Dear, oh dear, it is hot. Far too hot for me.
My partner, muttering oaths, continued to go through the soil carefully. But not a trace did she find of the Rose of Sharon plant - not a single leaf or fragment of root. My partner glared furiously at me, her expression like thunder. She knew as well as I did what had happened to her plant.
Later that evening, after both the weather and my partner's fury had cooled a little, we went for a walk. About halfway 'round, I was moved to pursue a rabbit and raced after it through hedges and fields - one of the fields being thick with bright yellow flowers. On returning (eventually) to my partner, she stared at me in disbelief. I was liberally covered from snout to tail with yellow pollen. She laughed at me all the way back to the car, which I did not appreciate. Catching sight of myself in the car window, I was appalled. I was entirely yellow. I looked like a fat banana. But there was no need for my partner to laugh at me so.
As an act of revenge for my partner's disrespectful guffaws, today, I re-excavated my cool, earthy, den in the border while she wasn't looking. Still as pleasantly soothing as previously - but no salad this time. Someone must have eaten it all...
After my last posting, some readers were kind enough to let me know how moved they were by my relation of Kipper's passing. I was most touched. 'Twas not my intent to make anyone feel bereft or wretched - but I felt I owed it to Kipper. For, without Kipper, there would probably be no Jasper.
Kipper taught me about the kind of dog I should be. I could have been oh, so bitter and aggressive, living a life of self-pity and disdain towards humans. Kipper, Pebble, Rex, Dave and the others; these events happened around ten years ago now - but my experiences with them (and, previously at the veterinary hospital, Bobby) shaped me from Captain into the Jasper I would become.
I was too foolish to realise it when I was a younger dog but now, with the benefit of hindsight and the chance to revisit my younger life which my 'Evolution' series has afforded me, I have learned that I am the sum of my experiences. My partner too. She has been terribly, terribly ill from time to time since @2001 but, now that she is recovering, it is clear that she now has sense and reserves of strength, courage and optimism, which she never would have attained had she not been through such trying times. Yes; my early life was wretched. Yes; the injustice of Kipper's fate was terrible. But neither will ever be forgotten or disregarded. I wouldn't change a thing. Without such cruel torments, I would have grown into a quite different dog, I'm sure.
And you wouldn't be sitting here, reading this, right now.
A pall of gloom and despondency now hung over the dogs’ block like a damp, heavy blanket. I didn’t know what to do to relieve the situation. It didn’t help that every night before lights-out Pebble, in addition to his nightly question concerning the return of his family, was added a repeated enquiry as to when Kipper was coming back. It was torture.
A few days later, the results of Kipper’s autopsy came back and filtered quickly around the block. They really just served to confirm what most of us had suspected. Just two short days before Kipper was due to go to his new family, a massive heart-attack had claimed him whilst he slept. I was disgusted at how cruelly fate had served Kipper. In anger, I kicked the rear wall of my pen, stubbing my toe. It hurt, but I didn’t care – there was a strange relief in feeling physical pain in addition to my unseen inner torment. There was, however, the smallest glimmer of consolation. Kipper’s body had, apparently, shown no sign of trauma. He would have felt absolutely nothing – indeed, it’s doubtful that he even knew what was happening.
Not for Kipper, therefore, was a long, drawn-out suffering death, humiliated as he lay caked in his own incontinent filth and too frail and elderly to be able to clean himself. He departed this world a young and popular pack leader, with hope in his future, surrounded by his friends. There surely had to be something in that, I reasoned to myself. I still missed him like mad though.
This wasn’t quite the end of the story, however. Poor Dave had had the unenviable task of telephoning the family that had chosen to adopt Kipper and telling them of the death of their new pet. They were understandably devastated. The following day, they telephoned Dave back and said that there had been another dog at the shelter whom they’d liked – would it be possible to adopt him instead? Of course, Dave was more than happy to accede to this – and the Red Card so recently removed from above Kipper’s pen was brought back into the block… and pinned firmly to Pebble’s door.
There was general rejoicing at this development, though it was tempered by the still-raw grief that we all felt. After a few eerily quiet evenings, with little or no lights-out chat, one night there came a question from the opposite end of the block:
“What was that song that Kipper taught us ages ago? That funny one about the bitch…?”
We all thought for a moment. Suddenly remembering, I barked:
“She Wore a Bluebell in Her Collar.”
“That’s it!” barked back the voice.
“Oh yes, I’d forgotten that one.” said Rats, and he began to sing it. “She wore a bluebell in her collar, as she frolicked on the grass…” (The rest of it is too rude to repeat). By the end, a number of voices had swelled the song, and snorts of coarse laughter sounded around the block.
“Dear me,” chuckled Rex, “And do you remember that joke he told about the two Jack Russells and the firework…?” (Again, far too filthy to repeat here).
The rest of the pre-sleep chat was taken up in fond, amusing anecdotes previously supplied by, and some concerning, the late Kipper. I felt a little better as I drifted off to sleep – and it struck me that this was how Kipper would want to be remembered. Not with silence and misery – but with appreciative, cheeky, laughter and happy memories. After that, I encouraged the pack to bark freely about Kipper whenever they wanted to. It didn’t compensate for his loss – nothing could – but it helped us all to remember him with affection and smiles, rather than desolate sorrow. The thick, damp, heavy blanket of grief was gradually replaced by a soft, comforting sheet of fond recollection and the sense of a soul at peace.