Monday, 30 August 2010

Sunday 29 August 2010

Most couples discover this eventually, I suspect. It happened to my partner and I very recently.  There comes the moment when, no matter how much love you have in your heart for the other individual, emotions inadvertently spill out and harsh words are exchanged.

An atmosphere of ill-ease had been brewing between us for a short while.  My partner was the first to crack - although, I accept now that, I was the catalyst for her outburst.

As mentioned in the last blog-post, I presently have issues over laying my dog-eggs within the bounds of my estate.  The weather leading up to the incident had not been conducive to walking out, and I had managed to successfully hoodwink my partner into thinking I had "given birth" in the garden, without my having passed a single thing.  The morning dawned in which my eggs were groaning against the walls of my gut and some were actively seeking escape independent of my muscular-contractions.  My partner could not help but notice my discomfort as we prepared to leave the house for work.  She ushered me into the garden.
"Jasper, will you please just go to the toilet before we get into the car?" she prompted, "You look seriously uncomfortable."
"No, thank you." I grunted, trying to keep the most persistent turd at bay, "I am fine."
"You're not fine, Jasper." she rejoined, "Please just go and do a poo.  It's okay, you know.  You are allowed to go to the toilet in the garden."
"No, thank you.  I don't need to go."
"Well, I think you do."
"I don't want to do any poo.  It's getting late - let's go, let's go, let's go!"  And, with that, I leapt into the passenger-seat and began to eat my breakfast (which is always laid out on my seat for me to eat on the way to the office; just as I like it).

My plan was relatively straightforward.  Whenever I need to answer a call whilst at work, I head off along the bridleway into the woods adjacent to the office, where there is an abundance of suitable places of concealment for a dog with a full bowel and discretion on his mind.  I planned that, as soon as the car came to a halt in the yard, I would leap forth and eject my straining hoard.  Alas!  My previous restraint was the smoking gun - and my addition of the morning's breakfast proved to be the trigger.  We were still more than a mile from work when my body rose up in rebellion against me.  My muscles automatically bent and twisted me into position and my partner screamed as (at least) two days' worth of shining healthy turd was delivered onto the passenger-seat of our New Teal Megane.  She continued to squeal like a stuck piglet as she had no option but to continue driving me and my healthy litter of pups to the workplace (the road being too narrow to simply stop).  Pulling the car into her parking space, my partner switched off the engine and glared at me.
"Out."  she hissed at me, through gritted teeth.  I hastened to comply, and dashed off to complete my ablutions whilst my partner began her working day by washing out our car.

An uneasy silence persisted between us throughout the day.  But I refused to accept that any of this had been MY fault.   How could it?  I didn't give myself the breakfast - it was surely her fault for having put it there.  I was blameless.

I endured the poisonous atmosphere throughout the day and refused even to apologise.  I even had to wait for my dinner, as my partner stopped off to do some grocery shopping on our way home, without me having given my approval.

One of the items purchased by my partner was a small jar of Chicken Bovril.  She had a craving for the traditional (Beef) Bovril for her sandwiches; but they only had the larger sizes of those and my partner didn't have enough money and so decided to try the Chicken variety.  Upon arrival home, after having enjoyed my dinner, I remained in the kitchen to supervise my partner as she prepared her own repast.  Spying me in the doorway, she asked if I would like to try some of the Chicken Bovril - I believe as a peace-offering for this morning's frosty atmosphere.  I accepted and moved closer.  My partner took a knife and spread a glob of it onto one of my marrowbone biscuits.  Then, in a malicious act of pure spite, my partner allowed a large dollop of the sticky spread to fall from her knife onto my head.  I didn't realise until I'd eaten the biscuit, savouring the chicken-ey taste.  Suddenly, I became overwhelmed by an urge to consume my own ear.  I tried twisting my head around and about but simply couldn't reach it with my tongue.  My partner noticed what I was about - and had the impudent audacity to LAUGH at my predicament.

"Well, well, Jasper," she chuckled.  "Chick-can you believe it?!"

That was the last straw in a day's-worth of straws.  I snarled at my partner and stamped out of the house, heading towards the gate.  "Jasper, where are you going?!" called my partner.  I did not reply.  "Jasper Stafford - come back here NOW!"
"I'm going to sit with Eddie." I growled.
"Come back here NOW!"

[Anyone tempted to laugh at this revelation of my full name - or even to smile - can consider themselves the main ingredient in my Christmas dinner this year....]

The street seemed to echo with my partner's voice.  I knew I had gone too far.  I crawled shamefully back to my partner.  "Well?"  she demanded.
"Please may I go and sit with Edward for a few minutes?"

My partner knelt beside me and used a moist baby-wipe to clean my head.  She then gave me a little kiss and another spoonful of Chicken Bovril.
"Off you go then.  Careful on the road, and come back before it gets dark."

The remainder of the evening was spent in listening to Eddie telling me what a silly little tart I'd been for arguing with my partner, and how he'd never let Angus get away with that kind of behaviour.  On my return home, I made a full and frank apology for my behaviour to my partner and all was once again well in our world.

As the old adage goes - one should never go to sleep on an argument.  For one never knows what could happen at any moment.  A lesson taught to me by my late friend Starsky - one day, his chipper little self, and the next day gone to the next world, by way of an inoperable brain tumour.  I grow more determined now than ever that, whenever they should come, be they years, months, weeks, days or even hours away, the final parting words between my partner and I will be words of love and respect.

Next time - The next "Evolution" instalment (I mean it this time)... and a pretty new girlfriend for me, hehehe!

Good night.

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Friday 27 August 2010

The refreshing tranquillity of the verdant woods on an (admittedly dull) August early afternoon was shattered by a series of piercing, blood-chilling, screams.

"Fizzeeee!  Fizzeeeeeee!"

It was Ewan - my partner's colleague's dog; long in affection, short in intelligence - screaming like a cat.  His shrieks sent squirrels scampering and birds flapping, startled, into the sky.

"Come QUICK!" he continued.  "Help!  Quickly!  Jasper's cut himself and his guts are all spilling out!  Fizzeeeeeee...!!!!"

Well, what dog could refuse such desperate cries for help?  An alarmed Fizzy (pretty and clever Black Labrador; Ewan's basket-mate), with horror-struck eyes, came belting back along the bridleway towards us - preparing herself to either summon human assistance; provide first-aid and wound-cleansing; or comfort and soothe the last few dying moments of her Staffordshire Bull Terrier friend.  Ewan met her as she skidded to a halt on reaching us.  He was panting and his pupils were dilated with fear as he gasped "He's lost some of his belly-guts and a kidney!  Help him, Fizzy, HELP HIM!"  Fizzy followed Ewan through the scrub to the spot where I was crouching and straining...

"Ewan..." began Fizzy, but stopped abruptly when she saw me.  I turned and glared at Ewan.

"Ewan!" I growled, "B*gg*r OFF!  I'm having a Poo!"


I have always had a strange aversion to being witnessed whilst laying my dog-eggs.  I greatly dislike passing a movement on my own property and, when out and about, will go to great lengths in order to conceal myself from even my partner whilst bestowing my gifts to nature.  This has often led to an incredulous passer-by asking my partner how she managed to teach me to be so discreet and tidy.  My partner amusedly replies that it's just my instinctive behaviour and it wasn't learned - but she often tells me that I am a good boy for tucking myself away when I go into labour.

I cannot personally recall why I behave in this manner - although I strongly suspect that its genesis lies in my pre-rescue-shelter days (see the early parts of my "Evolution of Jasper" series; which is shortly to be resumed...).  Thinking back to what I can remember of that rather trying time, defecating in the presence of my owner, or within the bounds of his garden, would, without doubt, have been an offence punishable by beatings or torture.  However, it is important to be discreet in all such matters.  Generally, I like to hide myself behind a leafy tree or shrub whilst "dropping the pups off at the pool".

And thus it was that Ewan found me.

Ewan is inexplicably fascinated by the lavatorial habits of others.  Fizzy has learned to endure such indignities - I, however, cannot.  If you are a long-term reader, you may also recall Ewan's bafflement with regard to all bodily functions and ailments (previous examples include: his conviction that his OWN WILLIE was a malignant cancerous growth; his diagnosis of his OWN WEE as "toxic pus"; his prescription for Fizzy's menstruation difficulties of a POTATO in her "ladies' bits"...  I trust I need not continue...?)


Back to the matter in paw...

I winced and cringed as Ewan fussed needlessly around me.  Fizzy did her best to divert his attention, but Ewan's conviction of my imminent, bloody, death far outstripped even her powers.  In normal circumstances, I would have ceased to populate my meaty nest.  Alas, however!  One unit remained in my pipeline - and it had progressed too far for me to be able to order a tactical withdrawal and recall the troops "back to base", so I had no option but to eject the final turdlet.

"There goes the other kidney."  remarked Ewan, sorrowfully.  He sat down, shaking his black and grey head.  "It's all over for him now."  He began to howl a mournful dirge - totally tuneless, but vaguely reminiscent of Abide With Me.  "Goodnight, sweet prince.".

I exchanged a despairing glance with Fizzy, who returned a wry grin in reply, wiped my little chocolate starfish on an obliging leaf, and returned barklessly to my partner's side.

I mention all of the above in order to set the scene for the sparks, which ignited the really rather huge and unpleasant fight between my partner and I the other day - our first serious disagreement in ten years.  I urge you to keep this post in mind before you judge me on what is to come...


Other topics, briefly.  Today marks the retirement of my partner's boss, after 31 years of working in her department - and which, most probably, leaves her defenceless against the circling sharks and vultures....  As well as this being the last day of another, younger, much-liked, colleague.  My partner suffered a minor migraine this morning, for which I provided comfort.  However, I do not believe it was, in fact, a migraine.  My worst fears seem to have become reality - I think my partner suffered a minor nervous-breakdown this morning. 

I do what I can.  I have pulled her back from the brink of Hades twice before.  But I'm not sure I have the strength to do it again.

As if this were not enough, today marks the first, tell-tale, chill heralding the end of Summer and the onset of Autumn.  No complaint - just an observation.

But we keep smiling - because we must.

Good night.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Sunday 22 August 2010

"Jasper, my dear boy, I do believe I've cracked it!"
It was another warm evening and Eddie the Rottweiler was about to reveal to me his theory as to why Peaches the cat was so bitter and hate-filled as I sat beside him in his front garden, watching the sunset.

I had just been relating to him my previous encounter that evening with the vicious little furball. My partner and I were walking along the river to the ford so that I could take a refreshing swim. Immediately ahead of us, I espied Peaches himself on the prowl for mischief. Before I could reach him he had already launched himself towards the water, sending - flapping and terrified - the charming, affable duck couple who have been settled on their nest since the Spring. Utterly disgusted, I raced towards the sadistic Peaches, barking all the while. As I reached him, he took a flying leap over the other section of the river on the left of the little road. That bit of river is divided into two channels by a little wooden barrier - one side funnels into the watercress beds and the other continues the river on its natural course. I had the profound satisfaction of seeing Peaches misjudge the distance from the road to the wooden wall and knock one of his hind legs (no doubt also trapping his 'little Peaches' betwixt leg-bone and timber, hehehe) with a most enjoyable crack. His rear-end slipped into the water, but he managed to right himself and leap on into the water-meadow before I could get close enough for another go.

"Meowrrrllll!" he swore, loudly, as he disappeared amongst the reeds and grasses. Most amusing.

After my walk, as I returned home, passing Eddie's garden, the Rottweiler himself was lying contentedly on his grass and invited me to join him to watch the sunset. Peaches was sitting in HIS front garden (next door but one to Ed's), his damp side concealed from Edward's sight, licking and cleaning his back legs. The evil cat shot me a viciously poisonous look, which I opted to ignore.

In a low voice, I told Eddie what had happened, and he chuckled delightedly.
"It's about time that wretched hellcat got some comeuppance." He muttered quietly. "I suppose you know all about poor young Milo?"
"Who?" I asked - before remembering my feline entanglements from last year. I won't go into the business of the rat again. But, just to recap, I spent much of last year avoiding the romantic attentions of Chloe, the cat who resides in the house opposite mine (now thankfully diverted elsewhere... though the same problem seems to be rearing its terrifying, multi-fanged, head with Chloe's neighbour - a young ginger queen-cat called Honey, but that's another story).

Chloe had three kittens, now all grown-up. One, Zac, decided that I was an acceptable father-figure (the kittens' actual father, Eddie's housemate, a white tom called Kevin, being an ignorant, foul-mouthed, bully).  Little Zac proved to be rather a delightful child, and I was happy to indulge him.  The kittens are full-grown now.  Zac has developed into a good-natured tom with a wide circle of friends.  His sister, Sophie, is a distinguished killer (in fact, if you remember the squirrel from the winter, Sophie was the cat that I warned him about, when he was about to head off in her direction).  Upon Eddie's raising the subject of the kittens, it occurred to me only now that I had not seen Zac and Sophie's brother, Milo, for many months.

"Of course - Milo!"  I barked to my Rottweiler friend.  "What about him?"
"That wretched scrote, Peaches, " Eddie explained, with a flick of his mighty head back towards the cat - who was gradually sidling ever-closer to us - "beat young Milo to a pulp, for absolutely no reason.  The poor lad recovered his health, but not his nerves.  He never leaves his back garden these days."
"Oh no!"
"Hmm.  Oliver told me."  (Oliver is the three-legged cat from the end of my terrace, who lives with the Jack Russell, Archie).  "Olly quite often goes across to sit with him of an afternoon."
"That's nice of him."

We both sat in silence for a while, watching the sunset, and pondering poor Milo's fate.
"So anyway," continued Edward, "On our walk this morning, Angus and I were endeavouring to reason out why Peaches should be so thoughtlessly violent." (Angus being Eddie's fellow-Rotti and long-term gentleman-friend).
"Any conclusions?" I asked.
"Well, Angus doesn't really have that level of mental capacity, bless him.  He's lucky he has me, to guide his thoughts and make his choices for him.  If he wasn't such a poppet, there are times when I'd lose patience with the boy, there really are."
I smiled privately.  Never before had I encountered a couple who were so obviously fond of each other but who bickered so much.

Eddie continued "Angus did come up with one idea though, and the more I consider it, the more I believe his point may be valid.  And here's the thing.  Peaches wants to be a dog!  Think about it, old boy!  He's constantly lurking around you and I - and for why?  Because you and I are the strongest, most powerful chaps around here.  He hates the world - because he is angry and bitter that he was born a cat, and takes his frustrations out on everyone.  He's always provoking fights and troubles because he thinks that is how dogs behave!"
The more Eddie went on, the more I realised that he was probably right.  It would certainly explain a great deal.
"Hmmm."  I muttered, "If he was a dog, and he joined any pack that I know of, he'd be beaten senseless and booted out straight away, with the sort of attitude he's got."

Eddie and I became lost in thought as we reflected on this solution of the Peaches riddle, watching the sun gradually disappearing from the pink and gold sky, sinking beyond the trees and taking with it the last traces of another summer's day.

"Meowrrf." came the voice from the black cloud beside us.
"Oh, b*gg*r off, Peaches, you ghastly little insect." growled Eddie.

So there is the answer to that little mystery.  As ever, another one arises to take its place - the ghostly scrattin' still echoes from within my airing cupboard...  I'm going to go and hide now.

Good night.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Sunday 15 August 2010

What have I done?  What HAVE I DONE?

I'll tell you what I've done.  I've made a great big, feathery, bruised and bloodied stick with which to beat myself, that's what I've done.

In the first instance, I must report that the baby Buzzard died the morning after it was brought to us.  It passed its final night in our warm airing cupboard, so a better way to go, I suppose, than at the jaws of one of the local cats.  The little thing was just too young to be away from its mother - plus it had sustained unpleasant injuries from the magpie that we ascertained had attacked its nest.  I was sorry for its death, though unable to deeply mourn a Buzzard.  If you are a long-time reader of this blog, you will know why.  The trouble is that, since the infant raptor expired in our airing cupboard, I'm sure I can still heard it scrattin' and shuffling around in there.  My partner doesn't believe me - but I swear on my favourite whiskers that (especially in the dead of night) the ghostly scrattin' starts...  I even made my partner get out of bed one night, to open the cupboard door and check for me.  There was definite scrattin' going on - but the cupboard was empty - save for its usual contents.  I begin to grow reluctant to walk up the stairs past the cupboard door by myself...

Being no stranger to supernatural acts, having lived with my New Teal Megane and its psychotic, devil-possessed windows, for over a year now, I thought I was becoming hardened to such things - but this paranormal scrattin', twittering and shuffling begins to grow too much for my pure young mind.

At least poor Starsky rests in peace.  I miss him terribly.  Whenever I see his partner, I race to the fence to bark to him - and then remember that he's no longer there.  However, I have it on good authority that I may soon have another new neighbour.  Starsky's partner has been visiting another West Highland Terrier at a Rescue Shelter not too far from here, but I'm not sure when he is coming to live here.

I must bark that I was sincerely impressed with new friend Keetha Denise's ability to diagnose the unfortunate Starsky's brain tumour before my words confirmed it.  Angie said that KD is really good at Biology-type stuff and she wasn't wrong.  My partner remarked to me that Biology was one of her favourite subjects whilst at school.  She laments that she did not pay more attention to the teacher at the time; instead of listening and learning, my young partner elected instead to amuse her friends by turning to the section on "sexual reproduction" and drawing little faces on the sperms in the pictures.  (I cannot judge her, I would probably have done the same.  Yet another example of why my partner and I were formed for life together.  Indeed, had I been blessed with opposable thumbs, I don't doubt that I would still be drawing faces on sperms in pictures even today.).

I see that I have digressed from the point of my original lament.  Allow me to return to my tale of woe.  Some two days after the Buzzard had been brought to us, at around 10.00am ('twas a Saturday), my partner and I were readying ourselves to go out for the day when there was a knock at the door.  We opened it to find two young boys from across the road, cradling something wrapped in a fleece jacket.
"Please help!" asked one of the boys, "It's dying!"
My partner, naturally, asked them what they had and they carefully unwrapped the jacket to reveal in its folds a rather harassed-looking female (adult) blackbird.  "It's wing is broken and it was just sitting on the ground, not going anywhere."
The other boy piped up.
"That horrible black cat from along the road was just about to get it, so we saved the bird from it!"
"Well done boys, that was very good of you." said my partner, as I muttered "Bl**dy Peaches." under my breath.  My partner gently lifted the unprotesting bird and stretched out its wing with the utmost care.
"Well, its wing isn't broken." She said, continuing to examine the bird.
"It's got some blood coming out of its beak." said one of the boys.  That was true, but - aside from that - the bird had no other injury.
"OK, I think this bird is going to be just fine." pronounced my partner.  "I'll tell you what I think has happened.  I think she's flown into a window and is just a bit stunned.  I think she just needs a quiet sit-down and then she'll be alright again."
"What about the cat, though?" asked one of the boys, who were both clearly concerned for its fate.
"If you leave the bird with me," said my partner, "I'll keep her safe until she's better and can fly away."  The boys were very grateful and, after asking if they could check about the bird later, they scampered off.  Abandoning our plans for the morning, my partner was true to her words.  She gently carried the bird through the house and carefully placed it on our patio, near the wall of the house.  She then leaned a square panel of wood over the bird's resting place, so that it was sheltered from view and could fly away as soon as it was ready.  I needed no prompting to stand guard at an appropriate distance, lest Peaches be tempted to once again try for a lazy kill.  He didn't, which was just as well for him.  Sure enough, after about half an hour, the bird hopped out from its temporary shelter and flew happily away.

But that's not the end of the business - not by a long whisker.  Some ten to fifteen minutes after the blackbird had been brought to us, there was another knock on the door.

Yes.  ANOTHER feathered casualty, for the attentions of Doctor Jasper and Nurse Partner.  It was the same two boys - this time accompanied by a very dead pigeon.  Dead enough to be beyond even my powers.
"How did this bird die?" asked on of the boys.  Squirming slightly, and doing her best to hide her revulsion (I remained stationed at my guard post, but watched all this transpiring whilst keeping one eye on my feathered charge), my partner took the bird and examined it.
"I think it was hit by a car." replied my partner.  "These wounds were from the car's impact and the wound on its back is from where it fell on the road.  Perhaps we should bury it before your little sister sees it."  Leaving me in charge of the blackbird and the house, my partner accompanied the two boys and the ex-pigeon to the hedge, where they found a suitable place to lay it to rest.  After advising the two little boys that they must go and wash their hands, she returned to me.

"Honestly, Jazz." she sighed, "I'm starting to feel like Rolf-bl**dy-Harris." (Mr. Harris is a much-loved artist and TV presenter, who for many years hosted a phenomenally-successful programme called Animal Hospital, covering the day-to-day goings-on at a vets' clinic).  I barely had time to agree, when there was another knock at our door.  Yes - the same two little imps stood at our doorstep.
"Are we annoying you?" one of them asked, as they both giggled.  My partner couldn't help laughing with them.
"No," she replied, "But another half an hour and I might have to get Jasper to do some nipping around here..."
"Can we give Jasper a cuddle?"

I am not a man to turn down a cuddle, so I trotted to join my partner at the door and submitted to the attentions of the young boys.  Fortunately for my partner's sanity, one of the boy's older brothers clocked-on to what was happening and came across to rescue her from the well-meaning young lads.  She silently expressed her gratitude and we were left in peace.  But for how long?  How long...?

My partner has advised me that it may not be entirely prudent to discuss her late marriage proposal (which she hesitated not to decline).  Among the tempting array of offers put forth by her dashing young suitor, to induce her acceptance of his hand, was his assurance that she would be "allowed to continue driving her car" and would be "allowed out of the house once a week, to drive him to the mosque".  As enticing as these delights sounded, my partner had one other thing to consider: where would her beloved Jasper fit into this dazzling new matrimonial future?  Dogs, came the reply, were dirty animals - not fit to be kept in the house.  I would therefore have to be "executed" if the illustrious marriage was to take place.  It was thus with a heavy heart that my partner felt she had to decline the gentleman's most generous offer.

It was mention of the word 'mosque' (by itself no threat whatsoever - most Muslims of my acquaintance being delightful people) alongside some rather unsettling opinions concerning other nationalities that first prompted my alarm.  I was quick to stamp my veto on the nuptials, which only served to prejudice further my prospective partner-in-law against the canine race.  I'm not entirely certain - but I believe I may be allergic to fundamentalist nutters; this blog is no place for such topics, so I will remain silent on this subject forevermore, save to bark that my partner respectfully declined the offer of a future as this gentleman's "mosquito" and invited him to never contact her ever again.

What a fortnight...  all of this stress caused me to overlook my blogging anniversary!  Silly me.

The first ever entry of this blog was committed to internet destiny on Sunday, 13 August 2006.  Four years.  To those of you who have been with me since that first day - I thank you for your support.  To friends who have sniffed out my trail and joined me along the way - I thank you also.  I love and cherish you, dear reader, and am hopeful that we may share many more adventures and find more friends along the way...  Four years.  Blimey.  Don't they seem to have gone by in the twitch of a whisker...?!

I exhaust myself, and will sign off for this evening.  I have not been sleeping too well of late and so I - augh!  What was that?!  That was DEFINITELY a sound!  "Scfft, scfft, scfft..." it went...  It's the scrattin' THE SCRATTIN'....  It's in the cupboard....!!!

Good night.  Sleep sound - because I will not.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Friday 6 August 2010

Life and Death.  Two such simple words; they hardly take a moment to bark.  And yet, they represent the two greatest forces in the universe.  They comprise all we ever were, all we ever are, and all we ever will be.  These two words represent the fragile scales on which balance the destinies of us all.

Before you think "Blimey, Jasper!  That's a bit deep.  Have you been hitting the ol' Colombian Marching Powder, my friend?", I ought to clarify.  Both of these existence-defining forces have visited my household within the past two weeks.

I shall deal with these elements in strict alphabetical order.  So.  First, I turn to that hooded and fickle keeper of time: Death.

Approximately a fortnight ago, my first-ever 'proper' girlfriend - a Norfolk Terrier named Teazle - passed into Immortality.  She was the first to welcome me to my new home after my partner adopted me (see my 'Evolution' series) - it was Teazle's partners who threw a "welcome to ********* dinner-party" for me, to which I wore a bow-tie and was described by a fellow human diner as "rakish".  Most perceptive of him...  Alas, Teazle used some disrespectful words towards me at the end of the evening, which is why she was never elevated to 'wife' status.  There are only two (possibly three these days - if I permit the "Angie"-factor) women from whom I will take potty-mouthed abuse: my beloved partner and my principal wife, Springer Spaniel Isolde.  Teazle and I eventually accepted that we did not sniff snout-to-snout and went our separate ways.  However, that does not mean that I was not saddened to hear of her death.  That barked, she had attained a goodly age.  She came to this town when my predecessor, Tess, was still alive, although in the final stages of her fatal cancer.  In an ironic twist, Tess was the first bitch to welcome Teazle to ********* - how odd that, some three years later, Teazle would be the first bitch to welcome ME to **********.  But, at least, she enjoyed an extremely long and, for the most part, happy and contented life.

The second canine passing hit me closer to home - both figuratively and literally.  My next-door neighbour - West Highland Terrier, Starsky, - is no more.  I cannot believe it.

According to my late friend's partner, Starsky (who was much younger than myself) had been having one or two "dizzy spells", during which he randomly lost his balance and toppled over.  Then, towards the end of last week, it happened on exiting an upper room - which resulted in Starsky falling down the staircase.  I knew nothing of these events - Starsky remained affable and chirpy throughout.  The "stairs incident" prompted Starsky's partner to seek veterinary advice.  Tests subsequently revealed a massive, inoperable brain tumour.  After a few days' consideration, Starsky returned to the vets' for the kindest act of all - and passed into the realm of history.

I confess that this latter loss completely took the wind from my sails.

Obviously I was saddened by Teazle's loss.  But she had enjoyed a long and full life, secure in the knowledge that her numerous progeny would continue her line.  Starsky was a happy, chatty fellow in the prime of his life who, one day, was there and, the next, he was gone.  I will confess that we often exchanged banter through the fence, some of which, to a stranger, may have seemed somewhat aggressive - but it was only harmless banter, always accompanied by wagging tails.  Ordinarily I dislike West Highland Terriers - but Starsky was pleasant, sparky - though quiet, well-spoken, polite, generally well-liked about town, well-mannered and discreet.  I have not forgotten his discretion in not mentioning my name in association with the "Rat & Dog Cat-Bashing Scandal", which was the wee of the World back in May 2009.  To this date - only Chloe (the cat), Starsky and you, dear reader (if you have read those posts) know that I was the dog involved.  Starsky took my shameful secret to his grave and never, ever, used his knowledge to taunt or belittle me.  He was truly an honourable dog.

The little git got the ultimate drop on me, however.  A couple of days before he died, Starsky told his partner that he had seen me destroying the lavender plants in my garden.  She, in turn, told my partner after she had broken to us the news of Starsky's death.  Craftily done, Starsky, craftily done.  But don't get too secure up there - when I make it to the Pearly Park I'll be sniffing you out for some payback, sonny-boy...!

I feel dreadfully guilty.  I believe it is known in certain circles as "survivor's guilt".  I am far longer in the whisker than Starsky was - and yet I retain my faculties - sight, hearing and lively vibrancy.  Why?  Why me? When so many others are destined to pass before their time?  I'm certain I am not an imbecile - but to this question I can formulate no answer.  I love my life, and my partner and I are happy in my continued bouncy vigour and excellent health.  Although I seem to be a fortunate winner in the race of life - what about the others?  Starsky (and my cancer-struck predecessor, Tess) loved their lives, too...

And then Life.  A troubled infant's life - which I was initially pleased to participate in prolonging.

My partner and I were summoned today (in the absence of a more responsible adult) by a group of young girls from the other end of our road (age between 4 and 8, I estimate), concerned about an unspecified object on the opposite payment.  It proved to be a young bird, ousted violently from its nest by species unknown, and was in a somewhat desperate state on the asphalt.  It was instantly obvious that the youngster was not yet fully-fledged and that it would not survive with all the cats in the neighbourhood lurking nearby.  My partner gently scooped up the bird and reassured the girls that we would take care of it.  I assisted my compassionate partner in preparing a bed for our unfortunate guest.  A small box was lined with silk and woollen scarves and the tiny casualty was placed within, along with some mashed-up chicken for nourishment.

Upon closer observation, however, I began to feel uneasy about this benevolent act of mercy.  Even closer inspection revealed a striking physical and aromatic resemblance between the helpless infant and another, less-savoury and oft-mentioned in my early blog-posts, former occupant of an egg.  Afore I proceed - here is some evidence that I exaggerate not:

Mr. Stafford welcomes his young, vulnerable guest. Prior to discovering the species of the infant.

Mr. Stafford begins to suspect, with some justified alarm, the species of the infant.

The more perceptive reader will possibly suspect where this is heading.  And their suspicions would be accurate.  You see before you, comfortable in my partner's soft dainty paw, a little baby BUZZARD! Aaaaargh!!!

I have been complicit in saving the life of a buzzard.  I feel sick.  I can hear the little b*st*rd scrattin' away in the airing cupboard even now as I type.  He is sitting, surrounded my one of my partner's silk scarves, on a small woollen pad within a plastic punnet (which formerly contained some delicious nectarines), in a warm dry place, with a small pile of mashed-up chicken at his disposal.  And I have to make do with the mere run of the house and garden, and hardly any sustenance other than dog food.  The injustice!

But I will just ask my partner to check on him again before we go to bed... just to make sure he's OK...  NOT that I'm concerned, let's get that clear.  I'm only interested in any leftover mashed chicken.  Actually... I might just go and check on him now - he's far too little to cover himself back up if the scarf has slipped... and he's so young and helpless...

NEXT time - more baby Buzz; a marriage proposal for my partner; a threat of execution for me; a revelation about the fetid creature that is the cat Peaches; a journey with AOL/Talk-Talk into the very abyss of internet hell - and more "Evolution of Jasper"! 

Never a dull moment...

Good day.