« Sex Education | Main | History Update »

Open Features: The Dog Who Wouldn't Let Go

Poet and story teller John Cooper brings us a tale to be read to children. It features Rumple, a golden labrador, and delightful creatures such as Heavylump, Terroducktail and Pider.

Print out this story! Perfect bedtime or any time reading!

Snoozing flat out on his side, Rumple stretched luxuriously with his paws before his nose. As he awoke, he began to wonder where he was. He didn't recognise the unusual smell of his surroundings. Then he heard a low sound nearby and saw with a shock that he was lying on a bushy tail. Not his own tail.

The beginnings of a growl alerted his ears so he rolled onto his stomach, pushed himself over his paws, and stood up, prepared for fight or flight. The sound came from a fierce looking dog, bigger than him, its yellow teeth were bared in a snarl. Both animals were occupying the highest of a series of ledges jutting from a wall of rock.

“Oh, hello,” said Rumple, “I don.t think we've met. I.m a golden retriever from…..” he ran out of words as he couldn.t remember his home address.

As a matter of fact, he didn.t know where he was and his head was spinning for some reason. The light was poor but he made out that he was high up in a large cave. As his eyes grew accustomed to the gloom, he saw lower ledges were crowded with a kind of dog he had never met before, all grey, dirty and smelling like the zoo he had once visited.

The one who had growled and whose eyes, Rumple noticed, glowed bright red, didn't bother to stand up but looked him in the face and drawled, "Muh name's Geronimo, an' ahm the leader of this outfit.” He waived a grimy paw equipped with long claws, indicating all the sleeping animals, “…and this is the highest ledge in the cave, where the pack leader gits to lie. So what are ye doin. here and who are ye?”

Saliva dripped from his mouth and Rumple reeled from the blast of sour breath.

He sensed it was vital to remain polite. “I don.t know how I got here and I.m awfully sorry to be in your bed. Of course, I will leave immediately. I don.t wish to be in any trouble. I must have got lost and wandered in. Is that the way out? Goodness, its coming light already, I'd better get back home.”

Geronimo got to his feet, stretched, and looked down at the retriever. He walked around Rumple and sniffed at his bottom. Then he sat to scratch himself. “I ain't never smelled a wolf like you afore. You sure are clean. What you call your colour? Are you red?”

“Rust actually,” replied Rumple, pleased that Geronimo had carried out the traditional sniffing routine when dog meets dog.

“Well now, just remembers Rust, next time you come to the lair, sleep with the pack on the floor. When you git older and win fights, you git to move up to the higher ledges. If you git to be boss wolf, you sleep here on the top shelf.”

Rumple promised to remember the laws of the wolves and, stepping over those who were now beginning to wake, he trotted quickly to the mouth of the cave. Emerging in the morning air, he saw that he was on the side of a hill, up which he vaguely remembered struggling the night before. The ground fell steeply before him and he set off at a run, hoping to put some distance between himself and the pack before they were fully roused and one of the males fancied a punch-up.

It didn.t occur to him to work out which direction he should take. He simply followed his nose, hoping to pick up a familiar scent. With head close to the earth, he scampered along enjoying the glorious aromas of dew and herbs still moist from overnight rain, until he came up against the oddest creature he had ever seen. It was like one of those very intelligent dogs that walked on its hind legs, spoke a language with many different words, and threw sticks for him to chase. But not only was this one wearing no clothes, it had no skin covering its body. He could see every bone quite clearly, its skull, collar bone, arms and ribs. To Rumple, who half expected all bones to smell like his dinner, it was a shock to find it gave off a perfume of old trees.

“Wha's the panic?” the boney man demanded as Rumple skidded to a halt.

“Good morning, Sir,” he replied, “I'm trying to make my way home.”

“And where might that be?”

“I don.t rightly know. I was hoping I could sniff my way back as it is the usual way we dogs travel but I don.t have a clue at the moment. Can you help Mr…?.”

“Skellington's the name. I'll have to look at my diary. I'm very important and I'm not sure I'm allowed to assist lost dogs. Some of you can be a bit of a nuisance to people liked me. I blame that silly nursery rhyme.”

“Which one is that,” asked Rumple, (who actually did not know what a nursery rhyme was, but felt he should not admit it.)

“Nick-Nack Paddywhack, Give a dog a bone. What a way to encourage racial harmony! Why couldn't it be Nick-Nack Paddywhack Give a Dog a new set of dentures… or something?”

Rumple quickly changed the subject: “Do you live here?” he asked.

Skellington looked down at him as though he was speaking to a child and let out a deep sigh. His breath escaped from everywhere; it hissed from his chest, his neck and even from the ends of his toes.

“Yes, I live round here. I'm the State Registered Mobile Skellington Service. When things are quiet, I lie around in tombs and crypts, but sometimes I have to get up and go out scaring people.” Then, to deter Rumple who had started sniffing at his toes, he added,”I can make myself lumingous you know.”

“Lumingous?” said Rumple, “like a firefly?”

“Exactly,” pronounced Skellington, “I can see you're quite an educated dog but, er, not quite bright enough to know where you live. You could stay around here if you want.”

“Thank you but no. I.m a golden retriever and once we set out to do something, we never let go. I have to make my way home.”

Skellington checked his diary which contained the rules for being a Mobile Skellington Service, and declared there was nothing to stop him helping Rumple to find his way. His spindly fingers scratched his jawbone and he spoke: “It might help if we consult Heavylump, who knows everything. He may have some idea where you come from. If he does, I'll put your address in my diary, and then we won't forget it.”

“Who is Heavylump?” Rumple asked, worried that he was going to meet some sort of giant.

“Oh you'll like old Heavylump, he's the biggest animal around and he walks on all fours like you. But instead of being a Hippyspottymass or a Giraffodill or something like that, he is a Heavylump.” Seeing Rumple's head go on one side as though he was puzzled, he added,” You know, with tusks and a trunk.”

“A trunk? Like a suitcase? Is he going on holiday?” Rumple wanted to know.

Skellington looked at his new friend pityingly: “Not that sort of trunk you chump. A long nose called a trunk. That's how he gets to know everything, because he is a nosey parker.”

The two were now walking across hard ground and Skellington's bones rattled as they moved. In the distance was a grey hill and they headed straight for it. Once they were near, Skellington called, “Hi there Heavylump, may we have a word?”

The ground moved and Rumple saw that it wasn't an ordinary hill, but a very large animal with its back to them. Extremely slowly, the hill changed shape and, from behind, emerged a round smiling face with enormous ears, twinkling eyes, a massive nose and two long teeth sticking out in front. Around its middle was a belt with a bag attached. Rumple's nostrils twitched at the pungent aroma of perspiration and dust mixed together on the animal's thick skin.

“G'mornin. gents. What can I do for you? Today's your lucky day. I've got a special offer on twigs. Buy one get one free. If you want twigs, I suggest you buy 'em now before I sell out. There's no better time to buy your twigs than right here and now.”

“Actually Heavylump, we're not shopping, we thought you might know where my friend lives. He's got himself lost.”

“Cor, love-a-duck Skelly do me a favour. I'm a businessman not a bloomin. 'elp desk. Look 'ere, I can do you a nice waterproof jacket; keep your bones dry as a desert. I can let it go for a song.”

Skellington whispered to Rumple that he meant he would sell it to him cheaply and decided he would make an offer. “If I promise to buy something next Christmas, will you have a think where Rumple here might live?”

“Go on then, twist my arm. It's a deal. Let.s see what 'e can tell us about 'is 'ome.” Turning to the retriever, who had listened to the conversation with ears pricked, Heavylump enquired: “What sort of a pad do you normally 'ave mate?” He looked at Rumple more closely before adding,” I can give you a good price for that coat of yours.”

Rumple thought carefully before he answered. He made clear to Heavylump that his coat was not for sale and then he described his home: “There are fields with dogs chasing balls and sticks. I stay with two of those very clever animals that speak in funny voices and walk upright on their hind legs, like Skellington. I have a blanket to sleep on and they feed me and take me on walks.”

“Sounds a cushy number. You must live with people. I know about people. I could tell you stories that would make your tail stand on end.”

They were spared from having to listen to Heavylump's stories by an insect crying and running round in circles on the ground in front of him. “What's the matter Pider,” Skellington enquired in a gentle voice. (The Pider is an inseck with spindly legs all round his body and one of them was broken.)

Skellington went over to Heavylump and asked, “Where do you keep you contact adhesive?” He pushed his hand into Heavylump's bag and produced a tube of something with a nasty smell. In a couple of minutes, Skellington had glued the two parts of the Pider's leg together. It now walked with a slight limp but had stopped crying.

It looked up and, in a squeaky voice, announced, “I am so pleased you have mended my broken leg. Is there anything I can do in return?”

Rumple nodded his head and his tail wagged rapidly. Skellington guessed what he was thinking and said to the Pider, “I don't suppose you know a place with houses and fields where dogs run around chasing sticks and so on..... ? This retriever has lost his way.”

“As a matter of fact, I do know such a place. It's called Barkshire because a lot of barking goes on there. It lies behind that cloud resting on the hill top,” said the Pider, pointing to a fluffy white patch on the horizon. Rumple got very excited, wagging his feathery tail furiously and making happy whimpering noises with his mouth closed.

“That's where I live, Barkshire,” he squealed, “I've heard the people call it that.”

“Dearie-me-today,” said Heavylump, “you'll 'ave to calm down and be ready to duck an' dive a bit to get in there. Could be a few problems,” he said mysteriously. He offered to take them both on his back some of the way and they were soon jogging along at good speed. .

After crossing several hills, they came to a road sign, “Barkshire 2 km”. Not far now, they agreed, and after thanking Heavylump for his help, jumped down from his back and began to walk in the direction shown by the sign. Within a couple of minutes, it became overcast, the sun
disappeared and the daylight faded.

“It gets dark early here,” said Skellington, looking up to the sky. Then he saw why. Hovering overhead, blotting out the daylight was a dragon with enormous claws and a big mouth with teeth like daggers. Half-bird and half-alligator, a frightening Terrorducktail had spotted them. It gave a screech, like the noise of a car skidding to a halt, and landed in front of them.

Speaking in a snarly dragon voice, it asked: “Whatta youse guysa sneakin. around? Yorra gonna come to a sticky end. Don'tcha know youse needs my say-so to comma tru' dis way?”

Smoke snorted from its nostrils and gushed from its ears. Its tail, long and slippery like a snake, thrashed from side to side. Baffled by the sight of an animal he had never seen before, Rumple was uncertain what to do and Skellington had stopped in his tracks behind him. Then he remembered, he was a golden retriever, the bravest and most intelligent breed in the world. He must find his way home and, to do so, he must outwit the dragon. It completely blocked the path and Rumple was just about to try to take a running jump over the huge tail, when he felt a tickle on his ear. He sat down to scratch himself with his back leg, and give himself time to think. Then he heard a sound in his ear, “Tell him you want to buy a visa.” It was Pider who had stowed away, hidden in Rumple's curly golden coat.

Rumple did as he was advised: “Could you tell me where I may buy a visa?”

The Terrorducktail.s face fell and showed he knew he was being outwitted. He ordered Rumple, “Follow me and don'ta try any smart moves or you an. da Skellington are history. ”

Rumple followed the dragon to a wooden shack hidden in the trees at the roadside. On the window was a notice, “Visas 2 dollars”. He knocked at the window and it opened to reveal a beautiful Painted Lady butterfly who asked: “How many?” She fluttered her eyelashes and Rumple blushed and was lost for words.

The Terrrorducktail laid a claw on Rumple.s neck and barked: “Forget abouta da broad furhead, just make wid da two bucks.”

The butterfly interrupted : “Oh don't take too much notice of Terrorducktail. We have to employ a bouncer nowadays to keep out riff-raff. Dangerous doggies aren.t allowed in Barkshire.” She gave him his visa and the retriever was so happy he was going home that he could not contain his excitement. He completely forgot about Skellington and Pider and they watched him race away, his tongue out and his bushy tail like a flag raised high behind him.

“Bye bye,” called out Skellington , “and good luck tracking down your home. I was really beginning to like you Rumple.” Then a tear fell from Skellington.s eye as he had hoped Rumple would stay with him forever. He had grown very fond of the golden retriever and his polite behaviour.

Rumple crossed several fields, eventually reaching groups of houses where humans lived. He put his black nose to the ground, searching for the comforting smell of the house where he lived and where he might rediscover the people whom, he recalled, walked on their hind legs, fed him and spoke a strange language. He rounded a corner, still racing with his nose to the ground and saw, trotting towards him in a smart bright red collar with shiny buckle, was a poodle.

“Trixie,” he exclaimed,, and ran to rub noses with his girl friend.

“Where have you been Rumple? Everybody's been so worried about you.”

“Tell you later Trixie, right now I've got to get back home.”

The smells guiding Rumple home were getting stronger now and he saw with a sudden surge of happiness, that he was at his own doorstep. He burst into the kitchen and was immediately greeted by people who hugged him and petted him and told him how pleased they were to get him back.

The reunion was accompanied by excited chatter about how Rumple had disappeared. They had been flying a kite with Rumple who had invented a game in which he ran below the kite's flight and retrieved it when it dropped from the sky. The kite had broken away from its string and dived to ground. He had managed to grab the trailing tail as the kite was blown over the ground.

He had clasped it in his strong jaws when an enormous gust lifted the kite back into the sky with him hanging on. He had been carried high off the ground, determined not to let go.

As a true retriever, Rumple was trained always to take things back to the owner and he held on for hours. As the kite twisted this way and that over hills and woods, through the late evening, and all that night, the moon rose and Rumple looked down at the forest far below him. But still
he held on.

It was dark when he awoke, exhausted, lying where he had finally fallen to earth with the tattered remains of the kite still clenched in his jaws. Confused and exhausted by his airborne journey, instinct told him to find a warm place to sleep and recover his strength for the journey back on the next day. He rose unsteadily to his feet and raised his nose to take in the surrounding smells and decide if anything offered shelter. Faintly, he detected the smell of other animals, similar to the tang of dogs. It drifted down from a rocky hillside to his right and he forced his tired paws up the slope. The smell grew stronger as he neared the source and eventually he was drawn to an opening in some rocks, half hidden behind scrubby shrubs. A large dog-like creature who was guarding the entrance, lay half asleep and simply nodded and looked away as Rumple crept past it into a large cave. Inside, the ground before him was covered with sleeping dogs. He tried to find a space amongst the animals but they grumbled when he tried to lie down. He realised he would have to climb higher up the cave to find a bed and, eventually, he was forced to scramble
to the highest point where only one other lay sleeping. Thankfully, Rumple collapsed beside him and instantly fell asleep.


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.