The other evening, my traitorous partner chose to go out with a small group of friends and leave me behind at our house. Feeling initially aggrieved, my spirits soon lifted. As she was out with her merry band of Iscariots, rootling through the house I discovered the twin delights of my partner's mobile 'phone - switched on! -
...hang on, have just looked out and seen that it's snowing. Just have to go outside for a minute to dance about in it... that's better...
and my partner's debit card. Well, well, well...
Some time ago, I successfully managed to place a call to my partner's friend Dolores, simply by sitting on the 'phone. Well, then, I thought. What is to stop me this time? I placed the debit card close to the 'phone and beat upon the handset with a paw, until I recognised a category of numbers headed "food". Hehehehe... With no further ado, I bashed the 'phone once more and chuckled as I heard a ringing tone.
"Good evening, Pizza -------." said a young female voice.
"Why, good evening, my dear," I replied into the 'phone. "I would like to place an order for 27 meat feast pizzas, 12 cheese and tomato and 7 portions of garlic bread, please."
"The card number is six-"
"Is anyone there? Who is this?"
"Yes. Mr. Stafford. I would like 27-"
Well, that is annoying, I thought. Perhaps it had been a bad connection. I was about to try again, when I reconsidered and decided that, perhaps, I had a mind for oriental cuisine. I smacked my paw against the handset until I heard ringing again.
"Hello, ----- -----." said the friendly voice of the Chinese takeaway lady.
"Good evening, madam." I replied.
"Hello. I should like to place an order, please. 3 sweet and sour pork. 7 crispy shredded duck in Hoi Sin sauce. 16 Kung-Po chicken. 5 portions of crispy seaweed. 2 egg-fried rice and a pancake roll. Oh - and also some prawn crackers. That's all, thank you."
"Hello? Who is speaking, please....?"
"Mr. Stafford. How much will that be, please? My card number is six-one-six..."
Feeling increasingly irritated - and hungry - I decided that I might have more luck with the local Indian restaurant - a particular favourite with the townsfolk here. Patting the handset with forced measure, I repeated the cycle.
"Good evening, ------."
"Greetings, my good man. An order for some takeaway, if you will."
"Hello...? Do you want takeaway or to book a table?"
"Takeaway, please. I shall have 6 chicken balti, 3 portions of your delicious onion bhajias, 2 king prawn korma, 6 mushroom rice, 17 peshwari naan, some plain poppadums and 3 lamb jalfrezi. Jasper's feeling spicy tonight!"
"Who is this?!"
"Jasper. Mr. Stafford."
Perhaps I may have more luck with traditional English fare. I slapped the handset with increasing venom.
"Ah! Yes. Hello. Please may I order 17 battered haddock. 8 large chips. 2 pea-fritters and 13 southern fried chicken? My card number is-"
I gave up, and concentrated on trying to look innocent for when my partner returned. I think I got away with it. However, a day or two later, the free local newspaper dropped through our letterbox. Uh-oh... Take a look, if you will...
This is what the full article has to say:
"---------'s restaurant proprietors were left mystified on Friday evening, after a spate of bizarre telephone calls. Pizza -------, --- ----- ----- Chinese Takeaway, The ------ Indian restaurant and ----'s Fish and Chip shop each received a similar call between 8.00 and 8.30pm in the evening.
Laura -----, a waitress at Pizza -------, received the first call. "I assumed it was someone ringing to book a table or order a pizza to take away." Laura explained. "But there was just this really weird snuffling and grunting sound on the end of the line. It went on for ages - just all these little 'wuff'-type noises. I know it sounds stupid, but it sounded like a dog."
--- ----- ----- Chinese Takeaway in ----- Street received the next call, some five or six minutes after the call to Pizza -------. Mrs. -----, the proprietor, said "Friday is one of our busiest nights, with many people ringing up to order food. I answered the 'phone and was ready to take an order, but all I could hear was grunting and growling. It was maybe a pig or a dog, I'm not sure. I thought someone was playing a trick and so I put the telephone down."
Next on the mystery caller's list was the popular ------ Indian restaurant. Waiter Mohammed ----- took the call. "It was most unusual." Mohammed told our reporter. "I would swear that it was a dog on the telephone. My colleagues all laughed at me when I told them - but I am certain of what I heard. --------- is not the kind of place where people make prank telephone calls. It is hard to explain."
The last person to receive a similar call was David -------- of ----'s Fish and Chips in ---- Street. "Most of our customers come in person, but we do get a few calls ordering food in advance. I thought it was one of them. I answered the 'phone and there was all this snuffling and snorting and sort of a quiet barking. I'd swear it was a dog. I just put the 'phone down and we all had a bit of a laugh about it. I'd have thought it'd be a cat who'd be ringing up for a bit of fish!"
Unfortunately, none of these calls could be traced - so the mystery canine caller is likely to remain just that - a mystery."
After reading this article, my partner gave me a sideways glance. "Is there anything you would like to tell me about this, Jasper?"
"No." I responded, a little uncomfortably. "I have no comment to make at this time."
See? My partner can understand my words - I don't understand how it can be so difficult for everyone else.
Thwarted again. It simply isn't fair.
Part of me quietly hoped that Bobby's owner would want to adopt me and then I could live with my new friend forever. But, optimistic though I was, I was not an unrealistic dreamer. I knew it could not be. And - inevitably - came the appointed day for Bobby to be discharged. I knew that the day had come, as Claire and her fellow nurses all came in with little gifts for him and a cuddle to say goodbye. Bobby was profuse and sincere in his thanks.
After Bobby's final check-up, he reached up to my cage before being returned to his pen. He strained to reach, and gave my snout a big slobbery lick. I licked him back.
"Goodbye son." he said, with a good-natured wag of his tail. "Be lucky."
"I am already lucky." I replied. "I am alive and have regained my health. And you have taught me so much. God bless you Bobby. I shall never forget you."
"Ah, you're making me well up!" said Bobby, giving a great sniff.
"Sir, it has been an honour to share my recovery with you." I said.
"Likewise." replied Bobby. "I wish you all the blessings of life that I have received."
"Goodbye Sir. Thank you."
We didn't speak much more after that. What else was there to bark? At around 3pm, there was a bustle in the reception area. Bobby's owner had arrived.
Lifting my head, I could see what was happening through the reflections in the backs of the empty stainless-steel cages opposite me. An older, white-haired, dignified-looking man stood by the desk, together with a smartly-dressed lady of similar vintage, who I took to be Bobby's owner's lady-friend.
Claire came into the room and opened the door to Bobby's pen. She carefully folded Bobby's blanket and put it into a plastic carrier-bag, along with his chew and his teddy-bear. Then, she clipped Bobby's lead onto his collar.
"Bye then." said Bobby, winking at me. His tail wagged madly from side to side.
"Bye Bobby. Take care."
And he was gone. The commotion in the reception area increased tenfold with Bobby's entry. I heard my friend's claws sliding and clicking on the floor as he enthusiatically greeted his beloved owner. Looking into the reflection, I saw Bobby standing on his hind legs, frantically licking his owner's face. The old man's cheeks shone with tears of joy as he welcomed his newly-whole beloved pet.
I watched them go - with only a tiny tinge of envy. I was pleased for Bobby and his survival. Perhaps, someday, I myself would be greeted with such tears.
As for now, I heard some three days later that, once recovered, I had a new home to go to. A place had been found for me at Stokenchurch Dog Rescue & Welfare Centre.
And now we arrive at the first point of my ability to supply the proof of my tail's tale. A link to the rescue centre - and here it is: perhaps the place that had the single most important effect on my life: http://www.stokenchurchdogrescue.co.uk/.
As to the adventures that awaited me there - and how they would shape every day of my life to come... well, you will just have to keep reading...