The NWT team at the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games may be small, but it boasts something most others don’t have: a fully accredited dog.
Golioth, a three-year-old Bernedoodle – a cross between a Bernese mountain dog and a poodle – is a mobility support animal for Jane Mooney, the territory’s swim coach at the Games.
Mooney lives with spinocerebellar ataxia, a progressive genetic disease. One symptom of the disease is an impact on coordination.
“My brain doesn’t recognize my feet,” is how Mooney explains it. “My brain thinks my body ends at my knees, so walking and balancing is becoming more and more difficult.”
Golioth’s job is to help Mooney keep her balance.
“He helps me getting up and down stairs and walking on certain surfaces,” the coach said as week one of the Games, including the swimming events, wrapped up in Niagara. “If I fall, he helps me get up, and he will stand over me and protect me from being trampled.”
Golioth is the undoubted star of the NWT team. Capitalizing on the usual craze for pin trading at major sports events like the Canada Games, Mooney has accepted payment in other provincial and territorial pins in return for photos with her service dog.
The dog’s accreditation – he’s listed as a Team NT “participant assistant” and has access-all-areas privileges – duly bears dozens of pins on its accompanying lanyard.
“We decided, because it’s the first time a service dog has been accredited, that we would educate all the kids here, and the staff, about service dogs,” Mooney told Cabin Radio.
“You don’t see that many service dogs in Canada. You might see guide dogs, but other support dogs you rarely see.
“He has a bed of his own in the dorm. There’s dog food waiting for him in the canteen. The kids all love him. Kids and coaches from all the provinces will say, ‘Good morning, Golioth. How are you, Golioth?’ Most of them don’t know my name.”
Speaking of names, Golioth – not the usual spelling, Goliath – was chosen for a specific reason. Mooney says he is the family’s 10th dog, and each dog to date has incorporated the relevant number somewhere in the name. Hence the A became an O, or zero, and the number 10 can be found in Golioth’s name.
As with many of the athletes, this is Golioth’s Canada Games debut. Mooney says he has acquitted himself admirably on the pool deck, only complaining occasionally about the sound of fans’ cowbells, and has largely coped with the heat and humidity of southern Ontario despite his relatively lengthy coat.
The lone incident of note came early one morning when Golioth, visiting what Mooney calls “his favourite bush” outside the dormitory, inadvertently dampened a skunk. The skunk fired back, and Golioth and Mooney found themselves in enforced isolation because nobody could stand the smell. He ended up receiving an “emergency bath” at a nearby PetSmart.
Mooney, unlike Golioth, is a Canada Games veteran. This is her fourth time coaching at the event, and she praised her six young athletes for their performances despite two years of Covid-19 hampering their preparations. In particular, she highlighted Jacob Mitchener breaking 30 seconds in the 50m butterfly and swimming under one minute in the 100m freestyle. Kara Nelson shaved a whopping 43 seconds off her personal best over 800m.
Mooney plans to be back for at least one more summer games. Her mission has been to get to all the provinces and territories through coaching, and the 2025 Canada Summer Games – to be hosted in Newfoundland and Labrador – will check an important one off the list.
“And Golioth will still be with us,” she added. “It’ll be round number two.”