Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Livid.  Indescribably livid.  And on my 250th blog posting as well.

I refer, of course, to England's humiliating 4-1 (or 4-2, had a competent match official been present) World Cup football defeat at the paws of Germany.

My national team's performance throughout the tournament has been inept and embarrassing to an unacceptable degree.  My partner's nephew Ewan is a more talented footballer than those randomly collected together for their South African holiday - and he is but six years old.

The only reasonable course of action at this point, I believe, is to resurrect the practise from former times of judicious beheading and the placing of the severed heads on spikes at the entrance to the Tower, as a warning against future miscreants.  Some - perhaps - could be excused this fate; James, Lampard, Crouch, Defoe - at a pinch...

As this outcome is unlikely, I do seriously think that the nature of football in England has to be re-examined.  How can young, home-based, talent EVER be encouraged to succeed when clubs part with their wealth to lure foreign players to populate their teams?  Look at our glory years of football.  According to The Sunday Times, the average players' wage in 1966 was (in 2010 terms) £100 per week. Today's premier players average around £21,000 per week.  And reports suggest that supposedly 'top-flight' players such as Spud-boy Rooney and John "adultery" Terry receive over six times that amount.  Are those players REALLY kidding themselves that they are better than Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Duncan Edwards, the Charlton brothers, etc...?

They should be bl**dy-well ashamed of themselves.  Perhaps a few can truly be classed as great.  Despite the hype, Beckham is genuinely good.  And, given the dexterity with which he leapt from beside Capello on the managers' bench to berate the players after one of many near-misses during the Algeria game, I have to bark: why isn't he still playing for the national team?!

Oh dear - this all sounds terribly bitter, doesn't it?  'Tis only a game, after all, but I have been annoyed recently by the excessive heat and humidity and the pink cross that faintly lingers on my back.  I am also concerned about my dear friend Angie.  I have the joy of my partner's company this week, as she has taken a short holiday, and today we did a little gardening and painting - but I fear that all is not entirely perfect with the Divine Mrs. M.  Keep smiling Angie - we love you.

Reports suggest that the weather will be cooler - thankfully - on the morrow; so my partner and I may tackle some lower-level window cleaning.  However - and this is the true beauty of having time to one's and one's partner's selves - we shall see what we feel like in the morning!


At length, it seemed the paperwork was complete.  Dave rounded the reception desk and, bending down, gave me a huge hug.
"Good luck, mate.  Have a great life." he grinned, ruffling my ears.  As I was trying to work out what he meant, the kennel maids crowded around, pawing at me.  Most of them were alternately smiling and weeping.  The last to hold me (with a firm hug and copious tears) was Sarah - the seeming leader of the kennel maids and the one who had closed the gate when Dave first brought me to the shelter.
"Oh dear," said the young woman holding the other end of the lead that was clipped to my collar.  "Now I feel really bad for taking him away from you..."
"Oh, it's OK." sniffled Sarah, managing a watery smile.  "It's just that he's been here for such a long time and he's really the general favourite.  But we wouldn't deny him a good home for anything.  We're just going to miss him.  Take care of him - give him a good life.  He's such a sweetie."

The young girl looked down at me and smiled, with slightly raised eyebrows.  I sensed scepticism, and looked away.

Clutching her sheaf of papers, and thanking Dave and his team for all they had done for me, the young lady, her mother and Miss Smart escorted me to a car, which was waiting on the gravel drive.  I was overjoyed at the prospect of a car-ride and leapt onto the back seat (relieved, I might add, that I was being permitted a ride without being secured in a cage first).  The young girl got in beside me, her mother sat in the driving seat and Miss Smart settled into the front passenger seat.  The girl opened her window so that I could poke my head out - yesss!!! - and I turned to see Dave closing the gate behind us and waving as we moved off.

I began to actually look forward to my nice day out.  I enjoyed looking out of the window and watching the world whizzing past.  We passed the vets' and carried on until we halted at a smart-looking Edwardian terraced house.  Exiting the car and climbing the steps to the front door, we were greeted by a volley of barks.  Once inside, we found Miss Smart's sisters, with whom she lived (Miss Smart and... erm... Miss Smart), a cat and three dogs - a rather haughty and painfully shy Shi-Tzu called Dan, an enormous but gentle and friendly white German Shepherd named Joe, and the youngest of the three dogs, another Shi-Tzu - a charming and sparky little bitch who introduced herself as 'Ellie' (she would, in time, become one of my wives - see http://jasper-thedogsblog.blogspot.com/2008/10/saturday-30-august-2008.html for a picture of her on Miss Smart's sofa).  All three dogs had been previous 'inmates' of the rescue shelter, but before my own time there.

The house itself was fascinating and an utter delight.  It was stuffed from floor to ceiling with antique clocks, fine paintings, old tapestries and splendid examples of decorative china.  The stairs (up which the cat swiftly retreated) had their lovely original wooden balustrades.  The kitchen was light and airy, with huge windows and cool terracotta floor tiles.  The garden to the rear was gently terraced and beautifully laid-out.  We all settled ourselves in the sweet little withdrawing room, which was crammed with pretty and elegant treasures.  I had never seen beauty like this before - I hadn't realised that humans were capable of creating such lovely things.  On one shelf stood a series of black-and-white photographs.  From each one stared a handsome face.  They were incredibly old pictures (just about pre-Titanic-era, I suspect).  A fine-looking gentleman with a moustache and kindly, jovial twinkling eyes; women in exquisite gowns with their thick, dark, wavy hair piled up on their heads... Utterly entrancing.  I looked up at the young woman still clutching the end of my lead.  Her hair was thick, dark and wavy too...  In fact, the same likeness between her and the Miss Smarts appeared in these aged snapshots as well.  Only her nose and smaller stature was different - although, looking at the young lady's mother, it didn't take a genius to conclude from whence they had been inherited.

The Miss Smarts persuaded their great-niece (for that was their relationship, on - as I had guessed - her father's side) to unclip my lead and Joe and Ellie invited me to join them on a tour of the garden, Dan electing to remain at his usual station on the lap of the eldest Miss Smart. As we three dogs trotted through the house to the garden, there came a sound like the tinkling of a thousand tiny bells.  The movement through the rooms of the vast Joe (he wasn't fat, just naturally enormous) made all the ornamental china pieces vibrate and gently tap against each other.  It was actually rather melodious and not a little bit comical.
"He's never broken or knocked over a single one!" giggled Ellie as we capered up some stone steps into the garden.  Joe was truly a gentle giant.

We returned to the withdrawing room as a light lunch arrived on a truly exquisite bone china tea-service.  There were dainty sandwiches, some with cold sliced roasted ham, some with cucumber, some with tuna, and light little cakes, along with cups of fresh-brewed tea.  Most elegant - and we dogs ended up eating more than any of the Miss Smarts!  I was almost overwhelmed to have been suddenly propelled into such a refined setting.

As the crockery was cleared away, Joe and Ellie curled up on the rug and prepared for a snooze.  I was just making up my mind to join them when, for the second time that day, my intention to nap was rent asunder.

I began to protest as the lead was reapplied to my collar and I was hauled out of the nice, comfortable room.  Joe and Ellie began to say their farewells almost straight away.  All three Miss Smarts were remaining with them - only the young woman, her mother and I were heading down the steps and back to the car.  I said goodbye politely to them all - I would have said goodbye to Dan as well, but he was hiding somewhere in the house - and they all stood, smiling broadly and waving, as I got back into the car.  The young lady got into the back beside me and her mother resumed her place in the driving seat.

We waved and smiled until they were out of sight.  And then we continued on our journey - except that we seemed to be heading back to the rescue shelter...

Good night.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Sunday 27 June 2010

I have learned that there are certain advantages to having a massive, bright pink, cross of campness stained into my fur.

Whilst walking along the riverbank with Maisie the other day, I inadvertently chanced upon my long-time nemesis, the psychotic hell-swan (http://jasper-thedogsblog.blogspot.com/2008/10/thursday-28-june-2007.html for verification).  Yes - alas - he is still alive, still irrationally enraged, and still begetting spawn ever year.  Dear, oh dear.  Hmmm... perhaps I should introduce the swan and Peaches?  With any luck, they'd annihilate each other within seconds.

I didn't realise the swan's proximity to myself until it was too late.  I shrank to the ground and prepared for a battering, Maisie shrieking hysterically behind me.  As the foul concoction of feathers bound with malevolence bore down on me, hissing and spitting, there was the merest moment of silence followed by an even more threatening sound.

Opening my eyes a little I turned to see the foul beast settled back on the water, rocking backwards and forwards and snorting.

He was laughing at me.  The more he laughed at my pink cross, the more helpless he became.  I straightened up.
"Oh, s*d off, you fat old crow." I muttered as I wandered off.  Hmmm... but I DID manage to avoid a battering - something in that perhaps.

My partner and I will be listening to this afternoon's England World Cup game on the radio at home, as opposed to going to the pub.  This is for four main reasons, which I list here, in order of least importance upwards:
  • My partner has just found out that she has dangerously-high blood pressure.  An England/Germany game could well be the end of her, particularly if it leads to another penalty shoot-out;
  • The next couple of days are, for us, that no-man's-land between running out of money and pay-day.  This precludes the purchase of beer;
  • It is terribly hot today - too hot, my partner feels, for me to be out in the afternoon;
  • Public match attendance would, in all likelihood, result in the reapplication of my St. George Cross.  I'm not going through another week of that nonsense.

I doubt we'll win.  But - hey! - I didn't get beaten up by the swan, for once, so it will all have been worth it...

Good afternoon.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Wednesday 23 June 2010

I appreciate the fact that we are currently in a global economic crisis, but I have never seen such drastic cutbacks as those I witnessed the other night.  And they came despite being well and truly in the black.

Unfortunately, the black in question was the wretched fungal infection Blackspot; its victim was our lovely climbing rose.  This climbing rose has made magnificent progress over the past year, spreading its fronds over the fence separating my garden from Starsky's, and our careful tending resulted in far more fragrant blooms than expected.  However, the dreaded Blackspot sent its noxious spores across our beloved plant.  My partner did her best to halt its progress but, alas, the majority of the delightful shrub had succumbed.

The only remedy was the complete removal and destruction of the affected parts (which comprised approximately 80% of the whole plant and included all of the season's blooms), and extensive spraying of the healthy remainder.  To make matters worse, the fungus had spread to a neighbouring rose-bush.  Poo and double-poo.

Thus it was with heavy heart that my partner grasped her new secateurs and got on with the task at hand.  I could tell that, with every snip, her bitterness grew.  This was the first of our plants that had really thrived and now all its progress had to be cut off if the plant was to have a chance of recovery.

It was done, however, along with the smaller shrub and the cuttings were disposed of in the bin, where the foul spores could cause no further mischief.  All of our rose bushes, even the unaffected ones, were then thoroughly sprayed.  I had to go and sit indoors for the spraying bit, in case I sniffed up some of the goo.  I am happy to report that the climbing rose seems to be recovering well.  I'm not too sure about the smaller bush - we shall have to wait some time for the outcome there, but I am quietly optimistic.

Alas, I fear that this tragic episode may have been the one that finally tipped my feeble-minded partner over the edge and into the abyss of senility.  Dear reader - I put it to you: if you had lost something of value to you, surely you would at least attempt to find or replace it?

Not so for my partner, apparently.  After returning from a routine check-up with her doctor, my partner told me that she had lost a stone.  I wondered which expression to display on my face, as my partner seemed actually quite pleased at this bereavement.  In the end, I gave up and pretended to be asleep.

Later that evening, whilst my partner was pruning back the diseased roses, I picked out a selection of my favourite stones from the garden and laid them on our patio, inviting my partner to choose one to replace that which she had lost.  My partner watched uncomprehendingly for a moment and, when the flicker of understanding dawned, instead of selecting a stone she dropped to her knees beside me and gave me a great big hug.
"Oh Jasper," she said, "You're so funny and sweet.  I love you."
"Umm... I love you too." I replied, glad that I'd made her happy but somewhat bewildered as to why she wouldn't want a nice new stone to replace the one she'd lost.

I have barked it before and I bark it again now: I don't understand females.

Many wags of my perky little tail to the England football team - who today went from two appalling games worthy only of a bag of last season's spuds to qualifying for the play-offs at the top of their group table!  And all whilst my partner was at work and unable to watch or listen, hehehe (I watched it all on a nice telly from the comfort of Maisie's lap)...  That bl**dy pink cross is still on my back, though, despite Maisie having taken me swimming three times today.  But who can be disgruntled after such an England win (save, possibly, for the Scots...)?


“Here he is!” said Miss Smart, triumphantly ushering me in the direction of the young lady. “What do you think of him?”

“Wow! What a nice dog!” said the girl, obviously trying her best to sound sincere. She smiled at me and knelt down. “Hello sweetheart.”

I trotted compliantly to her, as I knew I must, and thought that as Dave and Miss Smart were present I’d better put on a good display. I stood on my hind legs, resting my front paws on the young woman’s bended legs, and pressed my snout against her neck, nuzzling softly. ‘Twas a fine performance, which drew admiration from all.

Good.’ I thought to myself. ‘Now I can go back to bed.’ But no. I had to stand there whilst the humans present discussed me at length. The young woman and her mother both called Miss Smart “Auntie Dot” and there DID seem to be a vague passing familial likeness between the younger woman and Miss Smart. At any rate, I didn’t pay too much attention to the ongoing conversation, though it was clear that the young lady was struggling somewhat to keep up her feigned enthusiasm.

“Why don’t you take him for a walk?” suggested Miss Smart. “That might help you to see if you get along with him.”
Oh, for goodness’ sake.’ I sighed to myself, as I was ushered from the building and trotted reluctantly behind the young woman and her mother. It wasn’t even a good walk. I’d wanted to go towards the exercise field but, instead, I had to go on the least favoured route – the path alongside the busy main road, where the grass was dirty and smelled strange.
All the while, the young woman holding the lead attempted to divert me with conversation, but I determinedly ignored all her efforts. Coupled with this, the girl’s mother bombarded her daughter with statements like “You don’t have to have him if you don’t like him.” “Don’t feel that you have to have him just to please Auntie Dot.”, etc. As for me, whilst I was grateful for the extra toilet opportunity, all I wanted was to get back to my bed – I was missing out on precious nap time.

After what seemed an age – but was probably only fifteen to twenty minutes – we turned around and went back to the shelter, where Dave and Miss Smart were waiting in the reception area.

“Well? How did you get on?” asked Miss Smart, smiling.

“Um… fine.” replied the girl, by this time making less of an effort to conceal her disdain of me. I kept trying to pull away from her and take myself through the Door of Doors and back to my pen. Miss Smart, living up to her name as ever, saw that all had not gone according to plan and she and Dave tactfully withdrew so that the young woman and her mother could “have a chat”. As soon as they had gone, the young lady abandoned all pretence and became visibly distressed.
“He’s very handsome.” said the mother. “Don’t you like him?”
“He’s OK – but just… I don’t know…” sniffed her daughter. “I can’t seem to warm to him. He’s not very affectionate.”
The feeling’s mutual, love.’ I thought to myself. “I mean,” continued the young woman, “We had that whole walk and he wouldn’t look at me once. And he keeps pulling away from me. I know I’ve only just met him and not to expect too much and all that, but he seems so cold-hearted.”
Cold-bodied, too, now.’ I muttered under my breath. ‘So s*d off and let me get back to bed.
“Well, just tell Auntie Dot that he isn’t the right one.” insisted the older lady. “She’ll understand.”
“How can I?” replied the girl, sounding rueful and annoyed. “If I send him back there, I’ll always be worried about what happened to him and feel bad that I rejected him. I just can’t do that.” She was crying pitifully now. “I couldn’t live with myself.” she went on. “But, looking at him, I don’t even like him.”

The young woman’s mother was clearly running out of patience. Eventually, she said irritably (making her daughter weep even more, whilst I stood indifferently by) “Well, it’s up to you. I quite like him – but it’s your choice. I can’t decide for you. But you’ll have to hurry up and make your mind up because I am not going to waste any more of Auntie Dot’s time.” Miss Smart and Dave returned from the kitchen area, prompting the young lady to hastily dry her eyes and attempt to mask her distress. The girl swallowed hard, stared seriously at me for a moment, and then made her decision.

“Yes.” she said, with a half-hearted smile, “I’ll take him.”
“Are you sure?” queried Miss Smart, well aware of the young lady’s acute distress.
“Yes.” repeated the girl, more firmly. “Definitely.” Miss Smart and Dave smiled.
“Right then.” said Dave, turning to a filing cabinet behind the reception desk. I watched, intrigued, but with a mounting sense of dread.
Oh NO,’ I groaned inwardly. ‘Not the Red Card. Not for this one.
I was pleasantly relieved to see Dave turn around without a Red Card in his hand. Instead of the card I dreaded, he held a small sheaf of papers. He rested them on the desk and started writing on some of the papers and getting the young woman to write on others. Miss Smart had popped out and summoned a couple of the kennel-maids, who returned to the reception area with her. One of them was Sarah, the girl who had opened the gate when Dave first brought me to the shelter. She had the beginnings of tears in her eyes, but everyone - except the young girl and I - was smiling broadly.  We regarded each other suspiciously as we waited – she for Dave to complete another sheet of paper; me for a return to my comfortable bed.

“I’m not too sure about the name ‘Captain’, though.” said the young woman suddenly. “I’ll probably change that, if it’s OK.” Dave nodded.
“No problem.” he replied, as he continued to write. “Most people change the dogs’ names. He’ll soon get used to a new one. He’ll be named as ‘Captain’ on these forms, though, and for our records; but once you’ve got him it’s up to you. Did you have a name in mind?”
“Bullseye.” said the girl’s mother, getting a wallet from her handbag. “He looks so much like that dog from Oliver! He definitely has to be a ‘Bullseye’.”
Don’t you f***ing dare…’ I growled to myself.

“No, no.” frowned the young woman, attempting a watery smile. “Not Bullseye.” She looked down at me again and I met her gaze, staring defiantly back at this young harpy who had dared to disturb my routine. She lifted her head up to talk to Dave again.

“I’m going to call him 'Jasper'.”

Good night.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Saturday 19 June 2010

I am seriously thinking about changing my nationality.

The performance of the England football team in last night's World Cup match against Algeria was pitifully embarrassing.  As before, my partner and I went to the local pub to watch the game and, as far as we are concerned, Rooney et al owe us the price of our drinks and compensation for the squandered ninety minutes of our lives.

I just don't know what is wrong with them.  It is pathetic - and this is supposed to be the best that England has?  Bring back Beckham is all I can bark.  The only reason for the appalling performance that I can think of is that these footballers have so much money tied up in contracts for modelling clothes, grooming products, etc., that they are literally terrified of playing a quality game in case they suffer any injury that could leave them with a visible scar.

My partner and I left the pub in angry disgust as soon as the final whistle blew.

On arriving home, there was a policeman at the entrance to the cul-de-sac next to ours (which we have to drive past to reach our house).  That cul-de-sac is entirely occupied by ne'er-do-wells, largely from the same family.  Hardly a day passes in which we do not thank all the powers that be for the fact that we weren't offered a house in that bit of the street.  Apparently a World Cup gathering in one of the p*key ( My apologies.  No slight against the Romani race intended - I have respect for them - my near neighbours are not Romanis, just ASBO-chasing wretches.) households had got massively out of paw.  The situation deteriorated further, resulting in a police van, sirens screaming, hurtling into my road.  What charming and dignified behaviour.

And barking of things that got massively out of paw - take a look at this:

My partner found some stage make-up in a box.  For goodness' sake.  I look like a bl**dy donkey.

Much admiration was expressed in the pub, and I enjoyed the attention.  It was on returning to the house, just mere moments after the above picture was taken, that the situation swiftly deteriorated.

Ushering me into the bathroom, my partner drew down from a shelf a packet of moist baby-wipes and began to cleanse the decoration from my fur.  After enduring several minutes of increasingly fervent wiping, a feint whimper from my partner signalled that all had not gone entirely to plan.

The upshot is that I still have a St. George Cross across my ribcage and spine - only now it is bright fuchsia pink.

I am absolutely livid, I really am.  My partner has offered her apologies, but I am not minded to accept them at present.

I was too ashamed to sit in the garden today, lest one of the local cats spot me.  Starsky was loitering in his garden this afternoon, possibly hoping for a bit of a gossip (likely, given the high-volume antics in the next cul-de-sac the night before), but I hid behind the curtain and pretended to snore.

I'm just praying that Eddie doesn't see me.  I fear I would have too many awkward questions to answer, should his sardonic gaze alight upon the vast pink emblem that now adorns my upper body.

For goodness' sake.

More "Evolution" next time!

Good night.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Monday 14 June 2010

I have recovered my composure after yesterday's rant, for which I now apologise.

Greater minds than my own advised me against my sartorial choice of the high-visibility jacket.  My decision was finally made, however, the other evening after a conversation with my good friend Eddie the Rottweiler, who (coincidentally) lives just across the road from me.  It was a delightfully warm evening.  Children were playing on the green and I spotted Eddie lying in his front garden, relaxing in the setting sunshine whilst his owner enjoyed a cigarette.  Despite the lurking proximity of evil nemesis Peaches, I ambled over to sit with him.
"Good evening Edward!" I hailed him.
"Jasper, my dear boy!  How are you?" he responded, thumping his tail vigorously on the ground.
"Extremely well, thanks Ed.  How're you?  How's Angus?"  (Angus being another Rottweiler and Eddie's long-term gentleman-friend).
"Both on excellent terms, I thank you.  Come and sit with me for a while."  I was glad to accept the invitation, and sat beside him, watching the children play on the green, the setting sun lengthening their shadows.  The warm sunlight felt nice on my whiskers.

After a companionable silence, during which it didn't escape me that Peaches had edged nearer to us, I told my friend about the Staffie in the fluorescent jacket and my desire for a similar item.
"Oh, dear lord, no." said Eddie, shaking his mighty head.  "Honestly, you and Angus are peas in a pod.  I don't understand either one of you."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you both have such finely-toned physiques and well-developed, muscular frames.  Why ever would you want to cover them up with jackets?  No, no, no.  What you need, dear boy, is a good, hand-stitched, silk cravat.  It is positively criminal to cover up such well-formed bodies and deny the rest of the world the pleasure of looking at you."
"I do wear my 'Bullseye' neckerchief from time to time."
"Indeed.  And it becomes you well."
"And I did once wear a black bow-tie to a dinner party.  One of the other guests said I looked 'rakish'."
"I'll bet you did, you sly devil." grinned Eddie, winking at me.  I grinned back.

"Angus received some ghastly chequered coat-type affair for Christmas last." continued Eddie, with obvious disdain.  "I took one look at it and vetoed it immediately.  It made his hips look fat.  I mean, I am no Gok Wan, but jackets combined with Angus's hips are a definite no-no.  I told him that I would refuse to be seen in public with him if he was going to turn into one of those fat old fairies."

I smiled to myself.  Poor old Angus.  He and Eddie bickered endlessly, but there was so much affection between the pair that I almost envied them.  In fact, theirs was the only long-term partnership between canines that I knew of, besides myself and my principal wife Isolde...

"I DO want an England shirt to wear to the pub for the football World Cup matches, though."  I confessed.
"Well, of course you do, darling." replied Eddie. "You're only canine after all."

Frowning, I muttered to Edward that the foul Peaches had edged ever-closer.  He turned to verify this, and then looked back at me, rolling his eyes sky-wards.
"Urrrhhh..." he groaned.  "That wretched little scrote.  Did you know, he slapped poor Oliver across the face last week?"

'Poor Oliver' is a black cat, who shares the house at the end of my row with Archie the Jack Russell.  Oliver is quite a nice, good-humoured chap, as cats go.  He only has three legs - one of his rear limbs having been lost in a road accident.  He refuses to allow his disability to affect his enjoyment of life, which has earned him the respect of all his neighbours, both feline and canine.  If I hadn't caught him torturing a pigeon last summer, I could even have liked him.  However, I was genuinely sorry to learn that he had been a recent victim of Peaches' bullying.

"Well, why does he always seem to hang around you, Eddie?"  I queried.  "I mean, he seems to lurk around me a fair bit - but wherever YOU go, Peaches is never too far behind."
Eddie shook his head.
"G-d only knows." he replied, shaking his mighty head.  "Because I don't.  Darling, he's like a fart in a sleeping bag - whichever way I turn; he just won't go away."

I laughed at Eddie's description - after a moment or two, the big Rottweiler joined in.  Good old Ed.


It struck me then, as it strikes me now.  Listen to the accounts from survivors of any tragedy:  September 11 2001; December 26 2004; July 7 2005; August 23 - 30 2005.  One thing is common.  It started out as just another day.  Sunshine, routine, basic normality.  Before it all changed forever.

That morning, back then, I was secure with my place in the world.  I was Pack Leader.  Kipper's chosen inheritor.  Loved by humans, respected and worshipped by dogs.

And then, for the second time in my life, my entire world spun on its axis.

I had breakfasted well, had been exercised with Mouse (during which time we discussed the increasing excitement within the bitches' block about the imminent selection, by Miss Smart, of a particularly special dog for a much-admired, prominent person), and returned to my newly-cleaned.pen at almost exactly my preferred nap-time.

Just as I was settling down to snooze, there was much bustle in my corridor.  Opening one irritated eye, I saw Dave and Miss Smart in front of my pen.  After an hurried dialogue between the two, my pen door was unlocked.
"Oh, for f*cks' SAKE!"  I muttered, irritably, to myself.  I grasped my blanket tightly, hoping to indicate that I wished not to be disturbed.

Not so, alas.

A new-smelling leather lead was clipped to my collar.  I was hauled unceremoniously out of my bed, dragged reluctantly along the corridor, and ushered unwillingly through the Door of Doors - banging my snout against the lower door-bolt in the process.

In the reception area, standing almost as if waiting to greet me, stood a young woman with another lady.  The similarity of jaw-line and cheekbone-structure told me that the two were mother and daughter.

The younger woman and I cautiously regarded each other.  She looked kind, accommodating, and well-mannered.

That barked, it was immediately clear - almost in the same instant - to both of us.

I hated the very sight of her.  And she - with a look of positive revulsion - hated the very sight of me.  And that was that.  Nothing more to be barked.

Good night.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Saturday 12 June 2010

Well, I've just wasted 90 minutes of my life.  My partner and I have, this moment, come back from the pub, where we watched England's first World Cup match.

1-1 against the USA, for goodness' sake!!!  I mean no disrespect to my dear friends in the US, but our chums across the pond are not exactly reknowned for their footballing abilities.  Memories of Alexi Lalas in 1993 came flooding back to my partner...

Will anyone now join me in a quick game of "Where's Walcot"?  For goodness' sake.

I am cross now.  I'm going to bed.

Good night.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Saturday 5 June 2010

"Thou shalt not covet."  Straight in at number ten there on God's run-down of the Top Ten all-time classics.

Well, dear reader, I am sorry to have to say this - but I covet.  Yes, I do.  I covet.  There is covetousness within my breast.

Permit me to explain.  For some time past, some major pipe-works have been going on in the little street where dwell my partner's parents and Maisie.  The local gas company are laying a new main-line.  Before you jump ahead of me (many's the young lady who's made that mistake, hehehe...) and imagine that the point of my jealousy is the capacity of the new gas-pipe, let me disabuse you of that notion straight away.  Even the largest gas-pipe cannot equal my capacity for the transport of noxious gas - I harbour no envy on that score.

No, the green-eyed-monster within me was awakened on Wednesday, which is the day I spend with Maisie each week.  We passed the young gentlemen working on the pipes, all clad in their work-clothes with the ubiquitous high-visibility yellow fluorescent waistcoat.  I had previously been alerted by Maisie to the fact that one of these workmen was always accompanied by his dog - a white Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  On Wednesday I saw this dog.  To my shock and surprise, this dog happily pottered alongside his owner whilst the man toiled.  And now we come to the point.

This dog wore his own high-visibility yellow fluorescent waistcoat.  Especially tailored to fit a dog.  With his name stamped on it.

I wasted no time in turning to my partner.
"Pleeease can I have one of those?"  I implored.  "It's all I need to make my life complete.  I promise I'll never ask for anything else if you get me one of those."
My partner didn't look convinced.
"But Jasper," she replied.  "You have already got a printed vest, a T-shirt, two 'Bullseye' neckerchiefs, a Union-Jack fleece jogging top (from Harrods, no less) AND your Robin Hood costume.  Not to mention your nice blue sheep-fleece-lined waterproof jacket for the Winter.  Plus which, you said that if I ever made you wear the waterproof coat again, you would kill me."
"I want a fluorescent jacket with my name on it!"
"I'll think about it for your birthday."

Less than satisfactory.  I want one now.  My partner did look online, however, and found one that might fit me with "SECURITY" printed on it, which I would be happy to accept.  Claws crossed for my next birthday, then.  An example:

I was successful in picking one thing up this week, however.  On Friday, a tick virtually the size of Anglesey was discovered adhering to my ear, having grown fat on the hot, nourishing soup in my veins.  My partner wasted no time in removing the evil b*gger, much to my discomfort.  It was made worse by the fact that my partner's best friend, Dolores (the exquisite maid of whom I am especially fond), was visiting for the evening and witnessed the whole tick discovery and removal process.  Most embarrassing.  I did glean an extra cuddle from the fair one, however, so swings-and-roundabouts...

I would still have preferred my own, personal security waistcoat over an obese and impudent tick, however, cuddle or no cuddle.


A day or two later, I was honoured to be able to give Pebble the answer to the question, which he had dreamed of since his arrival at the shelter. As we settled down to sleep:
“Captain, is Kipper going to come home tomorrow?”
“No Pebble. Kipper is gone and we won’t be able to see him anymore.”
“Oh… Well, will my family be coming to get me tomorrow instead?”
“Yes Pebble.” I smiled at him in the darkness. “You must get your sleep, for tomorrow you have a big day ahead of you. Your new family are coming to collect you and take you home, where they will love you very, very much.”

I heard a sharp intake of breath from the little Staffie-cross.

“Do you mean that, Captain?” he whispered. “They’re REALLY coming? D’you promise?”
“I promise, Pebble.” I replied, praying silently that fate would not conspire any more against Pebble.
“Ooooh!” I heard him gasp, just before he fell asleep.

Sure enough, the next day at around 11.00am, we heard the sounds of bustle in the reception area, with the sounds of excited children in accompaniment. Pebble stood up, wagging his tail, in eager anticipation.

“It’s time, Pebble.” I said, recognising the scent of the family from their previous visit. “You are a very good little dog. You be sure to have a happy life – and look after your family.”

“I will, Captain.” said Pebble, his voice quivering with emotion. “Thank you for everything you have done. Thank you Rats, thank you everyone. I will remember you all for ever.”
A variety of replies sounded forth, along the lines of “Cheers, Peb.”, “Be lucky, son.”, “Look after yourself.”, making Pebble’s tail wag even more frantically.

The Door of Doors opened and a kennel-maid came down the corridor, clutching a nice new leather lead. She opened Pebble’s pen and clipped the lead to his collar. We began straight away.

The Song of Triumph for Pebble sounded throughout the block as he walked along the corridor, and the little dog almost seemed to grow with happiness and confidence as he trotted beside the kennel-maid. As he reached the Door of Doors, he turned, beaming widely, and whispered “Goodbye.”

I felt strangely moved, although my heart rejoiced for little Pebble. I missed him terribly for the first few days, and it was eerily quiet at bedtime every evening, without Pebble’s nightly queries.

Time passed. More dogs came and went. Rats was chosen by a young married couple with a good sense of fun. Rex went to a single gentleman with a high-powered job and a great passion for hill and fell-walking, which I knew would suit Rex perfectly. Although the Boxer dog was good-natured and pleasant, I knew Rex preferred not to be around hordes of baying children.

Soon, there were only a few of us left who were around from the time of Kipper and Pebble. Only I remained unwanted from the old ‘glory days’, but was used to my routine at the shelter and I affected not to care.

After Rex’s departure, a tiny Yorkshire Terrier named Mouse petitioned me very hard for the role of Pack Enforcer. I was initially highly sceptical, Mouse being tiny even by Yorkshire Terrier standards. Clearly a runt, Mouse had to have a special mesh around his pen, so he couldn’t slip through the bars. In addition, he was prone to hyperventilation and a bucket of cold water was on permanent standby for him, lest he should have a seizure. However, Mouse was a fiercely dominant little fellow who could argue down the best of them. I once saw a visiting Great Dane bowing in submission to Mouse – which is a sight I’d never, in my life, expected to see. Mouse was like the ‘Puss in Boots’ character in the Shrek films; he was disarmingly adorable – until crossed, at which point he became a vicious little b*st*rd, usually getting the upper paw over even the bigger dogs. Little Mouse had easy access to a chap’s most vulnerable point, you see. He knew exactly where to nip with his sharp little fangs. After a day or two’s consideration, I accepted Mouse’s applications and appointed him Pack Enforcer. Privately, I suspected he might even have been Pack Leader material but I didn’t bark this out loud, not wishing him to get ideas above his station at present.

One day, Ghost, a large German Shepherd from the other side of the block, who seemed to have permanent problems with an in-growing claw, was brought back to his pen following yet another vet’s appointment.

“You’ll never guess who I’ve just seen up on the board!” he barked.

By “the board”, Ghost meant the shelter’s “Rogues’ Gallery” – a board where photos of former residents of the home were pinned up, having been sent in by their loving new owners (the shelter, usually in the form of Dave or Miss Smart, always paid a ‘check-up’ visit to an adopted dog about three weeks or a month after re-homing, just to check that the dog was settling in with no problems. The Rogues’ Gallery usually comprised of pictures taken much later – often holiday or playtime pictures). The Rogues’ Gallery covered the wall opposite the main door in the reception area.
“Who?!” I asked, intrigued.
“Only ol’ Pebble!” replied Ghost. “There’s about four pictures of him with his family. He looks really, really happy.”

A few days later, I had an opportunity to see the pictures for myself. I was taken off to the vet for what were universally known as one’s “annual jabs” – booster vaccinations, basically. My chauffeur – in the guise of Dave – had mislaid the van keys so, whilst I waited with a kennel-maid in the reception area, she and I looked at the Rogues’ Galley. And – indeed – there he was. Little Pebble.

But what a different Pebble! Were it not for the little white diamond-shaped patch of fur on his forehead, I almost might not have known him. There was a picture of Pebble swimming in the sea with the family’s two little boys; a picture of Pebble playing football on the beach with the family; a picture of Pebble being fed a sandwich from a picnic, with a long ‘wig’ of seaweed on his head, being held in place by one of the little boys; and one of Pebble with the little female toddling child, clad in a pink bathing costume, tightly hugging him with her chubby little arms around his shoulders. In each picture, Pebble was grinning so widely that it almost looked like his lower jaw might drop off. The nervous, slightly panicky look had entirely disappeared from his eyes and he positively exuded relaxed and confident happiness.

You will think me slightly mad, but I swear that it was almost possible to sense Kipper in the pictures, smiling approvingly down from the clouds on Pebble’s happiness. Kipper would’ve loved to have been part of that nice family (although he would not have been able to join in the energetic games as Pebble did) but I knew that, if that pleasure was denied him, then his next wish would be for a happy life for his little protégée Pebble.

As Dave reappeared with the elusive van keys, I felt a little lump in my throat. I’d always thought I was happy at the shelter – but I realised that, subconsciously, I strongly desired a home of my own. At the vets’, too, I felt miserable. I recalled the last set of ‘annual jabs’ I’d received – back when I’d arrived at the shelter as an empty and battered husk. This meant that I was now more than two years old – and over half my life had been lived within the dog shelter.

A few weeks later, the bitches’ block was positively a-buzz with excitement and anticipation. The reason was swiftly gleaned from their wee-mails in the exercise field. Miss Smart had been engaged to pick out a special dog for a very special person. We didn’t know who it was, exactly, but the unnamed individual had adopted two shelter residents in past years, both bitches.

The various sniffets of gossip and news coincided on exactly two points – which could therefore be taken as the bare facts of the case. One was that Miss Smart was definitely tasked with picking out a particularly special canine character. The other was that the unknown future owner was “not wildly enthusiastic about Staffordshire Bull Terriers”.

As, therefore, none of the future developments would concern me, I contented myself with ignoring the matter entirely and being slightly amused at the wild speculation amongst all the others.

Good night.