.
Rest in peace, sweet friend. In my heaven, I’ll see you there–and I’ll bring the softest pillow in the world, and a puppy cone.