2018-02-28 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

A leash became part of a rite of passage. On Saturday I picked up Goliath, a Golden Retriever/Leonberger, from Town of Oyster Bay Shelter and brought him to Last Hope. I used the leash that once belonged to my Afghan Hound Alan because I adopted Alan from Oyster Bay Shelter exactly 25 years ago that day.

It was only fitting to use Alan’s heavy, woven nylon leash. Both dogs were large and strong. Both were at Oyster Bay two weeks. These two dogs, separated by a quarter of a century, were each unique, but in different ways.

*ALAN: In the 1990s LI News 12 broadcast “The Family Pet” hosted by Dr. Greenfield of Syosset Animal Hospital. Each Saturday he’d show photos of several pets at LI town shelters. Alan’s photo was featured on his show in February 1993. I didn’t see the picture on TV, but my phone started ringing when friends did.

Alan (who left Oyster Bay Shelter in 1993) visits a first-grade classroom. Alan (who left Oyster Bay Shelter in 1993) visits a first-grade classroom. At the time my Afghan Juliet was 12 and in remission from thyroid cancer. We also had a lovely, long-haired tuxedo kitten named Phoebe. Alan would have to get along with another Afghan and a cat to fit into our family.

I called Oyster Bay several times to make sure they’d hold Alan until I could get there on the weekend to meet him. I taught in Shirley and couldn’t make it there before the shelter closed during the week. Back then most LI shelters put dogs down to make space, and his purebred status would not be enough to spare him.

Alan was a large, black Afghan, picked up as a stray near Exit 29 on Southern Parkway. No one claimed him. This seemed odd, because around that time another male Afghan imported from either Russia or Poland was rescued with a broken leg nearby in N. Massapequa after being hit by a car. His foreign-sounding owner didn’t want him back because he had intended to show him. Later on we learned of a third Afghan (Alan’s brother) who had been imported and discarded by this mystery man.

Goliath just left Oyster Bay for Last Hope wearing Alan's leash. Goliath just left Oyster Bay for Last Hope wearing Alan's leash. I couldn’t bring Alan home without my husband’s OK, plus I had to know if he’d be good with dogs and cats. There was also worry he’d come down with kennel cough. I didn’t want to expose Juliet to anything contagious. A friend who lived out east had a female Afghan and female Borzoi. She offered to hold Alan in isolation in her large laundry room until we knew he wasn’t going to get sick.

The next Saturday a friend and I went to Oyster Bay to meet this Afghan. The shelter staff wouldn’t take him out of the cage. He seemed friendly and then stood up on his hind legs to show his full height of over five feet. “I’ll take him”- and for $12.50 including a license, this dog was mine. We took off his dirty bandanna with the name “Cochise”. I loved the name but he was going to start over with a fresh identity.

I brought him home (while my husband was at work) to meet Juliet and Phoebe. Juliet ignored him which meant he’d be fine. She greeted Alfie, her late Afghan brother from Babylon Shelter the same way. Alan stretched out in the kitchen, while Phoebe played with his big, hairy paws. They’d be fine too.

We drove this well-behaved fellow to his foster home. Then I spent the next week convincing my husband we needed this dog as much as he needed us. I recall “doctoring” his fortune cookie with the message, “A tall dark stranger will soon enter your life.”

Alan slowly got over his fear of men. He and Juliet became friends and shared the couch until her cancer returned with a vengeance seven months later. The following year we adopted Trevor, an Afghan pup, from Grandeur in Mill Neck. His bite wasn’t perfect. His dad was the #1 Afghan, soon replaced by his half-sister Tryst who is still an Afghan legend. Trevor had been conditioned for the show ring so his manners were impeccable. My boys loved each other 10 years. They’d sleep together so you wouldn’t know where one black dog began and the other ended.

Both boys did therapy dog visits via Bideawee. They’d wear costumes to nursing homes and schools. Around Christmas they’d spend a day in my classroom in their Santa suits. In a BOCES school, Alan would lie on the floor next to severely disabled kids so we could put their fingers through his long hair. Alan was also a big hit in nursing homes because of his size, and because many residents had brothers, husbands or sons with his name.

His biggest coup was winning second place in a dog dress-up contest at South Shore Mall. Trevor was Don Ho; Edgar was a hula dancer. My friend designed his Hawaiian skirt from long, green football streamers. When he stood up on his hind legs, the green streamers would swoosh. Trevor was eliminated. Alan had the nerve to borrow his brother’s gold sequin outfit for the swimsuit competition. Trevor found out when Alan appeared wearing it that night on News 12.

*GOLIATH: On Valentine’s Day, Goliath was surrendered to Oyster Bay Shelter because his owners were moving to a rental. He’s listed as a Leonberger/ Golden Retriever but it’s unclear whether he really is that breed blend or just resembles a Golden painted like a Leonberger.

The Leonberger is a large, all-purpose working and family dog, the size of a St. Bernard, refined in Germany during the Victorian Age. Goliath is Golden size and less than half the weight of a male Leonberger (110-170 lbs.). Goliath is a misnomer for this gorgeous guy.

He is three years old but acts like a puppy. Goliath was adopted from the shelter by an older couple and returned after the weekend because he was too much dog for them. He is high energy and enthusiastic, but he does know hand signals - SIT, DOWN, STAY. He gives both paws on request, and is quite food-motivated. Chicken nuggets rule.

Goliath likes kids but will jump up. He is patient while being groomed. He loves the teen volunteers at Last Hope in Wantagh. Goliath needs a dog-savvy home without cats. He’d also benefit from socialization with other dogs. In the right hands, Goliath has the potential to be a magnificent dog. Last Hope is looking for “those right hands” for Goliath. Call 631-671-2588 for more info.

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