Rumpelstiltskin’s Gold

I parked my Subaru in the visitor parking lot about 7pm on Thanksgiving night. I’d left my family back at my aunt and uncle’s home, dessert finished and post-dinner talk begun.

The automatic doors slid open as I entered the waiting room. The antiseptic smell of Lysol and fear was an assault on my nose after the crisp, November air outside. In my bag, with my wallet and my keys, was a small Ziploc bag of Thanksgiving turkey.

Visiting hours were over, but they let me in anyway. The level of compassion in this veterinary hospital was extraordinary. The tech led me down a series of corridors until we reached the ICU.

Rows of crates. Larger dogs on the floor level, smaller dogs and cats on the upper levels. I let my hands brush against the crate doors, whispering to the pets who peered out. I felt some guilt that there was not enough turkey for everyone.

“Hi, Sweet Boy,” I whispered. His tail thumped weakly on the blanket that lined his crate. His once fat behind was bony, his forelegs shaved from blood draws, IVs, and test sites.

But his chocolate eyes were still bright with welcome when he lifted his snout to lick my palm.

“Can I?” I asked the tech, knowing that there was no medical reason he couldn’t have the turkey. I’d asked.

“Sure,” he said. “I’ll be outside.”

I curled my body up on the floor and edged into his crate as much as I could without disturbing him. I put the pieces of turkey in my palm and offered them right up. He ate tentatively, but it was the best eating I’d seen from him since we’d had to check him in.

When he’d finished his treat, the same treat our other dog, waiting patiently and anxiously at home, would have, I laid my head on his furry chest and just breathed.

The chicken soupy smell of a retriever’s coat and his steady breathing relaxed me, and his heartbeat evened out the longer I lay there with him. Comfort was so simple to give and so easily accepted.

His name was Rumple. His papers listed his name as Rumpelstiltskin’s Gold. He’d been diagnosed with an aggressive lymphoma some months before. They gave him less than a year to live, even less than that to live well.

When he was a young dog, he would sit on his dog house like Snoopy. When he was a puppy, he ate many shoes–and a remote control. He was a beautiful boy, honey blonde and soft-mouthed. He was enthusiastic fetcher, but his best retrieving was exhibited in his games of Solo Ball. He would toss his ball with his mouth and then chase it across the yard. For long stretches of gleeful time.

He loved us.

He went on to live another three happy years before the cancer claimed him. He fought that disease with the optimism and good cheer that only animals have. He trusted us to make him feel better, and never judged when it didn’t work.

I parked my Volkswagen in the visitor parking lot about 7pm and met my mother in the waiting room at Tufts Animal Hospital the night we said goodbye to him. I held his paw before the staff took them back. If I hadn’t left work early and driven directly there, I would have brought him turkey in a Ziploc bag.

Other people help shape who we are through their words to us, their actions, or their lack of action. Your assignment for this week is to write about a memory of yourself WITH someone else.

This is one of those interpretive filter pieces. I wonder about the veracity of the precise dates and the chronology, but this is how I remember him, his wonderful life, and the cancer that took a good dog before his time. 


27 responses to “Rumpelstiltskin’s Gold

  1. I am so sad! Rumple was wonderful and great company on those nights when I waited for my mom to pick me up in Leicester. Such a good pup.

  2. There is a purity in the love of a dog, unlike anything else.

    Chicken soupy? Brilliant. Honey blonde and soft-mouthed? Beautiful.

    How lucky he was to have you, the bringer of turkey and touch to calm his breathing, to ease his labors.

    How lucky you were to have him, too.

    There is such sweetness in the sharing of selves.
    It’s what life is all about.

    Thanks for sharing him.

  3. What the hell? Making me cry like that? Seriously though, this was absolutely lovely–a wonderful tribute!

  4. DOGS.

    I love our childhood dogs.

    Their eyes, they understood me.

    I am grateful for the gift of having a family pet, that I’d talk to, and she’d look back at me, then lick my face.

    I knew she knew, that we loved each other.

    This was so beautiful.

  5. Sobbing. In bed. At 6:37 am. Why do dogs have to die? I think they should all be allowed to live forever.

  6. Oh what a gorgeous story about Rumple, what a simple but loving tribute to your doggie. My tears are real for that puppy and your loss. Xo

  7. I, too, loved the “chicken-soupy” description. I’ll confess I’m not a dog-lover, but I was in love with Rumple because you did such a good job of letting us know him. Thank you for sharing!


  8. Damn you, Cam, I’m freaking crying at my office before 8 in the morning.

    I remember having to put Buckwheat down. He was a 13 year old Cairn terrier – put up with me & my sister, moved with my mom after my parent’s divorce. Every time I went to my mom’s house, he’d wait at the door, quietly yet eager, for a few days, in the hopes that I’d come back.

    He had a stroke during a blizzard on a Sunday. Offices everywhere were closed on Monday morning, but I ventured out (my mom lives about an hour away – the drive took about 4 hours) – the vet was open, and I had to be there.

    My mother & I held him as they put the IV in. I still remember him looking up and giving me a kiss.

  9. so I just cried,and I was there,again. Niner has come to find out why the tears and I am reminded of the infinite love we have to share. thank you for a lovely memory

  10. Thank you for sharing that moment with us. I love that you brought him fresh turkey and visited him on the holidays. Your descriptions made me want to tag along for your visit…

  11. A wonderful memory to have of a great friend. Thank you for sharing.

  12. I am so proud of myself for holding myself together while reading this, usually doggy stories turn me into a puddle. I think it was the way you mercifully focused on the hope and the joy of the earlier visit with the happier outcome. I too loved the chicken soupy line. I’m probably hallucinating, but I always think my dog smells like Doritos when he’s in need of a bath. It’s not at all unpleasant, I love Doritos.

    Yes, he loved you. And he knew you loved him. OK, now I’m tearing up a little. Damn it.

  13. I am on the chicken soupy line bandwagon as well. This was so beautifully told, interpretive filter or not. (Sidenote: I have such a terrible memory, I should put that disclaimer on all of my memoir posts. Perhaps we all should?)

    I loved this, too:
    He trusted us to make him feel better, and never judged when it didn’t work.

    I don’t have pets, but I can see the appeal when I read a line like that. People are not always so non-judgmental.

  14. Aw, he sounds like such a love. How lucky you were to have him!

  15. I love dogs and dog stories. This is such a precious memory and i can relate. Dogs comfort, love unconditionally and talk with their eyes don’t they? Truly touched.

    My English bulldog smells like bacon.

  16. It is amazing the power our animals hold over us.People who have never given their hearts over to a pet never understand how much love can be exchanged with a look, a nuzzle, a pat, a lick… Sorry for your loss, but so glad you had each other through his life. Beautifully written.

  17. This really struck a cord with me. We unfortunately had to put our yellow lab who was only 6 years old down because he had a stroke in his spin. It’s so very hard to say goodbye to a member of your family. So very, very hard! I’m sorry for your loss!

  18. As always your words paint the scene. I could smell that gift of turkey. My dog just smells like a dirty dog. Must be bath time.

    And as I read this and start feeling all sad, the 14 year old cat sneaks into my lap. She’s here to make sure all is well. As I pet her, I feel the age settling into her frame.

  19. Okay, here I am, sitting at the computer , bawling. My cat is concerned–that is how hard I’m crying! Would it be too much to have hospice for pets, so they could pass on at home, surrounded by their family?

    Great job with setting the tone. I love how you focused on all the good times!

  20. Brilliant! I love that you wrote about your dog, I so get that. The details and emotion you carried in perfect word choices was incredible. Loved reading this piece, very much! It did break my heart.

  21. Very sad story. You made me love Rumple and grieve with you.

    “Chicken soupy” is brilliant.

  22. This is beautiful. Heart wrenching but beautiful. I love “chicken soupy”.

  23. This is so sad and yet not at all, in a way. It is so beautifully written that I feel the pain of loosing a beloved pet, a friend, but I also think of the joy he must have brought to make it so hard to say good-bye. It’s a piece to read with a tissue in hand and a smile in heart.

  24. Let me state first, for the record, I am not normally a person that cries very much, but you found one of my very few week spots. Furbabies. What a beautiful memory of an obviously awesome soul. Thank you for sharing!

  25. Add me to the “crying at my desk at work” list. Rumple sounds like an amazing dog, and I’m glad you had each other’s love.

  26. the writ and the wrote

    Beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Pingback: Rumpelstiltskin’s Gold - My Blog | My Blog

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