Saturday, 24 April 2010

Saturday 24 April 2010

Do you know - I am actually finding the run-up to the general election quite entertaining.

But only because it gives me some people to bark at.  I ran out through the French Windows onto my patio about half an hour ago, believing that I was barking at my neighbour Starsky as he returned from his walk - but it turned out to be the local Liberal Democrat.  Ever the consummate politician, he didn't bark back, but asked me how I was enjoying the sunshine in my garden.  What a pro.  I once thought of standing for election myself - "The Black and White Party".  Everything in black and white clarity; that would be my motto.  My partner looked over my manifesto for me, and said that, perhaps, my march to Westminster and the corridors of power should be halted at the early steps.

She had nothing against my policies of bringing back free milk for schoolchildren and free meat for puppies.  Nothing against my plans to stop assisting in the bombing of the world's poorer countries.  And nothing even remotely against my professed intentions to punish all paedos, rapists and animal-abusers by hanging them with piano-wire.  Banning all mention of Katie "Jordan" Price and Kerry "Chip-shop" Katona from UK media, extinguishment of all companies who try to avoid paying tax or who stitch-up their employees (listening, Kraft?  Are you?  Eh?  EH?!?) and customary free contraception for all p*ssed-up chavs/Premiership footballers in nightclubs are all suggestions which sat well with my partner.

However, when she stumbled across my plans for the cats of this world, she was less assured.  She started to frown when she read my proposed scheme for annexing the next cul-de-sac down the road and commented that things were beginning to "get dark" at the mention of ghettos and complimentary "holiday camps" for all felines.  In fact, she became SO less-assured that she took away my manifesto and put it through her shredder.  I had to go to bed early after that - to "think about how I should be nice to all creatures, INCLUDING cats."  That took all of three seconds, but I still had to stay in bed without any supper-biscuit for writing mean things. 

That's absolutely the last time I dabble in politics, I can assure you.

Good day.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Monday 19 April 2010

Planes still grounded, then.  Jolly good.  It made for a blissful weekend.

I spent almost all sunlit hours basking in my garden enjoying the pure, unsullied melodies of the birdsong and buzzing of early bees.  My partner relaxed beside me oft-times, enjoying a cup of tea and her library book.  Now, that is the life... until one of the numpties in an allotment across the way got busy with a chainsaw and a bonfire.  But I am far too happy to complain.  I seem to have discovered my second puppyhood.  My partner cannot understand it, and suspects me of imbibing naughty leaves.  Most evenings, I scamper about the woods in pursuit of wily beasties for anything up to two hours.  Then I complain because it is time to go home.  AND I can still jump into my car seat unassisted.  Privately, I believe it is because my partner has made modifications to my diet.

I had been finding it increasingly difficult to digest all of the fresh meat with vegetables, with which Maisie provides my partner for my dinners.  My partner made a few, tentative forays towards explaining this to Maisie, but the overtures did not go well.  So now, we keep silent.  I have lovely tinned meat in jelly (sometimes I have chunks in gravy, but with the jelly is my supper of choice).  Delicious - and much easier for me to eat.  The Maisie-suppers do not go to waste, however.  My partner leaves them close to the local badger-sett.  Everyone's happy (as long as we don't tell Maisie!  Shhhh!!).

My partner is delighted at my newly-rediscovered energy levels and vigour.  I am happy too (I do have the occasional random bout of "disco leg", but that doesn't really bother me.  I have always loved to dance).  I love being able to chase beasties once more - and I believe I've almost got the drop on the sabre-toothed hippo I've been tracking in the woods for the past two years.  Victory will be mine!

The reason for my partner's suspicion centres around the key fact that, later this year, I will be 12 years old.  Apparently, if I was human (Heaven forbid), I would be 84.

But those are just numbers.   I LOVE my life - and I don't intend to slow up for anyone.

Jasper Stafford - Puppy 'til I die!  Oh yes.

Good night.


No-one would ever want me.  I was comfortable with that. Kipper, too, had accepted his fate (although he privately yearned for a family of his own).  We were just happy to support those dogs that needed it - and celebrate with the chosen ones.

Kipper was, in fact, often chosen by visitors - being a handsome, affable fellow; his mere appearance almost oozing sense, self-assurance and geniality.  But it was inevitable what would follow.  Dave (or one of the kennel-maids) would take aside the visitors for "a little word" - the information that Kipper had an unfortunate genetic heart condition, which could prove expensive and distressing in the long-term, and that would be the end of that.  Kipper always pretended that he didn't mind, but I was not deceived.

We were often walked together, Kipper and I, whilst our pens were cleaned and - after any incidents as outlined above Kipper was always quieter than usual.  He talked determinedly on a variety of subjects - but I could tell the difference.  I did my best to cheer him, but usually found that quietly listening to him and agreeing to what he said was the kindest thing.  VERY occasionally I saw the moonlight, streaming in through the window above Rex's pen, glinting on a tear, which was snaking down Kipper's caramel-coloured snout.  Generally, this was after he had been singled-out by visitors with children.  Kipper adored children - little ones especially.

Of course, I never mentioned that I had seen Kipper's sorrow.  I always saved up my best jokes to tell Kipper on days after visits involving "a little word", and kept his spirits as buoyant as I could.

There were some days, however, which generally involved Miss Smart and her sisters (as well as others), when Kipper DID get out and about to make friends with children of all ages.  These were our fund-raising days.

Fund-raising days were when volunteers and staff from the shelter would take the most appealing and well-behaved dogs into the local town centre (High Wycombe), with plastic collection jars.  Kipper was always involved in this (he and his human for the day usually had the prime pitch outside Marks and Spencer as well, the jammy toad) and, after a month or two, I was permitted to attend as well.  At various locations around the town centre, a volunteer and a doggy-inmate from the shelter would be stationed for a few hours with a collection box.  Shoppers and passers-by would come and put money in the tin, in exchange for a paper sticker and, often, a cuddle of the dog.  Kipper loved it - and I quickly understood why.

We both revelled in the contact and interaction with people.  We were popular and universally-loved for an entire day by a multitude of different humans - white; black (reminding me of the pretty girl amongst those who had assisted in saving my life); pale brown; all were eager to say hello to us dogs, have a cuddle and put pennies in the tins.  Meeting all these different people was as delightful to me as receiving a fresh steak or special biscuit, and I knew that Kipper felt the same.

I was often paired with one of the Miss Smarts.  I think they felt sorry for me because I was always a courteous, amicable sort - and yet no-one wanted me.  By this time I was, after Kipper, the longest-serving resident of the shelter.  Unwanted, unloved, and with no health issues to explain away my constant rejection.

Kipper and I ALWAYS got the most money in our tins, though, hehehe...


The night before it happened was just like any other.

As we drifted off to our respective sleeps, the usual sad query from little Pebble:
"Yes, Pebble?"
"Are my family going to come and get me tomorrow, Kipper?"
"I don't know Pebble, mate.  I don't expect so.  I'm sorry.  You sleep tight and we'll see what happens, eh?"
"Yeah, OK.  Good night Kipper.  Goodnight everyone."
There were a few muttered variations on "Goodnight, Pebble." from those of us still awake, and we all settled down - as usual - to our slumbers.

The next day was Saturday.  A visiting day.

One family amongst the other visitors stood out.  They walked slowly down my corridor, looking carefully into each pen.  As usual, I pretended to be asleep - despising the whole, sordid, process.  Opening one eye, I did notice, however, that this particular family hovered between Kipper's and Pebble's pens for some time.  From my position, I couldn't see which dog they were looking at - but it seemed to be Pebble. 

The family looked nice.  There was a man and a lady and two lively little boys, plus a smaller female child in a push-chair.  Their scent and their eyes positively exuded good natures and contented stability.  In short, Kipper's exact definition of his dream family.

On deferring their attentions to Kipper, Dave took the parents aside for the inevitable "little word".  I could almost smell the hope fading within Kipper - and it fair broke my heart.
"Ah." said the man quietly, nodding.  He directed the attentions of his children away from Kipper. 

With one last glance at Pebble, the family moved on to the next corridor.

After dinner, and another tactfully silent walk with a more-subdued-than-usual Kipper, Dave appeared at the Door of Doors.  In his hand, he clutched a prepared Red Card.

All were alert now, as he walked down my corridor, waiting to see who would, this time, be the chosen one.  A feint whiff of the nice family from earlier could be detected by the sharp-nosed amongst us from the all-important card.

He stopped in front of Pebble's pen and bent down to pick up a pin, which had fallen from his pocket.  And then he straightened up, smoothed-out the Red Card, and pinned it above the pen of the lucky dog who was soon to go to his new home.

And the pen   -   was Kipper's.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Saturday 17 April 2010

What a rum old week it has been.

Whilst reeling from the horrors of the earthquake in China, there was then the tragedy of the plane accident between Poland and Russia.  Here in the UK, we witnessed the first-ever televised debate between the main political leaders - my partner's polling card arrived in the post today; like a true lady she will not reveal for whom she intends to vote.  Suffice it to say that her cross will appear beside the candidate whom I have instructed her to support.  Oh yes. 

And do not think that it has escaped me that this week marked the 98th anniversary of the loss of the R.M.S. Titanic, God rest her, and those lost with her.

Not only that, however.  Oh no.  For the past three days, ALL flights in the UK have been grounded, due to a massive ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano spreading throughout our airspace and across Europe.

Some have been speculating that we may be witnessing the "End of Days".  I don't believe so - and I shall tell you for why.  Firstly, I haven't yet completed my little part-work "The Evolution of Jasper".  Secondly, I absolutely refuse to go without a last roast-beef dinner - and my partner hasn't got any beef in the fridge or freezer.  So, clearly, there is nothing to fear on the apocalypse front.

And I welcome this volcanic eruption.  Yes I do.  Seriously - I welcome it.  Somewhat ironically, our breathing air has not been cleaner and sweeter for decades.  It is a sheer, utter, blissful joy to look up into the sky and not see any polluting vapour-trails from passing aircraft.  Amidst the quiet countryside, during my walks, the birdsong and gentle breeze sound pure, strong and exquisite without the usual accompaniment of overhead jet-engines.  I can only wish that those in power would bestow on the world at least a week like this each year.  Just one week - so that nature can sound wholly as it should (apart from the cars and sounds of industry, obviously...).

Humans - and indeed mammals of all kinds, including dogs - are NOT intended to fly.  They have not wings.  Were such appendages necessary, we would have evolved with them.  Yes.  Outside of humanitarian or mammalarian crises, when all must rush to assist one's fellows, flight is not necessary.  We each have enough culture and interest in our own countries to negate the need for leisure travel elsewhere - and now the proliferation of webcams, and the internet generally, can help to educate us about other ways and cultures around the globe. There should be no excuse for ignorance.  My partner has an I.Q. of 159 (a somewhat meagre score, when compared with my own.  No matter.) and yet she has flown in an aeroplane precisely four times (and on one of those times the plane met with an unfortunate incident, putting her off the idea of ever hazarding my life by exposing me to overseas travel) and can intelligently appreciate and remark upon other cultures, races and religions.

And I'm not entirely convinced that the UK Government hasn't invented a fictitious volcano, in order to put the country on "lock-down" so that everyone gets SO bored that they start to find the pre-general election wranglings interesting and become inspired to actually vote for their next leader.  Stranger things have happened...

Enough of this diatribe. I'll be back soon with willie jokes and sniping about my acquaintances. Plus the next part of "The Evolution of Jasper".  See?!  There's always something to live for...!

Good day.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Easter weekend Sunday was one of those rather lovely occasions, where nothing out of the normal routine was anticipated, but an unexpected suggestion of an excursion leads to a delightful day out.

My partner and I were engaged to dine with her parents, where my partner's brother and sister-in-law and their delightful children, Ewan and Carys, were staying for the weekend.  Ewan is always charming, and Carys continues to grow into an exceptional young lady - particularly fond of me, which indicates wise judgement.

I dined in fine style, finishing off the childrens' splendid roast beef dinners, in addition to the scraps originally intended for me.  I received an Easter egg made from "doggy chocolate" from Maisie, which my partner is carefully rationing (bah!).  Not only this, but, out of the blue, my partner's father proposed an excursion to the nearest seaside location, Lepe Country Park.  This proposal was met with joyful acceptance and we travelled in two vehicles to the sea front.

Utterly delightful.  We had a good walk, I took a swim or two, played with several dogs also enjoying a spring afternoon outdoors, and helped Ewan and my partner to build a sand-castle.  To top it all, I was presented with a large lamb bone on my return - a meaty bone so large, in fact, that even I was unable to finish it, having to reluctantly relinquish the bit that was too much for me to the waste-bin.

I take to the water for the first time this year.  Lovely.

After a super day trip and a hearty supper.

Can there be a more enjoyable thing in life than an impromptu day out?

Good night.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Thursday 1 April 2010

This morning, I fully believed that I had parted company with my extensive collection of cerebral marbles.

Oh, it started well, to be sure.  I managed to avoid falling for japes and pranks of all types (it being April Fools Day), and even participated in a thrilling weasel-chase on arrival at my partner's work-place (belying my advancing years to vault clean over three piled-up coils of barbed wiring - to the chagrin of my partner - in my pursuit of the fellow.  The ne'er-do-well escaped through the woodpile, curse him.  I still managed to jump back over the barbed wire though, hehehe... Jasper's still got it... oh yes...).

We settled into our usual work places, my partner at her desk, whilst I undertook my rounds of the premises, greeting our colleagues and inspecting the status of the security arrangements.  One of my partner's colleagues had not yet arrived, although an inoffensive-looking cardboard box was placed on his desk.

After some fifteen minutes of peaceable industry, I became aware of a scuffling sound; seemingly emanating from the afore-mentioned box.  I crept cautiously closer to investigate.  Suddenly - without a warning of any kind - there was a loud and sharp hallooing, which caused me to start violently and leap a clear three feet backwards (which caused much inappropriate amusement to my partner and her colleagues).  Here is what was contained within the carton on the desk:

Yes.  A cockerel.

The colleague holding the fowl was giving it to another colleague, who keeps a number of chickens and whose own two cockerels were recently deceased.

I was decidedly unimpressed, and sought refuge 'neath my partner's desk, occasionally venturing out to exchange some scathing badinage with the feathery chap who, in my opinion, had FAR too much testosterone in him than was natural.

Dubious (and handsome) dog meets recalcitrant cockerel.

I did not trust the fellow sufficiently to take my eyes off him for even a second.

Fortunately, the fowl was taken to his new abode and harem of hens at lunchtime, so I was able to relax somewhat.  I am just saddened that virtually the entire morning was taken up with disrespectful mirth concerning the comparative manliness of myself as compared to the cockerel.  My partner's boss even recalled the bad old days of dog/cock-fighting and (in jest) proposed a re-enactment in the work-yard.  My partner said that she would put £1 on the cockerel.

There will be an answer for such appalling cheek; you can be certain of that.


Having introduced young Pebble, I move on to the other afore-mentioned name - heroine of Stokenchurch dogs and bitches; Miss Dorothy Smart.  Miss Smart lived in nearby High Wycombe with two of her unmarried sisters.  The three ladies adopted a number of dogs over the years from the home - usually those that were spurned by others or those that had particularly tragic histories or disabilities.  They were also extremely active and prolific fundraisers for the shelter.

Miss Smart was a brave sort - having distinguished herself admirably during the humans' Second World War.  She was tireless in her efforts for troubled dogs and even appeared on television to defend the rights of retired racing greyhounds.  She - sometimes alone and sometimes with one or the other of her sisters - would come along to the shelter most weekends, helping with various tasks, chatting with Dave and the kennel-maids, taking "inmates" like me for a walk, etc.  She was also a "visitor" and, at this point, I should pause to explain the adoption procedure for canine foundlings of the shelter.

Several days of the week, and at weekends, the shelter was open to the public - specifically to people who wished to adopt a dog.  Dave or one of his colleagues would conduct the guests around the pens and then, all being well, the favoured dog would be chosen.  The guests would then be allowed to take the chosen one for a walk, to get to know him or her and find out how they all got along together.  An interview of sorts would then be carried out, for shelter staff to satisfy themselves as to whether the prospective new owners understood the full commitment and responsibilities conferred with dog-ownership and, once all parties were happy, forms were signed and the lucky dog had a new home.  Sometimes, the dog (and any accompanying toys, as in Plum's case, bedding, etc.) would be taken by his new owners there and then.  Mostly, however, the dog remained in the home for another week or so for "neutering" (b*llock removal), and the much-coveted "red card" would be affixed to the pen-door of the chosen one until such time as he left us and was escorted on his final walk down the corridor to the Door of Doors to the sounds of our 'Song of Triumph', to begin his happy new life.

The red card was actually a white card.  But it had the word "RESERVED" written on it in large red letters, thus indicating to future guests that there was no point in choosing to adopt that particular dog, as he had been pre-selected by others.

It was generally possible for us 'old-timers' to guess which dogs would be favourites with the public - usually the scrappy, tousle-furred, large-eyed mutts did very well.  But there are all sorts of people to match all sorts of dogs.  However, the methods adopted by most of the dogs to attract the guests' attentions (and let it not be forgotten that the vast majority of canines in the shelter were desperate for love and affection and homes of their own) did not appeal whatsoever to me.  At visiting times, most dogs would rush to the doors of their pens, adopting the most adorable looks they could muster, wagging their tails, dancing, singing - anything to endear themselves to humans in the hope of winning the red card for their own pen door.  I'll admit that I did try it myself in the earlier days - but my heart wasn't really in it.  I felt that it was a base and shallow act, and dispiriting when one was not selected.  It was not long before I gave up even looking at the guests, preferring to retire to my bed for a nap at visiting times.  Dave and the kennel-maids could not understand why I was never picked as, after Kipper, I was the general favourite amongst them, with my open, chatty nature and neat friendly manners.

After a time, I grew certain.  No-one wanted me.  No-one would EVER want me.

Good night.