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.
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'.”