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.