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."
"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.