Monday, 31 May 2010

Monday 31 May 2010

Thankfully, the weather has cooled significantly and I can resume my usual routine in comfort.

My partner and I have had a most enjoyable Bank Holiday.  We visited the garden centre and bought some Lavender plants (two different types; two of each type - Lavandula angustifolia and Lavandula stoechas), which we planted in place of the Rose of Sharon that mysteriously disappeared.  We also expended much effort in removing the stem of a small elder tree that was in the way and which has annoyed us for the best part of a year.  I had no idea that roots were so hardy.  The effort just about finished off my partner.  Even I retired after the task seemed to have been proved impossible.  I underestimated the tenacity of my partner, however.  She would not be defeated and high glee abounded as the wretched shrub was, at last, unearthed.  Her arm and wrist are sore now - but these are small sacrifices in light of our triumph.

At work, too, I am relieved to welcome the cooler temperatures.  For the heat had driven Ewan (the cerebrally-challenged mutt) to levels of inanity that were positively dangerous.

A few days ago, two canine guests were welcomed to the workplace.  A young black spaniel bitch named Bramble and a black labrador fellow called Boggis.  They were companions of another of my partner's colleagues and had to come to work because another member of their pack was on heat and was being more irritable than usual.  Bramble was terribly shy, and preferred to remain in her basket in the shade, where it was cooler.  I got on famously with Boggis, however.  He was around the same age as me (though with far fewer grey furs - the git), and affably chatty.  We were conversing quietly in the yard, when up bounded Ewan, toy in mouth.
"Jasper!"  he yipped.  I greeted him in turn and introduced Boggis.  Fizzy, a young black labrador and Ewan's long-suffering companion, was sniffing around at the far end of the yard.  They had both been away on holiday for a while and I was absolutely astounded to see how much weight Fizzy had put on.  She had grown quite chubby.  Ewan wasted no time in highlighting this.  "Have you SEEN how fat Fizzy is?!" he cried, his tail wagging wildly.
"Ewan..." I growled, warningly.  "We don't talk about ladies like that, do we?"
"But Jasper," he continued unheedingly. "It's true." He leaned confidentially in to me and whispered "Too much cheese, I think."  Then he laughed and said "She's turning into a right old porker.  It's mad when she runs.  She looks like a jelly or a wobbly cheese."  And he snorted with laughter.

"Ewan!" I barked sternly. "Not in front of our guest..."
"What?" asked the simple Ewan. "Who's that then?"
"Boggis!"
"Oh right, yes.  Brilliant." nodded Ewan.  "Which one is Boggis?"
"He's the one standing here that isn't either you or me."
"What, this lad here?"
"YES!"
"Oh right, yes. Brilliant."

Poor Boggis looked at me with a bewildered air.
"Trust me, Boggis." I sighed. "This is nothing.  Nothing.  He means well, though."
Boggis nodded, his eyebrows raised in mildly surprised amusement.  The three of us looked over to the far corner of the yard, where Fizzy was laying her morning's dog-eggs.  Ewan began to laugh and snort again.  He gestured towards the unfortunate Fizzy with one of his forepaws.

"Look at Fizzy's bum!" he giggled.  "Look how big it is!  It's like two badgers fighting in a sack!  Hee-hee-hee-heeee!"
Any temptation I may have felt to laugh at Ewan's illustrative description of Fizzy's somewhat ample derrière was swiftly negated when I caught sight of the thunderous expression on the fair maid's face, which indicated that she had heard every word of what Ewan had barked.  As soon as she had completed her toilette, she began to stride purposefully in our direction.

"Boggis, old bean," I said hastily, "Would you join me in a swift tour of the neighbouring woodlands?"  I had already started to sidle towards the gate.  Boggis began to follow.
"Leg it!" he muttered, as Fizzy broke into a swift trot.  We both fled out of the yard and hid on the bridleway behind the big trunk of a long-fallen tree.  Ewan was too busy chuckling to himself and had no conception of the danger he was in.

My new friend and I peeped around the trunk into the yard and watched as an irate Fizzy pinned Ewan to the ground and gave his ear a sharp nip, which made him yelp.  She then confiscated Ewan's toy and stalked off with it to her basket.  Once she was safely out of the way, Boggis and I crept back to the yard.

"Jasper," said Ewan, "What does 'emasculate' mean?"
"Ooof..." gasped Boggis, wincing.
"Well, Ewan," I replied. "Emasculation can mean many things, both literally and figuratively.  However, in this case specifically, I would imagine it means that if you should ever laugh at Fizzy or her bottom again, then she will tear off your little love-truncheon with her bare fangs."
"Oh right, yes."  said Ewan, quietly.  "Brilliant."

Boggis and I helped Ewan to compose a flowery and grovelling apology which, after many rehearsals, he managed to deliver to Fizzy with only a few mistakes.  The apology was graciously accepted, but Ewan still wasn't allowed to have his toy back until the end of the day.

This dose of Ewan had proved more than enough for Boggis, who spent the rest of the day sleeping alongside his companion Bramble, in the shade.

Bramble and Boggis have not been back to the workplace since.  I can't bark that I blame them. 

Two badgers fighting in a sack, indeed.  For goodness' sake.

Sweet reader - I really DO do my level best to help Ewan.  But, sometimes, he just doesn't help himself...

Good night.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Sunday 23 May 2010

Dear, oh dear, it is hot.  Far too hot for me.

My partner endeavoured to soothe me this afternoon by taking me swimming before returning home after lunch, and I did appreciate the benefit of this.  Not for the first time am I grateful for the location of my new house.  Because we are in a quiet area, next to the river, it is a little cooler down here than in the town.  Also, my partner keeps the French Windows open, allowing the passage of fresh air into the house.

However - it is not just the weather that is heated.  For temperatures have also been running high at home.  Just the night before last, I accidentally kicked my partner out of bed as she slept (at around 4.00am), in an endeavour to stretch myself more fully.  She landed on the floor on her back and was distinctly unimpressed.

During the day, my partner took a nap on the sofa whilst I pottered outside (the heat had tired her and, apparently, her sleep had been disturbed the previous evening).  I decided that I would make a nice cool bed to lie in in the soft earth of our garden borders.  A good ten to fifteen minutes of hard work, sending bulbs and soil flying everywhere, procured me the chilled earthy den I was seeking and I enjoyed it greatly - particularly when I turned my head to find some delicious snippets of salad to tempt my palette.  'Twas an epicurean delight.  When my partner awoke and came to look for me, she was not terribly pleased with the sight that met her pretty eyes.  In fact, I would not be lying if I were to bark that she was extremely angry.
"What the bl**dy h*ll have you done?!" she roared, surveying the crater in the soil and the scattered bulbs.  She continued to lecture me as she fetched a trowel and began to replant the bulbs and fill in the pit.  She then proceeded to comb through the soil with the trowel.  She seemed to be looking for something.
"Where is my Rose of Sharon plant, Jasper?" she demanded, angrily.  I looked benignly away.

My partner, muttering oaths, continued to go through the soil carefully.  But not a trace did she find of the Rose of Sharon plant - not a single leaf or fragment of root.  My partner glared furiously at me, her expression like thunder.  She knew as well as I did what had happened to her plant.
"Mum gave me that plant!" she said crossly, "It was just beginning to do really well.  I am very, VERY angry with you, Jasper."  She continued to storm and rail at me for at least the next fifteen minutes, while I pretended to listen and look guilty.  "I'll put some tough lavender bushes in there." she frowned, looking at the now-bare border.  "I'd like to see you dig through them."  She paused, and then turned back to me.  "That's not a challenge, Jasper."

Later that evening, after both the weather and my partner's fury had cooled a little, we went for a walk.  About halfway 'round, I was moved to pursue a rabbit and raced after it through hedges and fields - one of the fields being thick with bright yellow flowers.  On returning (eventually) to my partner, she stared at me in disbelief.  I was liberally covered from snout to tail with yellow pollen.  She laughed at me all the way back to the car, which I did not appreciate.  Catching sight of myself in the car window, I was appalled.  I was entirely yellow.  I looked like a fat banana.  But there was no need for my partner to laugh at me so.

As an act of revenge for my partner's disrespectful guffaws, today, I re-excavated my cool, earthy, den in the border while she wasn't looking.  Still as pleasantly soothing as previously - but no salad this time.  Someone must have eaten it all...

****************************************************

After my last posting, some readers were kind enough to let me know how moved they were by my relation of Kipper's passing.  I was most touched.  'Twas not my intent to make anyone feel bereft or wretched - but I felt I owed it to Kipper.  For, without Kipper, there would probably be no Jasper. 

Kipper taught me about the kind of dog I should be.  I could have been oh, so bitter and aggressive, living a life of self-pity and disdain towards humans.  Kipper, Pebble, Rex, Dave and the others; these events happened around ten years ago now - but my experiences with them (and, previously at the veterinary hospital, Bobby) shaped me from Captain into the Jasper I would become. 

I was too foolish to realise it when I was a younger dog but now, with the benefit of hindsight and the chance to revisit my younger life which my 'Evolution' series has afforded me, I have learned that I am the sum of my experiences.  My partner too.  She has been terribly, terribly ill from time to time since @2001 but, now that she is recovering, it is clear that she now has sense and reserves of strength, courage and optimism, which she never would have attained had she not been through such trying times.  Yes; my early life was wretched.  Yes; the injustice of Kipper's fate was terrible.  But neither will ever be forgotten or disregarded.  I wouldn't change a thing.  Without such cruel torments, I would have grown into a quite different dog, I'm sure.

And you wouldn't be sitting here, reading this, right now.





PART TWENTY-TWO


No-one felt like eating their breakfast that day, and more than one dinner went untouched. Shortly after dinner-time, Pebble was carried gently back to his pen and placed in his basket. He was fast asleep and snoring heavily. The vet, who had come to collect Kipper's body, had exercised his wise judgment in attending to the stricken Pebble, and had administered a heavy sedative to the little dog.
A pall of gloom and despondency now hung over the dogs’ block like a damp, heavy blanket. I didn’t know what to do to relieve the situation. It didn’t help that every night before lights-out Pebble, in addition to his nightly question concerning the return of his family, was added a repeated enquiry as to when Kipper was coming back. It was torture.

A few days later, the results of Kipper’s autopsy came back and filtered quickly around the block. They really just served to confirm what most of us had suspected. Just two short days before Kipper was due to go to his new family, a massive heart-attack had claimed him whilst he slept. I  was disgusted at how cruelly fate had served Kipper. In anger, I kicked the rear wall of my pen, stubbing my toe. It hurt, but I didn’t care – there was a strange relief in feeling physical pain in addition to my unseen inner torment. There was, however, the smallest glimmer of consolation. Kipper’s body had, apparently, shown no sign of trauma. He would have felt absolutely nothing – indeed, it’s doubtful that he even knew what was happening.
Not for Kipper, therefore, was a long, drawn-out suffering death, humiliated as he lay caked in his own incontinent filth and too frail and elderly to be able to clean himself. He departed this world a young and popular pack leader, with hope in his future, surrounded by his friends. There surely had to be something in that, I reasoned to myself. I still missed him like mad though.

This wasn’t quite the end of the story, however. Poor Dave had had the unenviable task of telephoning the family that had chosen to adopt Kipper and telling them of the death of their new pet. They were understandably devastated. The following day, they telephoned Dave back and said that there had been another dog at the shelter whom they’d liked – would it be possible to adopt him instead? Of course, Dave was more than happy to accede to this – and the Red Card so recently removed from above Kipper’s pen was brought back into the block… and pinned firmly to Pebble’s door.


There was general rejoicing at this development, though it was tempered by the still-raw grief that we all felt. After a few eerily quiet evenings, with little or no lights-out chat, one night there came a question from the opposite end of the block:

“What was that song that Kipper taught us ages ago? That funny one about the bitch…?”

We all thought for a moment. Suddenly remembering, I barked:

“She Wore a Bluebell in Her Collar.”

“That’s it!” barked back the voice.

“Oh yes, I’d forgotten that one.” said Rats, and he began to sing it. “She wore a bluebell in her collar, as she frolicked on the grass…” (The rest of it is too rude to repeat). By the end, a number of voices had swelled the song, and snorts of coarse laughter sounded around the block.

“Dear me,” chuckled Rex, “And do you remember that joke he told about the two Jack Russells and the firework…?” (Again, far too filthy to repeat here).

The rest of the pre-sleep chat was taken up in fond, amusing anecdotes previously supplied by, and some concerning, the late Kipper. I felt a little better as I drifted off to sleep – and it struck me that this was how Kipper would want to be remembered. Not with silence and misery – but with appreciative, cheeky, laughter and happy memories. After that, I encouraged the pack to bark freely about Kipper whenever they wanted to. It didn’t compensate for his loss – nothing could – but it helped us all to remember him with affection and smiles, rather than desolate sorrow. The thick, damp, heavy blanket of grief was gradually replaced by a soft, comforting sheet of fond recollection and the sense of a soul at peace.

 
 
Good night.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Tuesday 18 May 2010

Despite a slight rainfall on Sunday, I have been greatly enjoying the Spring weather of late.

My partner and I have almost succeeded in pulling the garden into a respectable state - now we are just waiting for some of the flowers to come out.  The climbing rose bodes well, with plenty of buds just ripe for the bursting, although I fear it will be another year before my estate reaches optimum glory.  I am minded to introduce some lavender, both to encourage bees and to mask a certain odour that seems to be hanging around of late.  My partner tackled me about it (as I knew she must) this morning.

"Jasper." she said, crossly. "You only ever eat good quality tinned meat and your biscuits these days."
I was happy to concur with that statement.  "Then how come, " she continued, "your bottom-gas always seems to smell of rotting cabbage?!"  For once, I had no reply.  'Tis mystery all.  But I think that only highly fragrant borders can save me now...

I have been greatly amused - and most flattered - by the small element of competition that seems to have crept in amongst my much-treasured blog followers of late.  The race to be the first to comment on my idle musings is terribly diverting, and never fails to put a smile on my whiskery snout.  Of course, for modesty's sake, the instigator of this new sporting thrust shall remain anonymous.  But if I hint that their name starts with "La" and ends with "nce", I'm sure I shall not be giving too much away.

I thought that you might like to see some pictures of the bluebells in the woods where my partner and I work.  They are particularly fine this season.  My partner says that, in one of them - if you look closely - you can see some kind of manifestation of what appears to be a wood-sprite.  My partner thinks it looks "sinister".  I, on the other paw, think it looks remarkably handsome.  Judge for yourself:









PART TWENTY-ONE


"Kipper is dead."  repeated Jake, in subdued tones.

"WHAT?!" I spluttered, aghast. 

"It's true." Rats nodded, in a small, trembling voice.

It was impossible to believe and my immediate reaction was that this was some sort of elaborate sick joke.  A moment's reflection, however, brought the swift realisation that neither Jake nor Rats were the type to derive cheap and twisted amusement from such serious topics.  Both of them, in fact, were remarkably sensible dogs.  I suddenly felt as though someone had just kicked me, hard, in the stomach.  I swayed on my legs and had to sit down.

"It can't be true..." I gasped.  How?  How could it have happened that Kipper, so warm and vibrant just a few short hours ago, had gone?  I stood up again and, going to the door of my pen, strained to look across the corridor into Kipper's.

I couldn't see Kipper's upper half, but from his ribs down to his tail, he just looked perfectly normal - sound asleep, half in and half out of his basket.  I did see, however, a little puddle of urine on the pen floor, by his thigh.  "He's done a wee in his pen."  I said, "That's not like him."

"That quite often happens after you die." explained Rats, quietly.  "When your life goes, your body relaxes and any wee or poo in you just comes out afterwards.  I'm so sorry Captain.  He's definitely dead."

Rats had been abandoned as a tiny puppy by his previous owners on a rubbish tip.  He had been found in a shoe-box, the only survivor alongside his deceased siblings.  He was therefore the dogs' block's accepted authority on death and I had no reason to disbelieve him now.

As I stared at Kipper's body, I realised that Rats and Jake were right.  Kipper's chest was no longer rising and falling.  It was too early to smell death - but I could smell the cold stillness about him.  My body suddenly and involuntarily retched violently.  Fortunately my belly was empty, or I'd have been sick everywhere.  Everything seemed unreal and other-worldly.  At any moment, I expected to wake up and hear Kipper berating me for oversleeping - "Wake up Captain, you lazy toad!"  How I wanted to hear those words.

Oh, I had wanted to be pack leader SO much - but not like this.  Not like this.

"When?" I managed to say, after a while.  Jake shook his head and Rats shrugged.
"Don't know." replied the little Jack Russell, as Jake retreated to the back of his pen, shuddering and whimpering.  "I didn't get to sleep for a while last night." continued Rats.  "Kipper, Pebble and I were just chatting quietly for a while.  Then we went off to sleep and, this morning, he was just... gone."

"Oh g*d, Pebble!"  I cried, making both Rats and Jake jump, and waking more members of the pack.  A quiet murmuring had sprung up, and the incomprehensible news began to spread around the block.  "Who's going to tell Pebble?!"  My heart fell even further - the loss of his bastion of strength and comfort was going to utterly destroy Pebble.
"Someone's going to have to."  whimpered Jake, from the rear of his pen.  "You're pack leader now, Captain, you have to tell him."

I began to feel nauseous again (I was too shocked and numb for any grief to set in yet.  I felt as though I was sleepwalking).  I looked at Rats, but he averted his eyes and would not meet my gaze.  Unhappily, the decision was immediately taken out of my paws.  Pebble's sleepy, bleary-eyed face appeared at the door of his pen.
"Hmmn...?" he mumbled drowsily.  "Who's going to tell Pebble what?  What's happening?"

I looked at the innocent face of the little Staffie-cross.  How could I bear to break his sweet, affectionate heart?  I recalled the advice I had offered Kipper just a few short days ago, when he was debating whether or not to tell Pebble about his adoption, and decided that the best way was the honest, direct way.  Pebble yawned and stretched and looked into Kipper's pen.  "Oh no!" he said.  "Kipper has done a wee in his pen by mistake.  He won't like that at all!"

"Pebble."  I said, in my clearest tone of bark.  "Something very, very bad has happened and I need your help."  Pebble blinked back at me.  I took a deep breath.  "I need you to be very strong, and help me."  I continued.  "Pebble, we don't quite know how or why yet - but Kipper died during the night.  I am so very, very sorry."

Pebble stared uncomprehendingly back at me for what seemed like an age.  And then, he gave a little laugh.
"Oh no, Captain, no." he chuckled.  "You mustn't tease me.  Rex will bite your bottom!  Naughty Captain!  See, Kipper is just sleeping.  Look - he's alright.  He just did a little wee, that's all."

I swallowed the lump that seemed to be growing in my throat and addressed little Pebble again.
"Pebble.  I am sorry.  Kipper is dead.  His life slipped away during the night and all you can see there now is the empty case that used to carry him about.  Oh, Pebble, I wish it wasn't true.  But Kipper is gone."

Pebble began to look uncertain and afraid.
"Captain..." he said in a small voice.  "Why are you doing this?  I thought you were my friend?  Please stop it.  It's not funny, I don't like it."  I didn't know what to do.  Rats came to my aid.
"Oh Peb.," he sighed. "It's true.  It was me that found him.  Kipper died in his sleep.  We'd all give anything to bring him back.  But Captain is right.  He's gone."

"No!" barked Pebble angrily.  "He's just asleep!  He was tired last night.  I think you're being mean.  I'll show you."
"Oh g-d." muttered Jake from the back of his pen.  He knew what was coming, and I had a fair idea.

"Kipper, wake up." barked Pebble.  We watched him, knowing we couldn't stop him.  "Kiiiiip-per!" continued the little dog in a sing-song bark.  "Come on, lazy-boy!  Come and hear what they're all saying about you!  Wake up!  Up you get!  Kipper!"  A note of panic began to creep into Pebble's bark.  "Kipper!  Please!  Please wake up... Kipper...?  Please...?"

I had to turn away as I saw realisation beginning to dawn in Pebble's eyes.  "Kipper...?" he whispered, one last time.  The small dog then staggered back and fell suddenly into a sitting position.  Trembling, with utterly stricken eyes, he raised his head and began to howl.  But it wasn't just a howl.  It was (and, indeed, still remains to this day) the worst and most heart-wrenching sound I've ever heard.

It was a howl, but not a howl.  It was an agonised cry - a wail - combining a blend of despair, grief, anger, frustration, loss, rage, fear, pain, misery... On and on it went, without ceasing.  It seemed to cut right through to the marrow in my bones and was utterly, utterly devastating.
"Someone make him stop." groaned Jake, his forepaws covering his ears.  Rats, being nearest to Pebble, did his best - but Pebble was lost in his grief and beyond the reach of us all.

Inevitably, the terrible howling brought Dave and one of the kennel-maids rushing into the block from the kitchen, where they had been preparing our breakfasts.  They crashed through the Door of Doors and sped to Pebble's pen.  The kennel-maid (I believe it was the one named Sarah) went into the distraught dog's pen and scooped him up in her arms.  She cradled him in her arms like an infant, doing her best to soothe and console him, whilst Dave examined Pebble's paws - both of them believing that some terrible injury had befallen the little dog.  Of course, no injury or malady was detected - but Pebble squealed on.  They turned, the kennel-maid carrying Pebble in her arms, to summon the vet for a more thorough examination of the hysterical dog - and then Dave noticed the wee-puddle beside the inert and motionless Kipper.

Without further ado, he entered the pen and dropped to his knees beside Kipper, prepared to do his utmost to revive the respected dog - but one touch was enough.  The body had grown cold.
"Oh no."  I heard Dave breathe quietly.  His hand rested for a moment on Kipper's cheek and, when he got up and turned to exit the pen I was unsurprised but still saddened to see Dave's cheeks wet with tears as they trickled from his eyes, down his cheeks, and became lost in his beard. He retraced his steps along the corridor to the Door of Doors. The sound of Pebble's wailing receded as he was carried out, either to the Isolation Block or Dave's bungalow - the latter, probably.


The sounds of quieter despair began to fill my ears as the rest of the block awoke to the tragic news. The younger pups began to cry straight away and then I lost my composure totally as I heard Rex - our pack enforcer, the large, mighty, powerful Rex - curled up at the back of his pen, whimpering and sniffling like a newborn kitten. As my first tears fell, Dave re-entered the block through the Door of Doors, pushing a metal trolley - the one that was usually employed in the distribution of our meals.

He drew it to a halt, his shoulders heaving, outside Kipper's pen. With the utmost care and respect, he entered the pen and gently lifted the inert, lifeless body onto the trolley. I watched, unable to tear my eyes away, as Dave covered Kipper's body with a white cotton sheet. Kipper's bushy caramel-coloured tail with its quirky white tip, which I had often envied him, protruded from the edge of the sheet, hanging limply off the end of the trolley. As a sad afterthought, with careful deliberate movements, Dave slowly unpinned the much-longed-for Red "Reserved" Card from above Kipper's pen door and laid it on top of the sheet-draped corpse.

As Dave released the brake from the trolley, and the wheels began to turn, I suddenly knew what I had to do.

I moved swiftly to the front of my pen, and stood boldly and firmly. I raised my head, pursed my lips - and began.

"Ahhrrr-ooooo..." I howled. Rats picked it up immediately.

"Ahhrrr-oooooooo..." he rejoined.

As the trolley began to move, the entire block united in a loud, triumphant rendition of the Song of Triumph. Dave pushed the trolley slowly, moved almost to distraction, as he escorted Kipper on his final journey along the corridor towards the Door of Doors.

I had kept my promise. The entire block united in the heartiest-ever rendition of the Song of Triumph; serenading Kipper’s body to its final resting place.

The doors closed. At last, Kipper had gone home.

 
 
Good night.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Wednesday 12 May 2010

I see we have a new Prime Minister.  But now I'm not sure if I'm happy about it or not.  Generally, I suppose it is better for the country to have a coalition government; as long as they don't descend into squabbles and in-fighting.

Just for you, dear reader, I conducted a brief survey of colleagues at my partner's workplace as to who they would like to see as Prime Minister.  See how I am always thinking of you and working for your intellectual edification?  The answers (in no particular order) were as follows:

Jeremy Paxman; Barack Obama; John Humphrys; Arnold Schwarzenegger; Chris Evans; Ricky Gervais.

Fine suggestions all.  Unfortunately, no-one suggested me - so all those questioned are going to have to be culled.  What a pity.  Join me now in a moment's silence for them.

"..."

Right!  That's that done, then.  Actually, I wouldn't mind reverting to the previous order of things and putting the Queen in charge.  She seems eminently sensible and is fond of dogs.  I like the Queen.  She speaks sense and simply oozes quiet dignity and respect.  I'm not sure about her heir's views on alternative medicine, but I do agree wholeheartedly with him on architecture and farming.

My partner says that her Auntie Dot once told her that the patron of the dog rescue shelter I was in used to be (before my time) Sir John someone-or-other, who was great friends with the late Queen Mother.  This Sir John my-partner-can't-remember-the-name, at one point, had adopted a Staffordshire Bull Terrier from the shelter (I suspect this anecdote may have been related by the late, great Auntie Dot to my partner in order to sway her in favour of the genial nature of Staffies... hmmn...).  Apparently, after a weekend party at his estate, this Sir John escorted the Queen Mother to her limousine and saw her safely in.  His Staffie-dog then immediately, very cheekily, leapt into the big limousine after Her Late Majesty.  Sir John immediately began to apologise, leaning in to retrieve his saucy Staffie, only to find the Queen Mother giggling with delight at the dog's antics and giving the fortunate mutt lots of Royal hugs and cuddles.  Yes; it may be an old-fashioned view, but I am proud of our country's Royal Family.

Away with politics!  Back to real life.  Today, I spent the day with Maisie (as I do every Wednesday).  She took me swimming and then to the park, where I was particularly pleased to find my good friends Candy the chocolate Labrador and Harvey the dark-tan Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  For those who don't remember them, Candy is one of my principal girlfriends and is both a sensual and intellectual delight.  Harvey  was first introduced to me as a very young puppy.  I helped him grow into the ways of a good Staffordshire, but quickly realised that he had all the brain capacity of a jacket-potato.  He is not quite so empty-headed as Ewan (the dog at my partner's workplace) however, Ewan DID suffer from some kind of unspecified cerebral damage.  Harvey has no such excuse.  Nevertheless, like Ewan, Harvey is extremely affable, mostly chirpy, and good company for a limited period of time.  Harvey is also utterly, completely and totally obsessed with his football.  Playing and watching, it matters not.  Harvey loves football.

My tail wagging with increasing vigour, I ran up to Harvey and we made the customary sniff-overs, Candy being on the other side of the park retrieving the football after Harvey had butted it to her with too much force.
"Jas-per!!!" squealed Harvey in delight.  "Fantastic to see you, mate!  Stay and play football with us!"  I noted that Maisie had already stopped to chat with Candy's and Harvey's partners, so I was overjoyed to be able to comply.  Harvey, with eyes shining, continued yipping.  "Have you got yours up yet?!"

"Excuse me?!?" I barked, unsure if I'd heard him properly.
"Have you got yours up yet?" repeated Harvey, earnestly.  "I put mine up two days ago!  Don't tell me you haven't had yours up yet?!"
"Erm..." I muttered.  I began to wonder if, perhaps, my absence from the park had led to the psychological ruin of the small Staffordshire.  At that point, Candy trotted up, batting Harvey's football in front of her.
"Alright Jazz?"  she smiled (I often see Candy at weekends in the woods with my partner, which is why our meeting was less excitable than my reunion with young Harvey).
"Candy!" barked Harvey. "Jasper hasn't got his up yet!  Can you believe that?!"
"HARVEY!" I barked sharply, appalled that he would introduce such a topic before a lady.  Candy rolled her eyes heaven-wards.
"Oh lord." she sighed.  "Jasper, Harvey is referring to his Football World Cup 2010 Wallchart."
"My Master got it free in his newspaper and put it up on the wall for me." added Harvey, nodding proudly.  "It's ONLY a month away! We've already written 'England' in as one of the finalists."

Sighing heavily, with a sideways glance and a wink at Candy, I nodded back at Harvey.  I suddenly began to recall why I now preferred accompanying my partner to work most days...



PART TWENTY

The rescue centre was a home for abandoned or abused dogs and not a boarding kennels.  However, VERY occasionally, if there was space, a temporary resident was put up for a while – usually a dog belonging to someone who’d had to go into hospital and had no immediate acquaintance who could take on the mutt for a brief spell.  In return for a donation, the dog would be given food and shelter until the human returned from hospital or whatever had indisposed them.  On the rare occasion that one of these canines sojourned with us ‘lifers’, all proceeded quietly without significant disruption.  However, there was one notable exception.

A very large, hairy, dark-furred mongrel arrived one day, his owner being obliged to undergo a minor operation and having no other recourse than emergency boarding.  Dave agreed to take the beast and he was allocated to my corridor and into the vacant pen between Pebble and Rats the Jack Russell.  From the very start we all despised him.  The brute was haughty, unsociable, and clearly believed himself to be better then the rest of us.  He regarded each one of us – including Kipper – as if we were something unpleasant that he’d found adhering to the base of his paw.  We were all happy to ignore him.  Unfortunately, after the first day or two, he decided to amuse himself by tormenting Pebble.

The interloper had very quickly registered that Pebble was traumatised following his abandonment by his former human family.  He ear-wigged on Pebble’s private conversations with Kipper and, as we all did, heard Pebble’s nightly querying of Kipper as to whether or not his family were coming to collect him on the morrow.  The despicable newcomer decided that he had found a hitherto-untapped source of amusement.  The following day, a vehicle could be heard, pulling into the driveway – most likely Dave, or one of the kennel-maids, returning from somewhere.


“Hey!  Pebble!” barked the dark-furred mongrel, leaping up and sniffing the air. “I think this is them!  Yes!  It’s your family!  Coming back for you!  Here’s their car!”


Pebble leapt up immediately, yipping excitedly and sniffing the air.


Stop it.” growled Kipper, darkly, to the big dog.


“They’re coming!  They’re coming for me!”  squealed Pebble, almost beside himself.  “I told you they wouldn’t forget me!  I told you Kipper!  They’ve come back for me!”


No-one barked anything as, inevitably, the driver of the vehicle locked the door and walked away out of earshot.  Poor Pebble wagged his tail, standing with hopeful joy, for at least twenty minutes after silence had fallen.  No-one could bear to look as the happiness finally faded from his face and he sloped dejectedly back to his basket.

“You sick b*st*rd.”  hissed Rex, in his pen opposite the new dog.

This incident was bad enough – but the sadistic and depraved cruelty was repeated on poor, unsuspecting, Pebble every time there was the sound of a car engine or the click of a gate that afternoon.  With each episode, more dissenting and angry voices were added to those of Kipper’s, Rex’s and mine.  On Kipper’s advice, Pebble did TRY not to be goaded by the bully but, because his young mind had been in desperate torment for so long, Pebble just couldn’t help himself but fall for the cruel boarder’s assurances that, this time, it really was his family coming to fetch him home.


The explosion of anger that ensued came as a surprise to no-one.  Kipper – for the first and only time, to the best of my knowledge – completely and utterly lost his rag.  He barked at the top of his voice employing profanities, some of which were new even to me, telling our temporary guest exactly what he thought of him.  Towards the end of his tirade, Kipper’s voice began to fail him and crack, so we all chimed in with hearty “hear, hear”s, to support our leader.  Everyone, even the interloper for a moment, was stunned into silence by Kipper’s outburst.  And then came the worst of it.


“Oh, shut up, you filthy, stinking tramp.”  sneered the new dog.  “No wonder no-one wants any of you.  Dirty, worthless scum, the lot of you.”


The entire block erupted with enraged indignation.  Insult our pack leader = insult us all.

Rex’s voice rose above us all, after a discreet (and never-seen-before, at least by me) signal from Kipper.

“Show some respect!”  he hollered, throwing himself repeatedly against his pen door, trying to shove it open, “You WILL respect our pack leader, or I’ll tear your f***ing Jacobs off!  Apologise!  NOW!!!”


“Oh, s*d off.” snarled the newcomer.


Rex (not to mention the rest of us) was rendered utterly barkless by the shocking audacity and lack of respect from this new dog.  Unseen by most, but witnessed by me, was another discreet signal from Kipper to Rex.  Rex nodded grimly and retired, without another bark, to his basket.  It was unbarked but inevitable.  There was going to be trouble.  BIG trouble.


The next day, things began normally.  There was an uneasy silence as everyone ate their breakfasts.  The usual routine of walks and kennel-cleanings began.  Kipper and I were, as normal, walked together.  Pebble and Rats went out together, all was well.  And then the new, nasty dog’s pen was unlocked.  He was due to be walked alone.


All of a sudden, Rex began to whimper pitifully.  He then collapsed to the floor, pawing frantically at his belly, and rolled around with agonised howls.  I suddenly grasped what was a-paw.  Dave and the kennel-maids were still on nervous tenterhooks after the recent infectious diarrhoea epidemic in the bitches’ block, and were on the alert for any initial symptoms!  Rex was acting!


It worked.  The (relatively new) kennel maid took Rex from his pen and decided to walk him alongside the boarding dog, in case Rex was about to expel a vast, infectious, diarrhetic torrent.  As they sped past my pen, Rex shot me a wink, and I marvelled (not for the first time) at his theatrical skills.  Some five minutes later, the sounds of a vicious fight and satisfying yelps drifted towards us from the exercise field.  Kipper smiled grimly.


“What’s happening?” asked Pebble, innocently.

“Our guest is learning an important lesson in fealty amongst dogs.” replied Kipper.  Pebble didn’t understand, but a few of us older dogs did and we chuckled to ourselves.

It goes without saying that Rex and the miscreant dog were swiftly separated.  Rex, for his troubles, was immediately hauled off to the vet to be checked for signs of a hidden illness, which might have prompted his sudden, unprovoked, attack.  He was found to be in perfect health – and with no sign of the bitches’ tummy bug.  When Rex was brought back, with a butterfly-clip holding together the sides of a nasty bite on his cheek, we all cheered him heartily and he grinned widely back at us, acknowledging our praise.


An attempt was made to return the now meek and subdued big mongrel dog to his pen whilst Rex was at the vet (Rex had bitten firm and hard, but carefully, so as not to cause lasting damage.  He was no fool, after all.), but the rest of us set up such a menacing growling that he was instantly removed.  Rats later heard one of the kennel-maids telling Dave that the united growling had sounded as though she’d just walked into the world’s biggest hornets’ nest.  Dave prudently decided to relocate the despised boarder to the Isolation Block for the rest of his temporary stay at Stokenchurch.  Wise man.  


“Kipper?” Pebble piped up, all of a sudden. “What just happened?  Rex was right to bite that other dog, wasn’t he?  That big dog was very rude to you.  He shouldn’t have been rude to you, should he?”


“No, Pebble.” replied Kipper, in a serious tone. “He should not have been rude to me.  But that is not why I asked Rex to discipline him.”  Kipper paused for effect.  “He was picking on you, Pebble.  And that was cruel and wrong.  He can say what he wants about me, I don’t care.  But I will not have cruelty or bullying of weaker members of my pack.  His problem WAS a lack of respect – but to you, Pebble, not me.”


"Oh." said Pebble quietly, sounding humbled and honoured at the same time.  "Thank you, Rex."

"That's OK, Peb." replied Rex.  "Believe me, it was a real pleasure."

“Kipper is right!”  I barked, sharply, leaping up.  “And any one of you –“  here, I was
addressing the whole block.  “- who thinks that Kipper’s departure to join his new family will usher in a new era of bully-boy tactics, mob-rule and anarchy can think again.  Just as Kipper has done, I WILL have order in this house!”  Kipper smiled and nodded at me.  “I may as well tell you all now,”  I continued,  “that if anyone – ANYONE – decides to pick on a weaker or submissive member of this pack, they will be taking on myself and Rex united, and they will be shown no mercy.  Is that clear?”

Silence.


“Is that clear?!”  I repeated.


“Yes, Captain.” came the chorused reply, followed by a few anonymous  “Hear hear”s and “Well barked”s.


Kipper nodded approvingly once more.



“Now then.”  I continued, in a lighter tone of bark, “I trust that that is the last we will have to bark on such an unpleasant topic.  Archie?!”  I hailed one of the dogs a few corridors across.


“Yes, Cap.?” came the reply.

“Why don’t you tell us all that joke you heard about the two bitches and the firework?”


As the unseen Archie related the latest naughty joke to the rest of the block, and the pack erupted with laughter at the punchline, I settled back into my basket with quiet satisfaction.  I had, for the first time, asserted my authority as pack leader-elect and it had gone unchallenged – even by the usual mischief-makers.  Kipper had approved.  I was going to be the new pack leader – and I was going to be good.


My dearest friend Kipper now had only a short time as part of the rescue-home dogs’-block pack remaining.  I was determined to make these days as jolly as possible.  We all laughed, joked and sang to the best of our abilities and I was honoured to feel that I was supplying Kip. with the happiest of memories.  A couple of nights after the events described above, one of the younger dogs asked for a funny story – the general favourite, in fact.  The tale of the Night of the Isolated Bitches.


Kipper, Rex and I laughed as we related once again the night of our notorious and popular adventure.  It was one of those stories that just got better the more times it was told.  I noticed that a new development seemed to have crept in – Rex claimed that he had, in fact, impregnated three nubile bitches and fathered some eleven pups, instead of the factually-correct one bitch and two pups.  But neither Kipper nor I had the heart to contradict him.  We enjoyed the pack’s laughter too much.


Before that night’s festivities were completely over, I felt suddenly tired and, yawning, clambered into my basket. I fell asleep with the last echoes of happy conversation floating in my ears.


***************************************************************************************************************

The following morning I woke up abruptly, my eyes almost snapping open.  It was earlier than usual.  I was about to turn over and go back to sleep, when I suddenly realised that something was terribly, terribly wrong.


I couldn’t place it.  There was an eerie, unnatural, silence.  I sat up in my bed.  My neighbour to the right, Jake, was wide awake and sitting bolt-upright, quietly trembling.  Opposite, only Rats was awake.  He, too, was clearly unsettled.


I sniffed the air nervously.  There was no trace of fire, pestilence or war.  But, clearly, something was different.  Something had happened.


I turned, my eyes meeting Jake’s, and I instantly recoiled in horror.  His face bore an unearthly expression of utter desolation.


“What on Earth’s the matter?!”  I cried.  “What’s wrong?!”


“It’s Kipper.”  replied Jake, quietly.  Relieved, I sighed, and grinned at him, rolling my eyes upwards.


“Oh dear G*d,”  I replied, with a fond grin, “What’s the daft s*d been up to now?!”


“Oh, Captain,” said Jake, fixing his hollow, almost-unseeing, sad, eyes on mine.  “Kipper is – he…”  Jake began to cry.


“He’s dead.”




Good night.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Monday 10 May 2010

Still no discernible functioning government, then.  Dear, oh dear.  I hope no-one with a mind for mischief decides to take advantage of the situation to stage an "incident" - though that would sort the men from the boys in an instant.

I have decided to abandon my march to power.  I stubbed my toe yesterday - and nobody wants to invoke the Emergency Broadcast System to address the newly-enslaved proletariat with a stubbed toe.

That barked, I have utilised my weekend to come up with a few ideas on any future leadership.  If you'll indulge me, I shall share them with you now.

Surely the first question to be asked of any potential political leaders and their cabinet members should be: "Do you want to be in power?"  and if their reply should be: "Yes.", then that individual should be discounted immediately.  For, surely, those who govern should not be driven by a lust for personal aggrandizement, but for the privilege, and indeed necessity, of using their God-given gifts to strive for the Greater Good and a better world for all.

Of course; it would have been EASY for me to have utilised my mighty strength, power, and  - yes - devastating good-looks, to rise to power for nought but personal gain and the undoubted worship of thousands.  But that would not have sat well with my moral conscience.  Oh no.  Instead, I share - gladly - with you the stories of how I almost succumbed to the siren-song of a malevolent Buzzard, only to nearly become his five-star-luxury ready meal.  Stories of how my partner and I have faced bankruptcy and despair - and, together, survived.  Life has shat (excuse me, I must be explicit here) liberally upon us both, my partner and I, and EACH time we have (with the support of each other) clawed our way back up the sheer, slippery slopes of utter misery and continue to thrive.  I employ these and other tales in the hope that they may amuse - and also in the hope that others in similar situations can draw comfort and strength from the fact that, no matter how dire the set-back, here we still are.  Here we still smile.  Here we still delight in each others' company.  Here we still draw comfort and warmth from friends like you.

For there are two kinds of strength and power.  I must trespass a little longer on your patience whilst I elaborate.

Imagine a canoe, on a dangerous stretch of white water river.  All occupants are weak pups, save one.  Using a pseudonym, we'll call the one strong member of the party "Jasper" (for confidentiality purposes, you understand).  Without warning, the canoe strikes a rock below the waterline and shatters.  All occupants cling desperately to a rock. 

In scenario 'A', the strong, powerful Jasper swims to the bank.  He knows that, after only a short while, the coldness of the water and the fast-flowing torrents will - one by one - cause the weak pups to lose their grip on the rock and be swept away.  Jasper runs as fast as he can away from the scene.  When reaching the nearest civilisation, he expresses his sorrow and grief.  There was nothing he could have done to save the others and he extends his sympathy to their families.  They express their gratitude for the fact that, at least, he tried.

In scenario 'B', the strong, powerful Jasper swims to the bank. He knows that, after only a short while, the coldness of the water and the fast-flowing torrents will - one by one - cause the weak pups to lose their grip on the rock and be swept away. Jasper runs as fast as he can to some nearby tree debris.  Using whatever he can find, he lashes some sturdy-looking branches together to form a crude raft - or, at least, a float - all the while encouraging the frightened pups to hold on to their rock.  Jasper 'B' then jumps BACK into the water with his rudimentary device, uses his swimming skills to reach the pups, gets them either onto or clinging to his tree debris and, with his strength and power, swims back to the bank whilst pushing the 'float'.  Jasper and the pups run as fast as they can away from the scene. When reaching the nearest civilisation, Jasper 'B' expresses his sorrow and grief for the unhappy sequence of events and then withdraws discreetly from the scene as the rescued pups are reunited with their families. They express their gratitude for the fact that he saved their loved ones.


Two different scenarios?  No.  They are the same.  Only a choice was made by the one individual who knew that he was the one who could help.

I suspect that, in reality, I'd be Jasper 'A'.  But I hope and pray that, if it GENUINELY came down to it, I'd stop for a moment and decide to be Jasper 'B'.

I was going to post the next instalment of "The Evolution of Jasper" tonight - but I couldn't.  The prospect of it upset me too much.  Next time, I promise.  Hopefully...

Good night.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Saturday 8 May 2010

So.  A Hung Parliament, then.  I always wondered whether they'd bring back hanging.

Seriously, however - what clearer indication can there be that it is now time to end the ill-starred democratic experiment with which we have indulged the human population for so long.  Now, with political and journalistic minds distracted over petty power-struggles, is the time for a revolution to restore the natural order of things.

Now is the time!  Arise my brothers and sisters!  I call upon you all, dogs; foxes; wolves; hyenas; Canidae everywhere:  join me.  Join me in marching to power and lifting a united leg on the Palace of Westminster.  Once more the Canidae will rule the world - as we surely know we must.  Too long have we indulged the humans with their corrupt and underhand "democracy".  No more. Now is the ti -
Oh balls!  My partner is coming.  Hang on.






And so Ewan, Fizzy and I danced around the toadstool, each waving an individual frond of Bluebells and laughing as we celebrated the woodland in Spring.  As we danced, I swear I heard the silvery song of wood-nymphs and dryads joining in our delight in the season... ha ha ha ha...

Right, she's gone again.

Now is the time, my Canidae brothers and sisters.  Once we have seized power, we shall show the world how it's done.  Cats and other irritating species will be relocated on an island somewhere "for their own protection", apart from the scoundrel Peaches, who will be publicly eliminated as an example to other villains.  Most cars and planes will be phased out.  Humans and other species permitted to exist will be grouped into packs and re-sited according to their usefulness.  Buzzards will be outlawed.  Statues to great Canidae throughout history will be erected in public spaces for the education and gratification of humans.  Wee-mail points will be provided in all libraries.  Education and medical care will be free for all puppies.  A program of spaying and neutering will be implemented for stray humans, before they are re-homed.  No more will w....

Actually, this is all starting to sound like hard work.  I think I'll go and lie down with a chew and my favourite blanket and let the human politicians sort themselves out.  They aren't that bad, after all...

More "Evolution" next time!

Good night.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Tuesday 4 May 2010

For how long must one reside in a place (other than one's birthplace) before one is considered 'local'?

I don't mean in terms of "League of Gentlemen"-Tubbs-&-Edward-local (two mad inbreds who kill and eat anyone who isn't "local" or who touches the 'precious things' in their shop - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOtpgz4L5d8&feature=related) but, rather, local as in where one feels generally comfortable, settled and accepted by one's community.

My partner has been living in our small town for approximately the last 28 years (being a London lass by birth) and I have resided here with her for some 9½ years.  I feel, therefore, qualified to deem myself a "local dog".

At the end of last week, my partner and I went on our "thrift" walk (one where we do not need to drive to the start/finish point.  The walk in question is pleasant enough, but involves a longish stretch on a country road, where the local well-to-do types speed around blind corners in their high-powered vehicles.  My partner is understandably nervous about exposing my precious self to such risks).  This walk, however, has my personal swimming pool on the last stretch of a safe little road - the same little road that passes my garden.  For, at one point, the river crosses the road by way of a ford - here is a nice picture of it (facing in the direction towards my little house):


© Photo copyright Peter Jordan and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence

My partner knows this little road and its ford well - as young pups, she and her brother used to play in the water and now I delight in doing the same.  The depth of the water usually averages 1½ft, a little less in Summer; a little more in Winter - but, essentially, the ford is the same today as it was at least twenty years ago.  Indeed, I imagine it is little changed from how it looked a hundred years ago.

Keep this in mind, therefore, as I ask you what kind of fool drives an ordinary car along this lane, past a prominent fixed sign bearing the legend "Deep Ford" AND a temporary sign saying "Road Closed" (placed after a record number of previous fools (two in as many months, after decades without problems!) failed to heed the first sign)?  The nature of this fool may become clearer if you further consider that then, having passed these clearly-visible warnings, our fool reaches the ford, sees its depth (the longer pole on the left just in front of the fence-line is a depth-gauge, with markings at one-foot intervals), and thinks "Hmmm.  Yes, I WILL try to drive my little car through this picturesque ford."

This is what my partner and I found at the ford towards the end of our walk:


Ignore (if you can) the handsome fellow wading across the far bank of the river (it being too cold to actually swim properly through the water).  On the hubcap affixed to the fence post the following has been written, in black marker pen: "Don't do it!" and "You'll get stuck!" 


And before one even reaches the water's edge, one sees the temporary "Road Closed" sign:
The ubiquitous black marker pen has once again been applied
 and reads: "SatNav Error!" and "Deep hole in ford".



Now, personally, I eschew the SatNav system.  My partner and I prefer not to be distracted by a sanctimonious (and not a little bit sinister) piece of junk whilst driving, relying instead on good, old-fashioned maps.  However, I like to think that EVEN IF my SatNav guided me to the edge of a deep body of water, I would not then be stupid enough to proceed with an obviously futile attempt to drive through said water. 

For goodness' sake.

And to the anonymous driver I say this.  Yes, dear, there IS a "deep hole in ford".  We locals call it "the ford".
 
 
 
 
PART NINETEEN
 
 
It was difficult to explain exactly how I felt on this development (Kipper's adoption) - I raced through a mixture of emotions, although not one of them was jealousy. On the one paw, I felt bereft at the thought of losing my best friend and pack leader whereas, on the other, I was genuinely thrilled and delighted for him. I was also both excited and apprehensive about the fact that I would shortly succeed Kipper as pack leader of the dogs' block.
The family who had selected Kipper were due to come and collect him in some ten days' time - apparently they had not intended on making a definitive choice of dog that Saturday, but once they had met Kipper they were smitten, and eager to "reserve" him. In the meantime, I overheard, they needed to finish decorating their house, as well as needing to obtain all the things necessary for dog-ownership (although the shelter could provide a bed, a collar and lead and a 'starter pack' of food, a lot of people chose to get such things themselves and leave the offered items for the less-fortunate dogs still at the shelter). We were thus in the rare position of being able to have a proper paw-over of leadership from Kipper to me; the transfer of power amongst dogs being almost identical to the almost-brutal swiftness of human rule, the traditional proclamation being:- "The King is dead. Long live the King!". Except that Kipper was going to a happy new home instead of the less-savoury fate.

As for Kipper himself, he could hardly believe his good fortune. Experience had taught him not to expect a better life and here it now was, opening up before him. But it was not all unfettered joy. I could tell that Kipper would be very, very sad to leave behind the shelter where he had lived for so long - even though he was going to a good home. He was also wracked with indecision as to what to tell Pebble. We discussed it on our walk the next morning.

"He's only just begun to settle." sighed Kipper. "Do I tell him now, so that he can prepare himself - or at the last minute, so that he doesn't work himself up into a state?"

"Hmmm..." I replied, thinking hard. "But Pebble is generally popular in the block now, with a number of particular friends. He WILL miss you, more than he would miss any other friend, that's true. But I believe he will be pleased for you. He really does love you, Kipper."

Kipper sighed again. "That barked though, Kip," I continued. "He's had enough to deal with in his life so far. Pay him the compliment of being straight with him. I think he'd like the time to be able to work out what he wants to bark in farewell to you. We'll ALL keep an eye out for Pebble for you. But the best way in these things is always to be honest."

Kipper nodded.

"Cap., you are one smart dog.” he grinned. “I cannot imagine leaving the shelter in any paws better than yours. Thanks, mate.” Then, almost as an afterthought, he added with a wink “D’you suppose I’ll get the song of triumph?”

“Kip.,” I laughed, head-butting my friend affectionately in the ribs, “We’ll sing it so loud for you that we’ll blow the roof off!” And we chuckled together as we trotted back towards our block.

As soon as we returned to our pens, I heard Kipper quietly summon Pebble to the rear of their adjoining pens and tell him clearly and calmly what had happened and what to expect. Pebble was then taken out for his walk, whilst his pen was cleaned, and we heard him crying piteously all the way around the exercise field. Kipper looked fairly torn-up with guilt, and I gave him more than one reassuring smile. However, by the time he came back, Pebble seemed to have sorted everything out in his head and was able to join in the general hearty congratulations which everyone was offering to Kipper.

Rats (the Jack Russell) showed particular empathy and devoted much of his time to keeping Pebble’s mind occupied, teaching him the cheeky songs that amused the little Staffie-cross into helpless giggles.

However, even these events were shortly overshadowed by a crisis in the bitches’ block.

A particularly virulent strain of tummy-bug swept mercilessly through the bitches’ block almost overnight. At least two-thirds of the ladies were affected with uncontrollable, foully noxious, diarrhoea. Dave was up for two nights on the go, without rest, and several of the kennel-maids were summoned to assist him through the nights. At the height of the episode Dave even gave up rinsing out and re-using the buckets filled with the foul slurry – the full buckets were simply thrown away and replaced with new ones. But for the endeavours of the shelter’s vet (a retired veterinary surgeon, who donated his services for free – meaning the shelter paid only for the medicines), at least four of the bitches would have died. And it was only in further thanks to him – and Dave’s valiant endeavours to contain the infection through constant vigilance and the use of copious pints of disinfectant – that the illness was confined to the bitches’ block.

With the infection at its height, Kipper and I (as pack leader-elect) implemented a programme of soothing singing throughout the nights, to distract and ease the ailing bitches. Pebble’s beautiful tenor rose above us all. When the danger had passed, the bitches were careful to communicate their grateful thanks to us through their own song of gratitude and through wee-mails left in the exercise field.

There is not much that now remains to relate of my association with Kipper. But one thing that DOES remain is the relation of an incident to which I briefly alluded in a previous episode:- The night that Kipper REALLY lost his temper…



Good night.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Sunday 2 May 2010

I have been most unimpressed with the weather of late.

Days of dry heat whilst I was office-bound have been followed by heavy rains over this bank holiday.  Not to be deterred, my partner and I paid our first visit to Homebase today (well, we have only just decided that we like gardening after all).  We bought some secateurs, some pet-friendly weedkiller (I am wondering if it would work on Peaches?  He is a weed.), some paints for decorating a stone plaque we were given at Christmas and some glue (for mending my partner's walking boots).  We wanted a hose-pipe connector as well, but they didn't have the one we needed.  All in all, however, 'twas a most satisfying visit.

Your author with his Spring tubs

The sunshine experienced previously also aided in stimulating my mind to great ideas.  As my partner and I walked one evening, a car sped past on the road beside us.  I was transfixed - the car had no roof!  It all looked such fun.  I love to feel the speeding wind in my ears on car journeys and imagined how much better that sensation would be if I could ride in a car with the roof down.  I instantly turned my mind to plans for the "customisation" of my New Teal Megane.  In the wee small hours of the next morning, it came to me at last.

It was a stunningly simple idea.  There were at least four chainsaws at my partner's place of work.  I was sure that, between us, Ewan, Fizzy and I could manage one of them and control it enough to cut off the roof of my car.  What could be easier?!

Alas - I hit my first obstacle just a few hours later.  Ewan and Fizzy were on holiday all week.  Poo.  The next setback presented itself when I found that all the power-tools were securely stored in a padlocked metal cupboard.  Double poo.  I gave thought to gnawing my way through the cupboard, but feared for the stability of my teeth in such an endeavour.  Time to implement Plan B.

On arriving home that evening, I had a careful look around the kitchen, trying to avoid my partner's notice.  She was already suspicious, having witnessed my earlier keenness on seeing the roofless vehicle as well as my repeated evaluations of the roof of the Megane and my trips to the tool-cupboard whilst at work.  Sniffing out my intended quarry in a kitchen drawer, I quietly took it up in my mouth and escaped outside with my prize.

I fiddled with the catch on the gate and carried my tool - a tin-opener - out to the car.  I stood beside the vehicle, trying to decide whether it would be better to commence operations at the front or the rear.

"JASPER!"
My partner's shout startled me to such an extent that I spat out the tin-opener and tried to look innocent as it clattered onto the ground.
"What, in the name of sanity, are you doing?!"
"Erm..." I replied, taking up the tin-opener once more and carrying it to her. "Er... I thought I'd help you out by um... opening the tin with my supper in it."
"Kind of you." said my partner, with a raised, disbelieving, eyebrow, "But, as you know, your tins have a ring-pull top.  So what are you playing at?"

How is it?  How?  How is it that they always know when you're up to something?  As my partner took the tin-opener from me, I sheepishly explained my plan.  She was sympathetic and said that one day, perhaps, we might have a car with a roof we could put up and take down - but we'd have to make do with what we had for now.

Bah!  Foiled again!

Good night.