Thursday, 31 December 2009

Thursday 31 December 2009

There comes a time in every man's life when he feels inspired to undertake some construction work.  This being the concept, design and erection of a useful structure with nothing but raw materials and his mighty bare paws.

Long-time readers of this blog may recall my earlier efforts in this sphere - my experiments with hibernation and my subsequent construction of a purpose-built chamber; The Hi-Pod 2006.  Alas, this structure was swiftly dismantled by my partner's mother - demonstrating an appalling lack of vision.

My latest successful project is one of which I am extremely proud - it is called Jasper's Den O' Pillows.

Now then.  My partner and I share a nice big double-bed.  She has the window side and I have the wall side.  There are a number of pillows on our bed (my partner likes lots of pillows, in case she wants to sit up and read a book), two of which are nominally mine, to do with as I please (That barked, she does remove them from time to time, only to replace them newly reeking of floral scents and cleanliness.  This angers me.  I prefer my bed-linen to go entirely unwashed.  We have agreed to disagree on this point).  I generally move "my" pillows around the bed to suit whatever sleeping position I have chosen to assume - usually resting my head on one pillow and clasping the other between my paws.  However, in the recent spell of snow and icy-cold weather - coupled with our inability to afford (or, indeed, desire) to have our heating up to a high temperature - inspired me into architectural action.

Over the course of the next few nights, whilst my partner slept, I began to surreptitiously remove and stockpile the other pillows - always taking care not to remove the ones directly supporting my partner's head.  I knew that she began to suspect a plot was apaw, but was content to leave me to my own devices, given that I left two pillows for her.  With my plunder, I carefully began to build, in the corner nearest my partner's head, a cabin of wondrous comfort.  Once complete and structurally sound, I stepped inside.  I am happy to report that Jasper's Den O' Pillows did not disappoint in any way.  There was enough room for me to curl up completely in exquisite warmth and softness and yet be able to poke my head out.  I even saw my partner smiling at my ingeniousness, and she sleepily patted my protruding head.

I wanted my partner to record photographic evidence of my work and she did comply by fetching our digital camera.  Alas, there was not sufficient battery power to operate the flash.  Before fresh batteries could be obtained from the local shops on our next procurement visit, alas, Jasper's Den O' Pillows was but a memory.  I will explain.

The structure stood soundly for at least three days, and proved testament to my architectural brilliance.  Most unfortunately, a few nights later, my partner felt unable to sleep.  I believe the principal cause was the prospect of yet another Christmas without a human partner (I am sufficient for all her needs, save one.  A major one.).  She had explained to her Other Significant One the nature of my importance and he has accepted this.  He is therefore forgiven and rejoins the blessèd fold of my partner's affections.  But he is currently working and travelling in the dangerous (Al-Qaeda-riddled) bits of Africa.  Only I remain, to comfort our lady (I must grudgingly acknowledge anyone who makes her smile so - his initials are not BC (remember him?), but VI).  I digress.  The crux of my point is that she could not submit to the god of somnia.  Eventually, after much frustration, she decided to illuminate a couple of candles (saves electric light and provides heat) and read a favourite book.


"Jasper..." she began, " Can I take a few of those pillows...?"

I pretended to be asleep but, unfortunately, my partner saw me looking at her (to see if she'd believed I was asleep) through a barely opened eyelid.  She sighed, and began to reach for a supplementary pillow.  Immediate action was required.  I got up, and moved towards my partner's outstretching arm, the hand of which was almost on the keystone of Jasper's Den O' Pillows.  Without further thought, I released a toxic cloud from my bottom in the direction of my partner's face.  It was a concoction of which I was very proud... a heady blend of sprout and broccoli, with lingering topnotes of boiled egg.  It had the desired effect; my partner turned away, choking, spluttering and cursing.

With a self-satisfied smile, I turned and entered my construction - but had to leave it almost immediately.  A most revolting smell pervaded the whole, nauseating and stifling.  Retching and coughing, I scuttled to the far end of the bed, gratefully sucking in the clean air.

Whatever had happened to my beautiful chamber?  I knew I could never return to it - for it held now only memories of the foul, mysterious aroma.  The following morning, Jasper's Den O' Pillows was razed to the mattress and all traces of it eradicated.  Goodness only knows what the smell in the cavern had been - it shall forever remain a mystery...

Happy new year to you.  I hope 2010 brings you all that you hope for.  As for me - I cannot wait to find out what adventures my partner and I will face in the next twelve months.

Thank you for taking a moment to read my blog.

Good night.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Saturday 26 December 2009

'Twas a good Christmas.  For me, anyway (although I may have eaten a little more turkey than was sensible).  My partner, however, was marginally less satisfied.

For - at around 23.20 last evening, her potential interested male party uttered those few words that make a lady's heart quicken.  "So soon?"  you cry.  Oh yes.  As unexpected as they were, they rendered my normally articulate partner totally wordless - hardly able to formulate even the most basic of responses.  She stared, open-mouthed, at me, as the full impact of the gentleman's words hit her with all the subtlety of a speeding locomotive.

"He's only a dog."


Now, I am not deluded.  I am well aware that one member of our partnership is often regarded as somewhat less socially superior than the other.  But I cannot change that.  After all, it is not her fault that she is a human...

What a pity.  And things looked so promising as well.  "He's only a dog." indeed.  For goodness' sake.

And now - because I cannot bear to leave you - or, indeed, myself - with the image of a shattered and frightened young dog in your mind, here is:


I am not sure for how long I was asleep in the back of the van but, when I awoke, I didn't feel any better for my nap.  In fact, I felt sore all over and terribly, terribly sick.  Despite this, I also felt rather peckish.  My belly told me that it was lunchtime, but I waited and the man did not come back to the van as usual.  I decided that an investigation might be necessary.

Rather unsteadily and painfully, I forced myself to stand up.  My legs were shaking and kept buckling beneath me, but I managed to force myself to the back of the seats and had a moment of victory!  At the base of the gearstick, I espied a discarded crisp!  Fortified with the prospect of a whole crisp - and possibly more in the passenger footwell, I decided to get into the front of the van.  After brief consideration, I surmised that my pain and increasing weakness were too great to successfully make the jump over the seats into the front - so I decided to squeeze my way through between the driver's and passenger's seats.  My head and my mighty shoulders proved no problem.  However, as I eased my chest through, there was a sickening grinding sound from the left side of my ribcage and sharp stabs of blinding pain shot through me.  I suppressed my squeals into a squeak and temporarily paused.  By now, I was more than halfway through the gap and so, taking a deep breath, I pushed the rest of the way through and stumbled gratefully into my usual front seat.  After another moment to recover myself, I snaffled up the crisp.

Alas - even this proved unfairly difficult.  I could not crunch the crisp properly.  My jaw was strangely slack and made a bizarre clicking noise whenever I tried to chew.  In the end, I gave up and waited for the crisp (salt and vinegar flavour) to dissolve on my tongue before I swallowed it.  I looked about me.  There were no more traces of crisp, pie or sandwich.  Dammit.  I decided to look out of the window instead.  I liked looking out of the window - there was always something interesting to see.

I regarded my surroundings.  The van was parked on a bustling high street.  To my left, out of the window, was the entrance to a large shopping arcade (mall).  Just in front of that, slightly forward of the van, stood a group of around eight to ten young girls, aged around fourteen years.  I watched, transfixed.  Two of the girls had very, very dark brown - almost black - skin.  I didn't know humans came in different colours.  They were exquisitely beautiful.

I liked (and still like today)  looking at females just generally, of any human race (or mammalian species).  I have always preferred ladies to men (perhaps understandably, given my history), and each one is perfectly formed and exquisite in her own way.  I watched, as they compared clothing purchases from gaudily-coloured carrier bags  and showed each other pictures on their mobile telephones, happily giggling and smiling.

I suppose one of them must have felt my steadfast gaze - for she turned and met my eyes.  On seeing me, she let out a horrified scream.  Her friends whipped around to see what had startled her, and screamed too.  They ran to the van's window and peered at me, with a variety of shocked whispers and gasps.  I attempted to give my most winning smile, and wondered what frightened them so.  Two of the young ladies started to cry.

After an hurried conference between the friends, two of them sped off together down the street.  The others continued to peer in at me, with profound looks of horror and concern upon their pretty faces.

I wondered - what sight could possibly have been so awful that it frightened these girls so much...?

Good night.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Friday 25 December 2009

I am not a mean-spirited fellow - but if I hear one more "classic" Christmas hit, in particular that Wizzard song 'I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day', I may well have to "get mediaeval" on someone.  Permit me to explain.

My partner has not been sleeping well these past few nights - possibly due to a potential interested male party, whom she finds intriguing.  I'll not bore you with that.  However, to combat interminable sleeplessness, we have had the radio on during the hours of darkness.  I have heard more Christmas hits in the past 48 hours than in the entire history of my past Christmases combined.  The only ones I can still tolerate are Silver Bells and Fairytale of New York - but even they are skating on thin ice.

I was cheered by the prospect of a roast beef luncheon yesterday, and my annual turkey dinner today.  Because of the appalling weather, my partner's brother and his family (including delightful cherubs Carys and Ewan) are unable to journey South to join us for the festivities.  A disappointment - but with some compensation, as there will be more food for me, hehehe...

Now then. 'Tis not so festive, but I feel able to release it now.  Here is Part Two of the story of how I came to be Jasper and sitting here this very day: The Evolution of Jasper.  Should you need it, here is a link to the first instalment:

The last evening described proved to be something of a watershed in the life of our puppy-hero.  An uneasy atmosphere settled throughout the house.  I was not beaten again, but did not feel loved - or even, at times, tolerated.  Privately, I suspected that things could not continue in this hostile state of truce between my man and my lady, and it was not long before my suspicions proved correct.  After making my toilet in the rear garden one evening, I crept back into the house to the sounds of screams and shouts.  Mindful of what had happened on the previous occasion, I concealed myself under the kitchen table and cowered there.  I heard the sounds of things being thrown in the next room, hands and fists smacking into flesh and the most awful shouting, swearing and screaming.  The next morning, the lady walked out of the front door and did not come back.

The man did not deal well with this development - and, unfortunately, I bore the brunt of his temper.  I began to live my life in a strange paradox.  On the one paw, the man fed and walked me and took me to work with him every day.  I'm not sure what he did, but he had a big white van in which he travelled a lot and I used to love to ride in the front with him.  Every lunchtime, he would have some crisps and a little pie or a sandwich, which he would share with me.  I would sit in the van all the time while he was working outside of it, but I didn't mind.  However, on the other paw, I was regularly kicked and beaten during the evening hours.  The man would drink lots of strange smelling liquid and then hurt me.  In time, I learned to quietly accept my beatings.  It only made it worse if I protested.

His favourite way to hurt me was to squeeze my neck and throat until everything went dark and I passed out.  As I regained consciousness, gasping and wheezing, he would laugh at me as I staggered about.  In fact - this is the only truly lasting scar that I bear from those times.  Once established with my partner, it took around three years for me to learn that, when she or anyone else raised their arm to reach for something above my head, I was not going to receive a beating.  However, even after all these years, I still fear having a collar put on or removed.  I am ashamed to bark that even with my partner, when she goes to affix my collar around my neck, I regularly cower, trying to flatten myself against the ground, and scream and cry.  I cannot help it.  My partner, however, is always kind and gentle at these moments of anxiety for me.

Anyway, after a year or so of this life (during which I noticed that the man was drinking more and more of the strange stuff that made him cross), there inevitably came the day that the man pushed his luck (and me) too far.  We arrived home at the end of the working day to a difference in our home.  Taking a deep sniff, I scented that my lady had returned home!  I capered around the house, scenting her fragrance in every room.  To my bewilderment, however, the lady herself was nowhere to be seen.  Still feeling puzzled, I trotted downstairs and noticed for the first time that around half of our furniture was missing.  The television and most of the ornaments around the house had also gone.  Placed neatly on the coffee table was a small stack of white papers in a large envelope, with a set of house keys on top of them.  My puzzlement grew.

The man sat down and looked through the papers.  He said some very uncomplimentary words about the lady and, to my surprise, began to cry.  I edged closer to him and attempted to offer comfort.  After a few swigs from the ever-present bottle, the man suddenly swept the stack of papers off the table and across the room.  He stood up and kicked over the coffee table, shouting and swearing.  He then took the set of keys and hurled them at me with as much force as he could.  They struck me on the cheek and I squealed.  I tried to crawl out to the kitchen to hide, but he grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and lifted me, wriggling and screaming, right off the floor.  The beating I received was too horrific to describe.

The following morning, I opened my puffy, swollen eyes slowly.  I ached all over.  At one point during the previous evening I had been brutally kicked and heard a sickening crunch in the area of my ribs.  Now, my whole side was very painful, and it hurt to move.  I noted the presence of blood on the carpet and knew it was my own.  There was also much pain and a strange sensation in my jaw.  I heard the man coming downstairs, and tried to shuffle away to hide, but couldn't summon the strength to move quickly enough.

When the man saw me, he looked horror-struck.  "I'm so sorry." he kept repeating, as he patted my head, with tears in his eyes.  "You forgive me, mate, don't you?  I promise I won't do it again."  I wagged my tail feebly, although I had heard all these things before.  I heard the man go into the kitchen and make himself a drink and then he helped me to my feet  and I staggered out of the house after him.  I wondered how I would manage the jump into my seat in the white van, and hesitated on the pavement.  The man looked at me and then said "I think you'd better stay in the back today."  He helped me into the rear of the van.  I made myself as comfortable as I could amongst the tools and rags and fell painfully into a fitful sleep.  I woke up to find the van empty and my broken little body struggling to be sick.  With difficulty, I spat out the contents of my mouth and belly and was shocked to see only blood emerge.  Feeling increasingly weak, I closed my eyes once more.

To be continued...

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Tuesday 22 December 2009

Surely only a fool or a lunatic would repeat an action for which they had already received a comprehensive butt-whipping?    Surely that would be the case?

Not so, apparently.  Witness for yourself:

See him?  Yes.  Strategically positioned under the garden bench, to avoid any aerial assault.  Peaches once more.

And to those friends who enquired - yes.  Peaches IS a boy. (Here is a link to the Blog entry in which he was first mentioned:  I agree with my friends - 'tis an unusual name for a male black cat.  It may well go some way to explaining his violent, foul-mouthed, hatefully vicious nature - but it does not excuse it.

I marched boldly out to challenge him, feeling thoroughly fed up at his trespass.  I was also well aware of what cats like to do in other people's gardens - and had NO desire to find a shiny little sh*te in amongst the bulbs we planted in the summer.  As soon as I appeared around the corner, the charming Peaches hissed and spat at me.  He edged a little further from under my bench and began an outpouring of spiteful comments and threats - none of which I care to repeat here.  From the corner of my eye, I could see a number of blue-tits queueing up in the tree branches - cold and hungry, yet each too afraid to venture down to take its nut.  Some tell-tale scratch marks up the post of my bird table told me that their hesitation was justified.  I felt utterly disgusted.  Peaches moved closed to me, still snarling his filth.  I am afraid, dear reader, that I lost my normally-well-controlled temper.
"OH B*GGER OFF!"  I bellowed, in my most angry bark.  The birds fluttered, alarmed, into the air.  My shout echoed around the close.  I was expecting violent retribution from the target of my rage - but he merely heaved up his fat bulk with as much dignity as he could muster and with a parting angry glance, stomped off, looking aggrieved.  To date, he has not returned.

My throat hurt for the rest of the day, but it was well worth it, hehehe...

No more work for me and my partner now until after the New Year.  She has taken some holiday days so that she can have a nice long break over Christmas.  However, today was an unexpected extra, due to the recent heavy snowfall.  We were almost stranded at work last night.  Despite being allowed to depart at half past three, it took us TWO AND A HALF HOURS to get home.  It usually takes 35 minutes at most.  Scary too.  My partner was given the option of not working today by her kind boss, and she decided that she did not want to put her Jasper through a similar experience once more.  She said that she didn't mind for herself - but Jasper is too precious to risk.  That's my girl...!

The second instalment of The Evolution of Jasper is still on its way and will be posted either tonight or tomorrow.  It is taking me all this time because, although we know that the tale has a happy outcome, the first parts are distressing for me to recall - particularly this second episode.  It reminds me of just how close I came to missing out on life with my partner - or, indeed, any life at all...

Good night.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Monday 14 December 2009

I am totally barkless.  Completely and utterly barkless.  Barkless is what I am.

When my partner and I awoke yesterday morning, we descended the stairs and - wishing to greet the fresh morning - I stood by as my partner opened the curtains to our French Windows - and THIS is what we saw through the glass:

WHAT THE --   !?!?

Yes.  'Tis Peaches.  The violent, furry turd from the devil's own satanic a*se, staking out MY bird table, on MY patio, in MY garden.  I was livid.

My partner and I crept around to the front door (on the other side of the house), and she quietly released me.
"AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGH!"  I yelled, as I launched myself with insane rage at the evil moggy.  The desired look of stricken alarm on Peaches' foul fat face was achieved although, unfortunately, he was not sufficiently concerned to quit my garden.  Instead, he composed himself and rounded on me, with a look of evil about him.

Oh poo.

I edged nervously towards the French Windows, realising just a split-second too late that they were locked.  I let out a little squeak, as Peaches moved around to the side of the garden, cutting off my escape route.
"I'm gonna cut you, you b*st*rd dog..." he growled menacingly.  I gulped, and braced myself for extreme pain.

All of a sudden - seemingly almost from nowhere - a small shape flew down from the nearest tree, shrieking as he plummeted towards the ground:

It was the little squirrel.  Still yelling like a wild banshee, he landed on the back of Peaches' neck, and clamped one paw on each of the wretched cat's ears, digging in his claws and hanging on for dear life as Peaches ran madly around my garden, yowling and trying to shake him off.  "Whe-heee!" squealed the squirrel, who then leaned forward and sank his sharp little teeth into Peaches' right ear.  Peaches gave a loud holler and another sudden violent shake.  The squirrel lost his grip and flew off his enraged steed, landing with a sickening thud on the patio.

I watched Peaches, still wailing and shouting, speed off home and then, when I was certain he'd gone, turned nervously to look at the little squirrel.  He lay almost motionless on his back, his chest rising and falling almost imperceptibly, and was making an horrific wheezing and gurgling sound.

Wondering if I would be able to save him with some rudimentary snout-to-snout resuscitation, I tipclawed nearer to the prone little body.

It then became immediately apparent that he was not struggling to live but was, in fact, helpless with laughter.
"Did you see-?" gasped the squirrel, still convulsed with uncontrollable laughter, "Did you see that idiot's face?!"  He wiggled his arms and legs as he laughed, and I allowed him to grip onto one of my paws as he struggled up into a sitting position.  I hid my face so that he wouldn't see how profoundly relieved I was.

"Nut power...?" I said, with one eyebrow quizzically raised.
"Haha, yeah." replied the squirrel.  "I thought I could be like a super-squirrel.  That could be my secret phrase.  Like, my battle cry."
"Nut power?"
"Well. Yeah, it is a BIT rubbish, isn't it?" grinned the little rodent.  "Needs more work.  But that was brilliant, eh?!"
"It was pretty funny." I conceded. "But you want to be careful with that one.  He's a total psychopath.  He'll be looking out for you now."
"Good." said the squirrel defiantly. "Let him.  I'll be up the trees and long gone before he even works out what's going on."

I had to admit - I admired the squirrel's pluck.  I asked him how he was settling in.  He certainly looked a bit healthier than he did at our first meeting.  He was still undersized, but had begun to fill out a little.  "Oh, I'm grand, thanks to you Mister Dog." answered the squirrel.  "Now I'm feeling a bit stronger, I've been out and about collecting moss to line my drey with.  Brilliant."

I grinned as I bade farewell to my new little friend.  I certainly did enjoy seeing him get the better of the much-despised Peaches, and I felt good inside for having helped him to survive and build his new home.  Some of my friends were kind enough to send me messages approving my actions, and that made me feel very happy as well.

However - one friend suggested that I may have befriended the squirrel, only for him to turn out to have evil intentions concerning me and would ultimately hoodwink me into risking my life and/or becoming embroiled in heinous mischief.  Now - I ask you.  WHAT is there in my past history to suggest that?!  I cannot believe it.  That would NEVER happen to such a worldly dog as me.  For goodness' sake...

Next time - the long overdue Part Two of "The Evolution of Jasper" (Here's a link to Part One, in case it is of interest:

Good night.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Sunday 6 December 2009

Well - 'yer 'tiz.  My 200th blog post.  And yet I am annoyed.

Approximately a month, it has been with us.  Approximately a month.  And ALREADY it has caused trouble.

I refer, of course, to my bird table.  The first few days, my partner and I were enchanted (as, in part, we continue to be) by the visits of our feathered brethren to seek sustenance at our table.  Alas, just a few short days ago, I was dozing in a sunbeam, which poured through the French windows, when an upstart interloper caught my drowsily closing eye.

A squirrel.

Why?  Why am I tormented by such beasts?  The memories of the disrespectful hedgepig nemesis from my previous home had just begun to fade with the passage of time - and now here was a new ne'er-do-well to haunt me.

I crept quietly into the kitchen, where my partner was preparing lunch, and asked if I could be let out to go to the toilet.  She kindly obliged, and I tipclawed around the corner of our house in order to catch the beast in his heinous act.

"OI!!!"  I yelled.  The small grey thief started, and dropped the armful of nuts that he had been collecting, "What the H*LL do you think you are doing?!"

The squirrel was a young one, probably born this spring.  His eyes darted about madly, looking for an escape route but, finding none, stood stock still on the table, trembling.  I continued, angrily, "Those nuts and seeds are for the birds, not you!"
"Oh, please," implored the squirrel, "PLEASE, Mister Dog, please let me take some.  I'm so hungry.  PLEASE!  There are no nuts in the hedges here and if I don't eat these, I'll die!"
I looked at him.  He was incredibly thin.  His eyes were sunken hollows in his face.  His ribs were clearly visible, rising and falling rapidly, and his grey fur was mangy with bits missing.  I felt a stab of pity.

"There is a squirrel colony about a mile over there, with plenty of beech and hazel." I said. "Why don't you go over there?"

The little squirrel's shoulders sagged.
"I was born there."  he replied, sadly.  "Lots of us were this Spring.  In the end, there were too many of us in the colony.  There was a huge fight, and the weaker ones had to leave.  I don't know where the others went, but I came here.  I built my own drey before I realised there was no food here.  Now I am too tired and it is too cold to find anywhere else.  And then I saw the nuts here."  He looked defeated.  "I'm sorry." he continued, "I won't trouble you again.  Please don't kill me.  I shall die soon anyway."

I stared at him, sighed, and (not for the first time) despaired at the benevolent streak in my nature which, somehow, made me feel less masculine.

"Hold!"  I called, as the forlorn squirrel turned to go.  "How many of you are there here?"
"Just me.  No-one else."

I sighed again.
"Very well." I barked, "You may dine freely at this table."
The squirrel turned and regarded me, his eyes now filled with hope.  I continued.  "Just you.  And just for this Winter.  You will find fresh nuts every morning - but my partner stops putting them out at the end of March.  You may take what you need, but no more.  And ensure you leave enough for the birds."
"Oh yes!" panted the squirrel, happily, "There is plenty here for all who want it.  Thank you!  Thank you Mister Dog!  God bless you!"  And he began to re-stack his armful of nuts, with renewed hope and happiness.

I must say that, despite my misgivings, I did feel a warm glow at having helped one of my fellow creatures.  I turned to go back indoors - and then turned back towards the table.
"Don't go directly back to your drey." I said, "Turn left; go across the garden fences, cross the road and go back that way.  There is a cat hiding behind that tree there" (indicating the nearest tree) "waiting for you."
The squirrel fixed me with an earnest gaze.
"Thank you."  he said.

I nodded, and returned to the house.

After the squirrel had been gone about ten minutes, I had the satisfaction of seeing a highly annoyed young female cat emerge preyless from behind the nearest tree, with a look of thunder upon her not-unpretty face, and stalk off home.

Perhaps doing the right thing by starving rodents had hidden advantages for me - as well as proving balm to my conscience.  I'd almost go as far as to say that my act of goodwill made me feel Christmassy.

Almost - but not quite.

Good night.