Sunday, 28 March 2010

Sunday 28 March 2010

I have passed a night of exquisite torture.

I refer not, however, to an evening of exhilarating passion spent in the furry arms of a lovely lady (my wife Isolde the Springer Spaniel, of course, in case she is reading this), but an interesting culinary experience.

At the end of the week, my partner and I were put in the way of some fresh venison, and were lucky enough to secure the choicest cut - the fillet.  My partner recalled that she had been given a 'crock-pot' slow-cooker when we moved to our new home which had, thus far, lain untouched in our cookery equipment cupboard.  She placed a telephone call to her mother and offered to cook lunch this Sunday - her thoughts turning to a fine, slow-cooked venison casserole.

Yesterday night, therefore, I assisted my partner in preparing our delectable dish.  Pan-seared venison chunks, red onion, mushroom, tomato purée, carrot, beef stock (thickened with a little cornflour), rosemary, thyme and red wine were all carefully blended and placed in our slow-cooker (I was involved in the quality-control stage.  Nothing was added without the official Jasper Stafford stamp of approval), which was switched on to its lowest setting just before we retired to bed for the night.

All night, as I slept, the sweet fragrances gently percolated up the stairs from the kitchen to my nostrils.  It was pleasing in the extreme.

This morning, our carefully-crafted preparations had borne results exceeding even my expectations.  Indescribably tender meat and vegetables, cooked to perfection, surrounded by a rich, thick, flavoursome gravy.  In just nine short minutes the pot, and accompanying side dish, will be placed in our New Teal Megane and transported to the home of my partner's parents (not much room in our own house for the dinner table to be unfolded at present).

I am SO excited that I have already been to the toilet three times this morning!


It's now the evening.

How much of that rich, nourishing, delicious stew do you think I got?  Hmmmn...?  No..?

NONE.  That's how much.  Not a drop more, not a drop less.  I was unbarkably livid.  And after I had put in all that effort at the preparation stage.  That's ingratitude for you, right there.

On the way home, I was so cross that I called my partner a bad word.  She wasn't impressed.

In fact, she reminded me of the punishment that hangs over me if I should forget my manners and use "Toilet-Talk" outside of the house.  Oops.

I tried to apologise, but my partner could not be appeased - reminding me at the same time that I had consumed plenty of fresh, bloodied, venison fillet at the preparation stage.  I'd forgotten about that.

My punishment for my potty-mouth this afternoon is that I must post an embarrassing picture, selected by my partner, here on my blog.  I meekly accepted this retribution, whilst fervently pleading against the choice of a picture of one of my hind-paws protruding from beneath the duvet as I slept, which was unfortunately shared amongst my (mercifully, in this case, few) readers some weeks ago.

My partner chuckled softly, and gently patted my head.  "Ah, Jasper," she smiled, sweetly. "I promise you faithfully that I will NOT use a picture of one of your hind-paws.  You have my word on that."


Good night.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Friday 26 March 2010

The early bird, they say, catches the worm.  Well, in my street, I believe that there may be some worms who never even get to their beds of a night.

Allow me to be clearer.  At a most un-dogly hour the other morning, I was awakened from my gentle (and impossibly handsome) slumbers by an appalling cacophony.  Apparently, the chain of events began with the afore-mentioned early bird apprehending the unfortunate early worm.

Last weekend heralded the Vernal Equinox; the beginning of Spring.  I find that, in my road at least, this occurrence apparently marks "The Emergence of the Cats".  This is an event, more infernal than vernal, when those cats too cowardly to venture out of doors during the cold Winter months decide that it's warm enough outside for them once again - and so out they come.  I thought it had been pleasantly quiet of late. 

Now the place is once again awash with felines - the faction with bells on their collars and their bell-less counterparts are, as before, at loggerwhiskers. 

The recalcitrant Peaches has been about all Winter, of course; just the other day I heard him shouting filth at some poor innocent and, a few weeks ago, I noticed that little Archie, the young Jack Russell from three doors away, came home from his early-morning walk in tears after having received a thorough "Peach-ing".   

I was secretly pleased to see my former kitten protégée Zac (though now a kitten no longer, but a full-grown tomcat) and his two siblings, Milo and Sophie, out enjoying the sunshine - although I carefully avoided the notice of their mother, Chloe.  If you were reading this blog a year ago you will know why... 

I digress.  I return to the matter at paw (the wrenching of my sweet self from dreamy slumber).

The blackbird who had succeeded in claiming his pre-dawn worm became subject to a barrage of feline harassment.  They could not reach him, but they could most certainly shout at him.  The bird was a feisty one; he chirruped beakfuls of cheek back to them from the safety of his branch.  I heard a tell-tale muffled thud, pattering of feet, and the opening and closing clicks of a little door from the neighbouring house, which heralded Starsky's entrance into the mêlée.  He barked loudly at them all to shut up which, naturally, only served to increase their derisive shouts.  It descended into a racket, in which individual voices could not be distinguished, of Starsky shouting at the cats, the cats shouting at the bird and the bird tweeting furiously back at them all - his anger only increasing when the shouting caused him to drop his worm into the hedge.

I thought about going outside and putting a stop to the verbal fisticuffs.  But it was dark and cold outside.  I settled instead for shoving my head under the pillow and hoping I snored loudly enough to block out the noise of the affray.

I really hate cats.


I turn first to the new resident in our block - Pebble.  He was a little Staffordshire Bull Terrier/Something else with wiry fur cross, entirely black save for a single white diamond-shaped patch on the middle of the top of his head.  He was in the pen next to Kipper, which had formerly been occupied by Plum, the eccentric Jack Russell.  Pebble had only been in the shelter for one day and night but he had already become excessively attached to Kipper.  I couldn't blame him - poor Pebble was in desperate need of a friend and Kipper was the ideal comfort for a dog with a tormented mind.

Kipper told me of Pebble's sad case a day or so later as we walked together (after the stitches had been removed from my now-empty 'nad-sack) around the exercise field.
"Poor s*d." he sighed.  "He'd been with his owners for about a year.  Then, out of the blue, three days ago, they all piled into the car and took Pebble out to one of the local country parks."
"Sounds nice." I responded, "What, did he get lost?"
"Huhff," snorted Kipper, "Worse than that.  They stopped the car, one of them got out, and threw a stick for Pebble to chase.  As he went off after it, the person just got straight back into the car and they drove off.  There wasn't a trace of them to be sniffed when Pebble brought the stick back."
"B*st*rds!" I gasped, shocked at the appalling cruelty of this incident.
"Yes." nodded Kipper.  "One of the park's Rangers saw what happened though, picked up poor Pebble and drove off after the car.  He caught up with them and followed them all the way home; miles and miles, apparently.  When he knocked at their front door, they denied ever having owned a dog!  Evil b*st*rds..."
"So the Ranger brought him here?"
"Yeah, well what else could he do?  Poor Peb's in one big mess of a state."
"I can imagine."
"The really sad thing," frowned Kipper, "Is that, every night before he gets off to sleep, he asks me when his family is coming to collect him.  He just can't accept the fact that he was deliberately abandoned, poor s*d."
I tutted and shook my head.  Kipper and I continued the rest of our walk in silence, each of us musing (and not for the first time) on the cruelty of some humans.

After that conversation, I made a point of chatting to Pebble and helping Kipper to ensure that he was included in our group discussions and songs.  Although somewhat hesitant, Pebble was a very affable little chap.  Always friendly, often eloquent and with a surprisingly light and beautiful singing bark.  Alas, however, whatever pleasurable events or chats had occurred during the day, or in the course of our lights-out conversations, it would always end the same for poor Pebble.  We would all be settling quietly into our baskets - and then would come the plaintive little voice:
"Are they coming to collect me tomorrow, Kipper?"
"I'm sorry, Pebble, no.  I don't believe they are."
"Oh.  Well, they might.  Night-night Kipper, night-night everyone."

It seldom varied.  Sometimes Pebble would confidently assert instead of questioning.
"They're coming to fetch me tomorrow, Kipper.  I know they are."
"You mustn't get your hopes up Pebble.  I don't expect that'll happen."
"They DEFINITELY are.  They'll come and get me tomorrow, I know it.  Goodnight."

But they never did come to get him.  Poor Pebble - his steadfast faith in the family that cruelly dumped him was almost heartbreaking.  Pebble was not in any way feeble-minded.  He just couldn't get over what had happened to him.

Good night.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Friday 19 March 2010

I am giving SERIOUS thought to confiscating (on a permanent basis) my partner's brand new mobile 'phone.

For those of you not up-to-speed with current (ever-changing) technology, even the most basic of mobile telephone handsets these days come complete with digital cameras.  The enthralling handset that my partner acquired some two weeks ago sports a camera more efficient than her actual, individual, digital camera.  Sadly, this technological advance is squandered upon such a simple female mind.

Can you imagine, dearest reader, with which subject my partner has been developing her mobile 'phone photographic skills?

No...?  Perhaps a second guess, then...?

Yes - that's right. ME.  Some of the most abusive, disrespectful images ever committed to computer technology have been recorded of my sweet, unsuspecting self, complete with insulting and derogatory captions.  Just witness for yourself, should you not believe me:

I understand that this particular model of handset (the Nokia 6303) also features a "video camera", which my partner has hinted may be employed in uploading to this blog a video of my good self - snoring, chuntering, and, indeed, singing in my sleep.

Do not be surprised, therefore, if you should hear that this piece of telephonic faecal matter has mysteriously disappeared.  For I shall admit no responsibility...  Oh no.  'Twas never me, your honour...

If only ALL such crimes went unpunished....


Retribution was swift and cutting.  Shortly after the Night of the Isolated Bitches (described previously), Rex and I were hauled off to the vet's and returned, a day or two later, each minus a couple of ounces...  Yes.  Our love-spuds had been tossed into the barbecue of fate.

And don't think the smug grin on Dave's face as he drove us back to the shelter escaped me, either.

Kipper was spared this most insulting of fates, as his heart-condition forbade all but the most vital administering of anaesthetic.  As this was not an 'essential' surgical procedure per sé, our jammy pack leader was excused. D*mn him...  Although he did express sincere sympathy upon our return to our pens.

In actual fact, it didn't come as a complete surprise.  All dogs and bitches were generally castrated and spayed respectively before leaving the shelter.  All too often, boxes of unwanted pups had been dumped by the shelter's gates - a sad indictment of today's somewhat louche world.  Hence the policy of sending adopted canines into the world without the ability to produce future generations of abandoned pups.

Rex was unbarkably livid about the whole affair, and complained unceasingly about his deprivation for a good, long while, although he was infinitely appeased some sixty days later - when news of the birth of two, healthy, attractive Boxer-cross pups to one of the shelter's bitches filtered through to us.  From that day forth, Rex strutted about with a proud smile on his face and not a single further whimper of complaint passed his lips.

As for me - I remained philosophical about the whole matter.  I still felt fortunate in my escape from my terrible past life; I drew comfort from the fact that never would I die from Testicular Cancer; and then, there was the story of Rats.

Rats was a wire-haired Jack Russell/Dachshund cross who lived in the pen opposite Rex.  We all, to a dog, remembered the episode that Rats had, one evening, related to us of how one of his testicles had once become trapped in an automatic sliding door.  The whole block had almost shook with the collective shudder of each and every dog as Rats described the excruciating pain of having a door slam shut on one of his gonads.  The unfortunate 'nad had subsequently swelled up to the size of a football and poor Rats had found no peace neither night nor day, as no standing, sitting or reclining position ceased to press pain upon this most tender of parts.  The fact that this would never happen to ME from this day forth was consolation enough.

Rex and I returned to two new developments: the arrival of a new resident, Pebble, and preparations for the impending visit of the Grande Dame of dog rescue shelters everywhere - Miss Dorothy Smart.

Good night.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Wednesday 17 March 2010

My partner willingly admits to being something of a hoarder.  It was only when we moved into our own little house just over a year ago, and I saw how many cardboard boxes were to accompany us to our new life, that I realised exactly how much of a hoarder she was.

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy maturing a good bone or a chew over time in order to savour the flavour the next time I am minded to gnaw.  But my partner’s collection extends to more than a few fang-marked rawhide chews.  Her boxes contain an eclectic assortment, to bark the least.  School exercise books from her infant years; souvenirs, postcards and photographs from past holidays; old Christmas and Birthday cards; letters from old friends and much-loved and long-deceased relatives; gifts and knick-knacks accumulated over the years; etc.  In the absence of wealth and abundance, the memories inspired by these otherwise trivial items are her most precious treasures.

Now that we are settled in our little house and the spring is upon us, my partner has become inspired to sort out her boxes.  Some contain pictures and books which can be “upgraded” to shelves and walls, thus freeing up storage space and making our house more homely.  Two weeks ago, the Great Sort-Out began. Naturally, my capabilities inclined me towards a supervisory role. To begin with, it was a case of picking out decorative items for the home and sorting all the Private Eye magazines into one box, all the old Doctor Who mags into another, and gaining some semblance of order among the chaos.  However, as various forgotten items were re-discovered, I grew increasingly fascinated as my partner shared with me some of her significant memories.

It then struck me that we, ourselves, are much like these boxes.  We carry around our experiences, both good and bad, tightly packed inside us.  Grief over lost loved-ones and past happiness are locked away until we are ready or wishing to find them again.  These treasures are never seen unless we choose to unpack them and share them with others, and old times can be appreciated once more.  One box in particular offered up a suitably representative sample. Together, my partner and I examined:

Photos of my partner as a small child;

A school exercise book from when my partner was learning to write (I was particularly impressed with her rendering of the word “goat”. A sign of things to come, perhaps…);

Cards given to my partner on her eighth birthday;

A painting of a horse by my partner aged ten (to be honest, it looked like someone had sneezed some gravy onto a piece of paper, but I am assured it was a horse);

a questionnaire designed by my ten-year-old partner, for a school project to obtain the views of town residents on the council’s proposed bypass road (now a long-established route - the main road to London, in fact);

Some pictures of my canine predecessors, Jaki and Tess (Jaki had lived to a reasonable age – Tess, alas, had succumbed to cancer aged only seven after an epically brave battle and many trips to the vet, which left my partner with a legacy of financial problems.  Although every single penny was one well-spent.);


A handwritten letter from my partner’s Great-Auntie Win, expressing much love in her pretty writing (Auntie being the first - and dearly-loved - close relative of my partner’s to pass away);

Some photos of my teenaged partner messing about with her friends;

A beautiful dark wood marquetry box.

This last item brought forth more of the tears that had first appeared when re-reading Auntie Win’s letter.  The wooden box was carefully retrieved, cradled, and placed on a shelf.  I assumed that this was a jewellery box but, upon enquiry, my partner told me that the precious casket contained only ashes.  There was a little brass plaque affixed to the top of the carved box.

It read simply “Tess”.

Youth; education; happiness; grief - all in one cardboard box; tucked carefully away in an unassuming receptacle until the memories are ready to be explored once again.

More "Evolution" next time - when Dave has his revenge...!

Good night.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Saturday 13 March 2010

I suppose that most of my friends have been on their knees in supplication; fervently praying for a recovery for me from my horrific injuries.  Well, fear not.  I am almost healed.  Although, I have to bark, you might have thrown in a word during your prayers about my constipation.  It's been like trying to pass a watermelon through a weasel's eye, it really has.

Never mind.  I am much-mended and enjoying the Spring immensely.  I thank my dear friends Lance and Angie for your words of support after the recent incident (which - to reiterate - did NOT involve me being beaten up by a girl), as well as all those who sent silent good wishes.

My partner did not go in to work the other day.  "Women's monthly problems." she explained, when I expressed my concern.  I do not understand ladies. They are always complaining.  Why should any one problem cause more trouble than others on a recurring monthly basis?  "No, Jasper." she said, attempting to clarify, "I mean 'having the decorators in'...?  'falling to the communists'...? 'surfing the crimson wave'...? 'having a visit from Aunt Flo'...? 'on the blob'...?"  I listened to her euphemisms, but declined to remain for her explanations.  It all sounded unnecessarily messy and far too inconvenient for my ears.

And barking of ladies' reproductive cycles...


Well, it was inevitable, really.  I mean, where else would three handsome young studs head for in the wee small hours?

Kipper, Rex and I trotted across the daisy-spotted grass towards the Isolation Block as the rain began to fall in earnest.  By the time we reached the door, our fur was soaked through and the rain dripped off our snouts.  We heard a distant rumble - my first ever encounter with the thundering Sky-Dog!  (Kipper had explained about the Sky-Dog to all of us dogs in our lights-out chat a few nights previously, when the heat-wave had entered that tell-tale stifling humidity, which often heralded the Sky-Dog's arrival).  But we were not afraid.  We were too absorbed in our little adventure.  Besides that, we were all desperate for the relief from the insufferable heat that the storm would bring.

We reached the door and stood, dripping, while we waited for Rex to get us in.
"Hurry up." muttered Kipper.  After much scuffling and scraping, Rex growled a gruff curse.
"Bl**dy thing." he grunted.  "There's a key lock as well as the bolt."
"So?" I replied innocently.
"Oh - so you've got the key then have you, Captain, you numpty?!"
"Hey!  Hey!" hissed Kipper.  "Don't have a go at him!  It's alright - there must be a window somewhere."

The three of us duly trotted around to the rear of the building where - sure enough - a window was open.  The sweet scent of the ripe bitches inside wafted out and mingled with the smell of the rain.  The window was lower than the one in the reception area (which we had used to exit the dogs' block) but still beyond our jumping range.  If Rex stood right up on his hind tip-claws, he could just poke his head inside, but it was clear that we would need some kind of half-way step in order to successfully gain entry.  We looked about us for something that might suffice.
"What about that?" I suggested, indicating a round metal dustbin up by the main gate.
"Definitely worth a try." agreed Kipper, and we trotted up to the gate.  "Careful not to tip it over." he said, as he and I got behind the bin and began pushing it, with much scraping and crunching of gravel.  Rex watched us, shaking his head.
"You prats." he groaned. "Just tip it over and we can roll it all the way to the window!"

Before Kipper had even finished barking "Rex - no!", the big Boxer had joined us behind the bin and given it a mighty shove.  With a resounding crash, the bin toppled to the ground and we froze; rooted to the spot as the circular lid spun noisily round and round, finally coming to settle.  Happily, luck appeared to be on our side.  There was no cacophony of barking from the blocks of sleeping dogs and bitches, just one or two irritated whimpers and then silence, save for the rapid patter of heavy rain.

"Oops." said Rex, sheepishly, once we had decided it was safe to stop holding our breaths.
"Come on." muttered Kipper, and we rolled the bin down the slight slope to the Isolation Block, carefully manoeuvring it to below the open window.  Kipper and I stood on each side of it, holding it steady, as Rex clambered on.  The bin instantly spun between us and the movement, coupled with the rainwater on the metal caused Rex to slip backwards and fall off the bin.
"Sh*t!" he growled as he hit the ground.  Getting up again, he looked sourly at the bin and said "Now what?!"  We looked about us again.

Finally, Kipper said "That might work."  We looked over to where he was indicating and saw a wheelbarrow about half-way down the hill.  "Let's try it." he suggested, and we set off in the other direction.  With another hefty crash, the three of us managed to push it over and began to shove it up towards the metal bin.  About two-thirds of the way up, Kipper sat down suddenly on the wet grass, puffing slightly.  "Hang on lads." he gasped.  "Just got to have a bit of a sit down."
"Are you alright?" I asked, concerned.
"Yes, yes." replied Kipper, catching his breath, "Thanks Cap.  Just a bit puffed out."  He stood up and prepared to help us shove the barrow again.
"Don't worry Kip," said Rex, kindly. "Cap and I have got this covered.  We'll shove it the rest of the way and you take it easy for a bit."
"Definitely." I agreed, nodding.
"Cheers boys." said Kipper, as his breathing became easy again.

With more banging and scraping than we intended, Rex and I succeeded in getting the upturned wheelbarrow behind the dustbin.  "Now use the barrow to wedge the bin against the wall." directed Kipper.  "And then it won't roll away again."
"Genius." grunted Rex, as he and I pushed the wheelbarrow against the bin until neither would move any further.  "Now to have another go!"  He climbed first onto the underside of the barrow and then onto the bin which - as Kipper had predicted - stood firm.  In no time at all, he had squeezed himself through the window, followed closely by Kipper and then me.

Pleased to have succeeded in our goal and be out of the pouring rain, Kipper and I shook the excess water from our fur.  Glancing about us, we saw one row of around ten nice, roomy pens.  Eight contained bitches, all fragrant and alert, one pen was empty and one final little white body was curled up on a beanbag in the pen nearest us and the window.
"Oh look," remarked Kipper, glancing into this latter pen, "There's old George!"  George was an affable little West Highland Terrier from our bit of the dogs' block.  He had been selected for adoption by a nice retired couple but, before they had collected him, George had picked up an exceptionally nasty urinary infection.  He ended up having to undergo a minor operation and was recuperating quietly in the Isolation Block until he was better and could depart to his new home.
"Oh yes!" I yipped. "Alright, George, mate?"  But little George was fast asleep and didn't even stir from his slumbers.  "Lucky b*gg*r." I muttered to Kipper, "Being stuck in here with all these girls."
"Yeah," grinned Kipper, "But judging from the state of his 'Little George' last time I saw him, messing about with the bitches is the last thing he'd want to do..."
"Yes - poor George." I chuckled.

Kipper and I didn't reflect for long on the miserable irony of George's situation, however, as the spectacle of Rex at his charming best proved amusingly distractive.  He had sidled up to the nearest bitch and was beaming his most glittering smile at her through her pen door.
"Greetings, my dear," he simpered, in a tone of bark that almost made Kipper and I laugh out loud.  "What an enchanting, slender young beauty you are.  I do like the fascinating way you have styled your fur.  How striking!"  Kipper and I exchanged a glance, with raised eyebrows and grins.  Kipper shook his head.  The bitch, however, seemed delighted with Rex's flattery.  She giggled coquettishly and whispered something to him.  Without further ado,  the Boxer reached up with his snout and unbolted the door of his lady's pen.  Kipper and I discreetly withdrew further down the room, giving them some privacy.

The next bitch along was an exquisitely pretty young Brittany Spaniel, who batted her eyelashes flirtatiously at me.  Her scent was utterly bewitching and closed out all other senses to me. 'Well,' I thought to myself, "If Rex can do it..."
"Please accept my compliments, my dear." I smiled, bowing low to the lady, who returned my bow with a wildly wagging tail, "For now I know where that sweet briar, the Dog Rose, got its name.  Was there ever such a more beautiful bloom than you...?"  The pretty bitch giggled enticingly.  I was just about to try and "do a Rex" and attempt to unbolt her door when there was an almighty crash.  The outer door flew open and there, dripping wet, in the doorway stood an extremely angry Dave, clad in a blue flannel dressing gown and hastily-donned trainers with the laces undone, with a torch in one hand and a baseball bat in the other.  The traitorous harpy I had been wooing scuttled, like a hyperactive crab, back to her bed and pretended to be asleep.  Out of the corner of my eye I could see Kipper trying to dissolve into the floor.

"What the bl**dy HELL is going on?!"  bellowed Dave, flicking a switch on the wall, which flooded the room with light.  He viewed the scene before him with a mixture of anger and incredulous disbelief.  "How in the world did you two get in here?!"  As water dripped from the ends of his dressing gown, forming little puddles on the floor, Dave struggled to comprehend our presence in the Isolation Block.  He noticed the wet marks on the far wall and floor; where we'd got in through the window, and was about to say something else when he spotted the open pen door.  With a roar, he dropped the torch and baseball bat and ran into the pen.  "No, no, no, no, no, NO!!!" he yelled.  Kipper and I exchanged a glance and huddled closer together as a mixture of frantic yelps, barks, growls and much scratching of claws issued forth from the pen.  A red-faced Dave half-carried, half-dragged an enraged Rex out of the pen.  When dropped, Rex flung himself back towards the pen, but Dave was there before him, banging the door closed and flinging back the bolt.  Rex snarled and looked ready to attack Dave, so Kipper - with me close behind - ran up and put himself firmly between Rex and Dave.
"Rein it in, Rex." warned Kipper.
"Yeah." I backed up our leader.  "We're already in the sh*t, Rex.  Don't make it worse for yourself."  Rex calmed himself, puffing and panting.  Dave glared at the three of us.  He walked back to the door and retrieved his bat and torch and then held the door wide open.
"Out." he said, switching off the light.

The three of us trooped sheepishly past him and out of the Isolation Block and stood shivering in the pouring rain as Dave retrieved a bunch of keys from his dressing-gown pocket and locked the outer door.  Snapping on his powerful torch, he began to squelch across the sodden grass towards the reception area.  Kipper and I walked side-by-side behind him and Rex followed behind us, muttering and grumbling to himself.  The rain was driving down so hard that the drops almost hurt when they hit us.  Dave's dressing-gown was soaked through and the flaps stuck to his legs

All of a sudden, Dave gave a cry as he suddenly slipped and fell backwards, landing firmly on his bottom in a puddle.  A turd, lurking concealed at the edge of the grass, glistening wet, had toppled him and was now liberally spread across the base of one of Dave's trainers.  Rex, perhaps uncharitably, but understandably (for Dave's fall was comically spectacular, with much flailing of limbs) exploded with laughter.  Kipper and I just about managed to suppress our sniggers.  We pursed our lips and stared resolutely at the ground, knowing that we would be undone if we caught each other's eye.  I shook with the desperately-suppressed laughter, and could feel Kipper similarly twitching beside me.  It didn't help that Rex was laughing and snorting behind us.

Alas!  Dave's trials were not yet at an end.  Swearing and muttering, he began to get up.  Putting out one hand to support him as he rose, the palm of his hand pressed firmly down on another waiting turd; the twin of the one on which he had slipped.  He gave a sharp cry of dismay and I thought Rex was going to burst.
"Mmmfmmffff..." whimpered Kipper, rapidly losing his battle with decorum.  As poor Dave began again on his sleep-disturbed, soaking, be-fouled trek, I accidentally caught Kipper's eye.
"Pfffthhtt..." I spluttered and, with not a little relief, we both joined Rex in roaring with helpless laughter.  Dave momentarily stopped walking, but he did not turn; deciding that he had lost all dignity, thus rendering pointless any reprimand.

We waited, still helplessly laughing, as Dave unlocked the reception door, and followed him into the building.  It was a relief to get out of the rain, although any cold and wet annoyances had been totally forgotten.  Dave opened the Door of Doors.
"In." he muttered through gritted teeth.  Still chortling, we trotted past him.  The majority of dogs were awake, awaiting our return and tales of our exploits.  There were many raised eyebrows and interested expressions at the spectacle that greeted them.  Dave squelched his soggy way to the end of the row of pens and glared at Rex, who wandered into his pen, still chuckling.  With deliberate patience, he closed the door and bolted it firmly.  After locking Kipper and I into our pens he turned back up the corridor and stood in front of Kipper's pen.
"And you." he said to my friend, "I am particularly disappointed in you."  Kipper bowed his head and pretended to look ashamed, but the gleam in his eye did not escape me.

Dave dripped and squelched his turd-scented way back through the Door of Doors and we heard him locking the outer doors.  Rex immediately began a recital of events and, a few moments later, the entire dogs' block erupted into laughter.

Poor Dave had to squelch all the way back down the hill to his bungalow, pursued by the sound of a blocks'-worth of helpless canine laughter ringing in his ears.

I am delighted to see a new follower in my list - welcome Nono, great to see you here (and Yushay, who I think I forgot to welcome before)!

Good night.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Thursday 4 March 2010

Before the twisted rumours reach you - YES.  It's TRUE.  Today, I was slightly injured in a fight.  And YES - my antagonist was a girl.

A female Labrador to be precise.  But before you start formulating witty quips along the lines of "Jasper, you've lost it, mate." with which to taunt me; I must be allowed to explain.  I was innocently walking past her garden gate with Maisie this afternoon, when a golden snout appeared under the gate and issued sudden, disrespectful, remarks about my bottom and its perkiness.  I flew to defend my bottom's honour and scraped the skin beneath my right nostril off my nose against the gate post.  Here is an image taken only moments ago on my partner's BRAND NEW mobile 'phone, which shows the full extent and scope of my scarring.  It may be distressing to some - for which I apologise.  I could have been killed.  (Forgive also the picture quality - my partner and I have never had a 'phone with a camera on it before).

Scarred for life. One dog's pain; a Nation's tragedy.

However - to refute the wee-mail items which have begun to appear on the usual posts around the town - the mighty Jasper was not "beaten up by a girl".  That is all I have to bark on this matter.  I thank you.


As Kipper was the pack leader of the dogs' block, so there was also, naturally, a pack leader amongst the bitches.  Apparently a pretty cross between a Golden Retriever and a Springer Spaniel, called Poppy, it was common gossip throughout the shelter that she was very sweet on Kipper, and the bitches often discussed a union between them.  Generally, instead of discussions, the bitches used to have a group sing in their block before lights-out.  We used to enjoy listening to their melodies and sometimes joined in with songs we knew.  On clear nights, however, little snippets of gossip would waft across to our ears - besides which, the numerous wee-mail postings out of doors couldn't be ignored.  Some of the bitches didn't seem to twig that we dogs would be sniffing their messages as well, whilst taking our exercise...

Kipper steadfastly refused temptation, however.  I once questioned him about his apparent lack of interest in the ladies, regretting that his noble and good genes should be denied to the next generation.
"It's the heart problem, Captain, mate." he explained, referring to his congenital heart defect,one afternoon as he and I were being walked together.  "There's a chance it might be hereditary.  Wouldn't want to inflict that sort of thing on innocent pups."
"But you're fine, Kip." I wuffed.  "You get on alright here, don't you?"
"Yes." he replied, casting his eyes to the ground.  Then, he raised his head and looked me straight in the eye.  "Cap, I scent I can trust you.  Do you promise not to wee-mail anything I tell you?"
I met his gaze and nodded solemnly.
"I would never betray your confidence to the pack, Kip." I promised.
"Well," began Kipper, hesitantly. "You know, Cap; I really would love a family.  One with kids, where we could run and play together.  Is that daft?"
"No." I replied, feeling strangely moved.  "Not daft at all.  You'll get your family one day, Kipper.  One that doesn't mind taking a dog with a poorly heart.  Just keep faith, mate, and you'll get a family that loves you."
"Promise, Cap.?"
"I promise.  You'll see.  Just a case of waiting for the right one, that's all."
"Cheers Captain.  You're a good mate."

I was true to my bark and never breathed or wee-ed even a hint of Kipper's secret hopes.  He confided in me again from time to time and, not long after, appointed me as his "deputy pack leader", with the agreement of the rest of the pack.  I could think of no higher honour, and Kipper seemed much-relieved to have a confidante to whom he could discreetly chat about his secretly-longed-for home and family, without fear of embarrassment.

The weeks passed by; dogs came and went; and the weather turned to a persistently oppressive hot summer.  The heat-wave seemed as though it would never end and we were all glad of our pens - their metal bars and concrete flooring provided exquisite coolness.  Most evenings during the heat-wave we were too listless for our lights-out chat.  In our part of the block, it was Rex the Boxer who seemed to suffer the most.  He was at the end of my row of pens, against the outer wall, and there was an open, high-up window above his pen.  You may recall that across the grass from the dogs' block stood the small isolation block.  Temporarily resident in the isolation block for the past few days had been a number of bitches on heat.  Their exotic, enticing scent was close to driving most of us mad, as there was no breeze to carry it from our noses.  Poor Rex took the initial hits of these intoxicating odours through the window above him, without cessation, during the humid days.

On one particular, fateful, night, quite a number of us dogs were awake and a little more alert than usual.  A storm was coming - we could smell it in the air - bringing rain and relief from the sweltering temperatures.  I was lying in my basket, wide awake, trying not to think about the in-season bitches, when a familiar brown face appeared in front of my pen.
"Alright, Cap.?" said Rex, for it was he, "Fancy a bit of a jaunt?"
"No thanks, Rex." I replied.  Then, suddenly, the penny dropped that Rex was standing alone, well after lights-out, outside the door of my pen.  I jumped up and trotted up to him. "What are you doing out there?!" I whispered, trying to control my voice so as not to wake the sleeping dogs around us.  Kipper and one or two others also got up and their faces appeared at their pen-doors.
"That work-experience girl who fed us this evening didn't bolt my pen-door properly." grinned Rex, winking at me.  He turned to face back down the corridor.  "Anyone up for a spot of mischief?"
"Count me in." I replied, wagging my tail.  Most of the other dogs were either too sleepy or too concerned about getting into trouble with Dave to become accomplices in Rex's nefarious plan but Kipper decided that he would join us.
"Well, someone's got to keep an eye on you..." he grinned.
"Excellent!" grunted Rex, and we all wagged our tails.  Drawing on the skills learned in his pre-shelter life, Rex grasped the bolt of my pen-door and slid it smoothly back.  I pushed the door open and waited as he released Kipper.  Some of the younger pups, who were still awake, giggled at our naughty bravado as the three of us approached the Door of Doors.  It wasn't locked.  We pushed it open and found ourselves in the Reception area.  Unfortunately, the outer doors were all locked up; I suppose the time was around 2.00am.  After padding about for a bit, Rex found an outer window in the staff room which wasn't fully shut.  It was small and quite high up.  "Too small for humans." muttered Rex, assessing the easiest route to the window, "But WE can squeeze through.  Follow me."

Kipper and I exchanged an amused glance as Rex jumped onto a battered old sofa against the outer wall, then balanced himself carefully on its back, before reaching up and, with scrabbling hind-paws, hauled himself through the little window; opening it all the way with his head.  We heard him grunt a bit as he dropped down to the ground outside, scraping against a laurel hedge as he fell.  Kipper followed and I successfully got through the window on my third attempt (not being as long in the body as my companions).

We were out!!!  Glowing with success, we hardly flinched at all as the first huge drops of rain splattered onto our snouts, heralding the beginning of the storm.

But Kipper, Rex and Captain were at liberty in the grounds of the rescue-shelter.  Where - oh, where - do you think we might choose to go...?  Hehehe... Oh yes.

Good night.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Uh-oh.  I am well and truly deep in the human-house.  And it's entirely my fault.

I was already hovering over the thin, fragile, line that separates "acceptable behaviour" and "extreme wickedness".  A couple of nights ago I watched as my partner, after downloading a weemail, accidentally dropped her mobile 'phone into the toilet.  Oh yes.

To flush, or not to flush?  That was the question.  Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of one's outraged neighbours, whose drains have been blocked by a mobile 'phone - or to plunge arms into a sea of fresh urine?  My partner, after swift deliberation, opted for the latter.  The expression on her face was a joy to behold as she swiftly retrieved the sunken handset and, afterwards, began a thorough and lengthy scrubbing of her hands and arms (she says she still doesn't quite feel clean).  I endeavoured to flee the scene before I was noticed - but, alas.  My partner saw me scuttling away, and was far from heartened by my derisive laughter.

The mobile, naturally, died a swift death after its sudden submersion and could not be revived.  Happily, my partner is on a contract for her 'phone so today a new, more whizzy, handset has been supplied.  The matter of my disrespectful amusement at her predicament was, therefore, put aside.

If only fate had left it there.

In the early hours of this morning, however, a situation somewhat more serious arose.

My partner happened to wake up suddenly from an unpleasant dream at around 2.00am.  Before she laid herself back down to resume her slumbers, she found that my sleeping form had involuntarily manoeuvred its way to the very edge of our bed and that I was, in fact, only a few precarious millimetres away from tumbling backwards onto the floor.  As she stretched out her arms to gently move me to a safer position, my inherent body-sensors picked up on my imminent danger and pricked me into alert wakefulness.  Unaware of my partner's proximity I sprang, grasshopper-like, backwards away from the edge of our bed.  In doing so, the top of my mighty head collided - accompanied by a sickeningly firm sound of impact - with the base of my partner's jaw.  And this caused her to involuntarily bite clean through her own tongue.

With an horrendous shriek, my partner leapt from our bed, clasping her hand to her mouth.  Blood fountained forth from between her fingers, and two pools of it had already formed in her cupped hands before she reached the bedroom door.  Her tongue began instantly to swell, and the poor maiden could not even speak to chide me.

After grasping a roll of absorbent paper-tissue from the bathroom, my partner staggered downstairs to the telephone to ring NHS Direct, who were most helpful with her predicament.  My partner had to call them back in the morning, and then wait for them to call her back at home because - as you will recall - her mobile 'phone was broken.  This then meant that my partner had to telephone her work colleagues to inform them that she would be late arriving at the office and also had to explain why.

Fortunately, the tongue-swelling had ceased by morning, although my partner continued to sound like Jamie Oliver for the rest of the day.  She is only allowed to have soft foods like soup and mashed potato for at least three days.  There are two actual puncture wounds in her tongue (one on each side) from where her incisors went in, and around four lesser marks from her wisdom teeth - and one cannot exactly put a plaster on one's tongue.  As well as the pain, light-headedness from blood-loss, and fatigue from the lost sleep, my partner has had to endure mockery from her colleagues.  "It's on the tip of your tongue...", "Don't bite your tongue...", "Bit of a tongue-twister...", etc.  We also have a permanent reminder of the episode at home, in the bloodstained telephone directory.

It was approximately 12.30pm this afternoon before my partner could even bring herself to look at me.

She says she is going to sell me to the "Poultry Pizzlers"-type people, who make dubiously meat-related products to sell at the cheapest possible price to schools for kiddies' dinners.  She reckons they'd get a good 50 - 100 "Pizzlers" out of my various component parts.  A colleague commented that she would be better advised to sell me to the local gypsies and a further Judas suggested enrolling me on a Korean cookery course.  I DID get a walk and my dinner today, so my partner must surely be joking, mustn't she?

Mustn't she...?

I'm not allowed to tell my Kipper/Rex/Misadventure story tonight, as a punishment.  Instead, I have to sit quietly and think about why I must consider the consequences of my actions before I take them, so I am going to go and do that now.

She is joking, isn't she...?

Good night.