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