June 15, 2010

More Pumpkin memories


Pumpkin came to us in 2003.

He had been abandoned at a "kill" shelter and was rescued originally by a woman specializing in cocker spaniel rescue. (A "kill" shelter is one where, if no one claims the abandoned animal after a certain number of days, it is euthanized.) This wonderful woman took him home, had him checked out by a vet who estimated his age at seven and neutered him. She named the dog Pumpkin, groomed and socialized him and then advertised on Petfinder.com for a "forever" home. We passed her inspection and Pumpkin arrived during Passover, dressed in a blue bow and looking like the perfect dog.

My parents happened to be in town for a visit and friends with a dog who had a good grasp of doggy temperament came over to check out Pumpkin. Arturo Tosca-bow-wow gave Pumpkin his approval and we took to one another immediately.

We three went to obedience training and Pumpkin learned to walk nicely on a leash without pulling, sit, stay, down and come when called. He was very motivated by dog cookies to excel!

That summer, when we moved into the current house, Pumpkin loved exploring the yard and the neighborhood. The fence wasn't complete and he would frequently roam at night. We would have to go after him with a flashlight and his leash to make sure he wasn't hit by a car. We usually found him a few doors down the block, eating the cat food left out by our neighbors. We quickly finished fencing the yard completely.


We started going to the beach and Pumpkin loved to romp in the sand, chase birds and even swim a little in the ocean (as long as I went in with him). On one trip with friends, both dogs got caught up in the mighty Moclips river current and were in danger of being washed out to sea before we could leash them and pull them to safety.

After Pumpkin came into our lives, three sets of friends also got dogs. Pumpkin was a good example of how a loving, friendly dog can become part of your family.

For the first five years he was with us, I was still limited in mobility and Pumpkin worked as my service dog. He could go to a cafe or restaurant, to the movies, to the doctor (but not the dentist). Dr. Judy, Arturo's person, used to say that Pumpkin had the uncanny ability to become a piece of furniture and not call attention to himself. Once I brought him to a large benefit luncheon of more than 1000 people. He went quietly into a down under the table, which had a floor-length cloth. I had neglected to warn our server that there was a dog present, and he unknowingly stepped on Pumpkin's protruding foot. The dog yelped, the waiter startled, and the whole banquet room full of people looked around for what caused the noise. I don't know who was more mortified, the waiter or me.

After the field near our house was turned into a housing development, we went to the nearby off-leash park. Pumpkin would romp around, be the dog police and bark at other dogs if he thought they weren't playing nicely. He particularly loved running between Rik and I, back and forth, over and over again. He refused to chase a ball more than once or twice in a row and then he was done playing. After one play session, I went past a dog show and on the fly, Pumpkin was able to qualify for the AKC's Canine Good Citizen award. He wore the patch proudly on his little doggy service vest.

More recently Pumpkin lost his hearing, although he always knew when I moved around the house and would follow me from room to room faithfully. In this respect he was truly a velcro dog. He had separation anxiety issues and would drool and pant if he was left alone in the house. It didn't matter if it was five minutes, five hours or five days, Pumpkin hated being alone. I think this was due to being abandoned and it is common among rescued shelter dogs.

In some respects, Pumpkin was the child that infertility, cancer, and failed adoption attempts prevented us from having. If we appear to mourn his loss more than some would expect, now you know the reason. As much as we saved him, he saved us.

Several of our friends who were here on Sunday to celebrate Rik's birthday sent beautiful messages to us yesterday:

Pumpkin played a very special place in my life and in the life of my family. I am speechless and at the same time I have so much to say. I saw so many shades of love through all those that loved and enjoyed Pumpkin. His lovable doginess started a movement with our dog and changed our family life!

Pumpkin was very lucky to have you during the second half of his life. You showed him consistency and love and care - you went to all lengths to give him a safe and comfortable life, and he brought a lot to your lives. I will miss his little wagging tail.

You were so good for Pumperdoodle and he was so good for you. Our son's love of Pumpkin was one reason we got a dog ourselves.

What I am sure of is that Pumpkin is thanking you even now for making a difficult but wise quality of life decision.

Pumpkin had a place in all of our hearts. We share your loss.

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I dance with cancer. Oy!