Friday, 30 December 2011

Friday 30 December 2011

I would have dictated this entry from my bed, from which I was struggling to rise.  I am tired today.

My partner has been out to the shops, but I didn't want to accompany her, so she allowed me to remain in my bed.  I decided to get up when she returned, so here I am back at the keyboard to bark to you.  It turns out that I made the right choice in getting up, as my partner returned with a packet of cooked chicken roll just for me.  I also ate the last of the Christmas sausages, which were a gift from my pretty neighbour Rosie.  I also managed half a tin of dinner last evening, though my partner had to hand-feed it to me.

I must continue to reassue you that I am not in actual pain - but I am not deceived.  I understand that I will not recover and the time remaining to me is short.  But let us not paddle in those waters just now.

For almost the third day in a row I have had the gross misfortune to encounter the ghastly little scrote Peaches when I was taking the air in the grounds of my estate.  After our last little affray, he did not deign to stop on seeing me, but slowed his pace considerably and mewed loudly
"Can anyone smell rotting flesh?!"
"What's that Pea?" I replied cheerfully, "Have you been testing out a new cologne?"
Peaches stalked off, muttering vile insults under his breath.  I cared not.

As I was about to turn and re-enter my house through the French windows, a door opened further up the street and out bounded Edward the Rottweiler.  I hadn't seen him since the summer, when he had had a furious spat with his fellow Rotti and long-term gentleman "companion" Angus and refused to appear in public - only speaking to his friends under the gap of his garden fence panelling.  Angus had been on a summer holiday to Scotland with his human partners and had, apparently, had a holiday romance with a dog called Benji.  Eddie had resolutely refused to entertain Angus's protestations of innocence, denials and requests to be allowed to explain the truth and had been playing the wronged holy martyr for all he was worth.  Even Archie from the end of my row of houses had got fed up in the end and started ignoring Edward - and Archie is remarkably patient for a young Jack Russell Terrier.

Sighing over this sorry state of affairs, then, I watched Eddie bound towards me.
"Jazz!  Darling!!" he barked.
"Alright, Ed?" I smiled, glad to see a friendly face after being confronted with the face and then the bottom of the scheming Peaches.  "How's it hanging?"
"Divine, dearheart, simply divine.  I had the most fabulous Christmas!  Angus excelled himself with his gift this year!"
"Oh yes?" I replied dubiously, casting my mind back to the troubled history of the summer, preceded by the misunderstanding over Angus's Christmas gift from last year - an handsome designer jacket, but I shall not torment you with a repetition of that sorry saga.
"Yes!  A brand-new beanbag bed!" beamed Edward, wagging his tail happily.  "Bright pink, with a repeating pattern of black paw-prints.  Utterly exquisite."
"That's a very thoughtful gift." I remarked, wondering what on Earth had happened to Eddie's former venom towards the beleagured Angus.  "Yes," continued Eddie, utterly oblivious to my confusion.  "He tells me that he dallied with a distinguished tartan print, but felt it might seem a little crass after the business over the summer."

He proceeded to laughingly relate the events since last I had barked with him.  It transpires that Angus had NOT had a holiday fling with a dog called Benji, but had been taken to a demonstration of a traditional Highland Fling (a traditional Caledonian country dance) and then to a tour of the distillery where they produce Glenmorangie (a fine whisky).

I'll admit that I found it hard to smile at this, as I had long-suspected Angus's innocence and had been forced to repeatedly listen to Eddie's foul, poisonous invective against him.  Nevertheless I have also long been aware of the futility of raking over old coals and, despite the fact that Eddie and Angus can often be a right pair of vicious old queens, there was a clear deep and lasting affection between them.  So I sighed, grinned (as I knew I must), and limited myself to barking
"Ed, you daft old s*d, you really ought to go and get your hearing checked."
"What?!  Oh no, nothing wrong there!" replied Eddie, imperiously, "And besides, I gave dear Angus a beef shin-bone to make amends.  All grandy and dandy now!"
"Oh, that's alright then." I sighed, with inwardly raised eyebrows.  "And did Angus enjoy the Christmas festivities too?"
"Absolutely!" wuffed Eddie, "Though I had to be very strict with him again about what he ate.  Honestly, the boy is a slave to the expanding waistline."
"Oh dear."
"Well exactly."  nodded Eddie sanctimoniously, "Though I fear I may have carried it a little too far this year.  Dear Angus was so hungry on Boxing Day that he stole the box of crickets from atop Pickle's vivarium and scoffed the lot!"  [Pickle is a salamander who lives in the same house as Eddie.  He is an affable chap, though he has been reduced to frequently hiding whenever Angus visits (the reason for this?  Click here: Pickle's torment)].
"A whole box of crickets?!" I spluttered.
"I know." nodded Eddie. "Well, they weren't to know that they're virtually fat-free, the poor dears."
"Look, Ed," I hesitated, "Far be it from me to suggest... but - well - why don't you let Angus have the odd pudding now and then, eh?  Life is for living, my friend."
"But his hips - more pudding would..."
"I know, I know!" I grinned, "A moment on the jaws; a lifetime on the paws... But let it go Ed.  Life is for living.  Living.  And it's over all too soon."

Edward looked up at me, almost as though seeing me anew for the first time.  And then he asked the question which I knew was imminent, but was dreading nonetheless...


Good night.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Had a bad day yesterday; bit better today.

I was able to assist my partner in opening her Christmas presents on the 25th, which was most enjoyable.  However, she returned from assisting with the old folks' home Chrimble lunch with a wretched migraine and had to take to a spare bed in her parents' house and eschew her Christmas dinner.  I could hear her crying from my station downtairs by the Christmas tree and festive candle-arrangement.

I didn't fancy my Christmas dinner either, I have to bark.  It would be fair to say that I have little appetite at all. My partner's mother gave us some food when we departed in the evening for our own house.  Although I couldn't face it when we returned, the following day my partner sat on the floor beside the sofa where I was reclining and broke up the slices of turkey into small pieces and fed them to me individually.  This was much more tempting and I accepted each morsel with alacrity, savouring the taste and the renewed sensation of food in my belly.

My partner was hopeful that this was some sort of breakthrough - but I could not manage my regular evening meal.  We are therefore going to the shops in a minute and my partner will buy some fresh cooked meat for me, in the hope that this tempts me to continue eating.  Do not misunderstand me - I am not playing on my predicament in order to secure more noble fare; I am finding it hard to digest my tinned dinners - smaller fragments of roasted meat or fish are just what I need.  The fact that these items are also incredibly delicious is a welcome side-effect...

After I was unable to have my dinner last evening (although I DID manage two toothbrush sticks [Bakers' Dental Delicious] this morning), my partner went into our garden and I heard her crying piteously again.  I would have joined her, but I was feeling too tired to rise.  I craned my neck, in order to see through the French windows around to the front of our house (my partner, in an attempt to conceal her tears from me, was hiding around the corner).  I hated the fact that she was alone in the dark, weeping without consolation.  I was surprised, however, as my eyes became accustomed to the dark street outside to see that she was not entirely alone...

Honey and Kittenjasper, the two cats who live directly opposite my house, were sitting - on the roof of a car and on the pavement respectively - keeping a quiet vigil whilst my partner wept.  She noticed them too.  As my partner's burst of grief subsided she began to dry her eyes.  At this, Honey jumped down from the roof of her car and she and Kittenjasper (no longer a kitten, but the name stuck) went back into their house, the cat-flap clicking closed behind them.  I felt a rush of gratitude for their quiet compassion.

If only ALL cats were as thoughtful...  I had the misfortune to encounter Peaches (that dark aberration who terms himself 'a cat') this morning as I downloaded my first weemail of the day in the garden.  By the sniff of things he was returning to his house after a night of foul mayhem.
"Jasper!" he simpered, his tail twitching malevolently, "How nice it is to see you dying at last!  You ARE dying now, aren't you...?!"
"I prefer the term 'having an end-of-life experience'." I muttered, not even looking at the beast.
"Eh?!  Oh well, at least you won't have to worry about catching a cold - not where you're going..." grinned Peaches.
"Oh no - and I shall be sure to stoke up the furnaces in readiness for YOUR arrival." I barked.
"Sorry Jazz - didn't catch that," replied Peaches with a malevolent smile.  "Were you talking just then, or was it just your long, drawn-out, death rattle?"

All of a sudden, I looked over Peaches' shoulder with a horror-struck expression.
"Eddie!  NO!!" I yelped (Eddie being my friendly Rottweiler neighbour), "Peaches was only being cheeky!  He meant no harm!  I BEG you to spare him!!"

Peaches squealed and streaked off across the road like a bolt of lightening for the safety of his home, before Eddie pounded him to a pulp.  Alas for Peaches' future credibility, there was no Eddie there.  There never had been - but Peaches didn't know that.  Chuckling to myself, I turned to re-enter my house, only to find Honey at the other end of my garden.  She blinked her pretty ginger eyelids at me.
"I have always thought it was brilliant, the way you've stood up to Peaches."  she mewed, after a pause.
I wasn't sure what to bark.  Honey gazed at me sadly. "Who's going to deal with him now?" she asked.

"You are, Honey." I replied, with a small smile.
"Me?!  Oh no - he will kill me for sure!"
"Ah, well, there's the thing." I sighed in reply, feeling tired all of a sudden.  "Peaches is a bully.  And, like bullies of all species the world-over, he is also a coward.  Turn that to your advantage, my dear, and he won't so much as lay a claw on you."
"Thanks Jazz." said Honey, finally, with a watery smile.  "See you around."  She walked along the top of my fence and jumped down into the road on the way to her house.  Kittenjasper was waiting for her, sitting on the pavement.  As Honey reached him, he nodded to me, with a half smile.  I'm not sure he can quite bring himself to forgive me for rescuing a shrew from his clutches earlier this year.

My partner and I are going to the shops now - my partner hasn't been paid yet, so she is going to use her Christmas vouchers to buy some fresh cooked meat for me, in the hope that I might be tempted to eat.  Bye for now, then.

Good afternoon.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Saturday 24 December 2011

I have just returned from a delightful little potter on the local common.  It was a nice way to spend the morning.  I had a bit of a run and a sniff about, and met a delightful family with a feisty, friendly whippet who was full of the joys of Christmas.

As I approached the top of the common (a regular haunt of young local ne'er-do-wells), I happened upon a most bizarre sight.  Fixed to a tree was a very large wooden cross with decorative edging.  All around it were photographs, little paper windmills, mirrors, baubles, etc.  At the foot of the tree was an odd assortment of paraphernalia and a number of candles.  A few garden chairs and other bits of furniture/baggage were srewn randomly about.  There was no obvious evidence of someone living there.  Most peculiar.  I turned to glance back at my partner.
"I think we've got a bit of a 'Big Fat Gypsy situation' going on here." I muttered.  She nodded and we looked at the odd, shrine-like arrangement in silence.  As we turned, we met the young family and mentioned the strange site.  The mother replied that she thought it had been put there by the friends of a young local man, killed in a road accident recently. 

The fellow had lived in the same street as me, though I did not know him or his family.  As tragic as his untimely fate had been, it had been entirely self-inflicted.  In the wee small hours one night, stoned out of his gourd and drunk as well, the lad decided to drive to his girlfriend's house, eschewing the inconvenience of a seatbelt.  Alas for his family and friends, the inevitable happened and his end came swiftly and suddenly (although I understand that the lack of a seatbelt was ultimately the deciding factor).  That is the trouble with those who live life on the edge - one can all-too-easily topple too far and fall off.

After musing that it was, perhaps, fortunate that at least the late fellow had not taken innocent lives along with him, we bade each other compliments of the season and parted company.  As I trotted off, it occurred to me that, when I am ultimately claimed for Heaven myself, I would rather have a tree planted in my memory than have items nailed into a living tree at a local countryside site and surrounded by what is not far removed from fly-tipping (and I am certainly intending no disrespect whatsoever to the deceased, nor to the no doubt well-intentioned efforts of remembrance - but the place on the common really is a litter-strewn, sordid, foetid eyesore).  Yes.  Plant me a tree then, against which generations of dogs can gratefully download their weemails.  But do not befoul the coutryside with items which pose a very real threat to the welfare of England's wildlife.

Only a short walk then; but interesting nonetheless.  I did not want to get back into my car at the end.  I procrastinated by drinking deeply from every puddle I encountered - a draught of chilled puddle water is my very favourite tipple, after all. 

And, barking of procrastination, it is long past time that I posted the final instalment of my "Evolution of Jasper" series.  I must apologise, particularly as the last instalment concluded on something of a cliff-hanger (here: previous episode) and even more so, as the final part has been complete for some time now.  But I have been putting-off sharing it.  I have very much enjoyed sharing the story of my early life with you and I suppose that I did not want that enjoyment to be over.  It was almost as though my posting of this final episode completes a certain purpose to my life - and I have never been fond of endings and goodbyes (unless Peaches the cat is involved...).

But what would have been the point to completing the last instalment and then keeping it to myself?  That would have been foolish indeed.  So it with the greatest pleasure that I share with you now:




PART THIRTY-EIGHT

I felt utterly wretched.  Not only had I been abandoned by my partner, whom I now loved more than anything, but I couldn’t understand what I had done wrong to deserve such a fate.

“Excuse me…” said a little voice beside me.
“Go away.” I sniffed.  I was in no mood to be comforted.
“Are you alright?!” said the voice .  I was about to make a sharp and rude retort, but my nose told me that the voice was female.  I lifted my head and looked around.  A pretty caramel-coloured spaniel bitch in the next pen along was looking at me with kind concern.  “Why are you crying?” she asked, in a gentle bark.
“Because I’ve been abandoned here for being naughty and I don’t know what I’ve done!” I replied in a shaky voice.
“No you haven’t!” beamed the spaniel, wagging her tail.  I looked about me again, and began to wonder if they’d put me into some kind of psychiatric block.

“Um…” I began warily, “I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but…”

“You silly dog!” yipped my neighbour, “You haven’t been left here!  This is just where you stay when your people are away for a bit – your person will come back and get you soon!”
“Really?” I whispered.  I allowed myself to feel hope whilst keeping also in mind the lesson of Pebble – a worthy young friend from my rescue-kennel days who had been cruelly abandoned by the humans he trusted and who, for many months, persisted in the tragic delusion that his family were coming the next day to fetch him.

“Of course!” smiled my lovely new friend.  “This is just a boarding kennel!  I’ve been here a few times before.  I don’t usually come here, it isn’t terribly nice, but the one I normally go to was full up.  My name is Pepé.  My people have gone on holiday but they’re coming back for me on Monday.  How nice to have a neighbour to talk to!  There was a Labrador in there until a few days ago, but he wasn’t very chatty.”

I sniffed about me.  There was a distinct whiff of Labrador in my pen – and everything about the spaniel next to me smelled honest and sincere.  I decided, therefore, that Pepé was to be believed and stood up, feeling immeasurably better.

“I’m Jasper.” I said, sniffing at the pretty lass through the bars.  “I’m sorry to have blubbed.  It’s just that I used to live in a rescue home and I thought I had been left at a different one.”
“That’s OK.” Pepé smiled.  “I’ve never been in a rescue kennel before.  What’s it like?  There are two dogs from a rescue home in the next-door house to where I live.  I go to shows where I have to win prizes for being pretty and some of the other bitches at one of them said that I oughtn’t to play with those dogs because dogs from rescue homes are dirty and bad.”

“Well, you SHOULD play with them.” I said, trying not to sound annoyed.  “I’M not dirty or bad, am I?”
“Actually, no.” replied Pepé.  “For a handsome Staffie you are remarkably clean…”

She said one or two other things, but I stopped listening after she said I was handsome.  Eventually, however, my good manners overcame my vanity and I realised that Pepé was still barking.

“…so I’m glad that you have said it’s not true because they are both very nice dogs and I have often thought that I would like to share my toys with them.” She concluded.
“I am sure that they would like that very much.” I replied, hoping against hope that she was still talking about her two ex-rescue neighbours.

I went on to tell Pepé all about my time in the rescue home (though prudently keeping the tale of “The Night of the Isolated Bitches” to myself), how I had arrived there, and my various escapades since being adopted by my partner.  We had to stop halfway though, as the man (and his cigarette) brought us our dinners and then let us out, one at a time, into the field for brief exercise and lavatory.

Pepé was an excellent listener, laughing and gasping in all the appropriate places.  She even shed a few tears when I related the death of poor Kipper.  She asked plenty of questions and, in turn, she told me all about her life as a “show-dog”, her regular grooming and pampering sessions and all the prizes that she’d won.  I have to bark, I didn’t envy her this life, but she was clearly loved for who she was as well as how she looked and performed by her partners and she enjoyed her showbiz life.  It was almost sunrise the next morning when we stopped chatting.

My delightful friend helped the time to pass quickly and enjoyably, which was a mercy, as nothing about the boarding kennel itself was remotely enjoyable, nor even particularly quick.  The staff were surly and brisk, exercise was limited to the field, and the cleaning of our pens left a great deal to be desired.  I understood why Pepé had only been placed here because the other place was full.

Come the Monday, my heart leapt within my breast as I heard the familiar sound of my partner’s car turning into the driveway at the bottom of the field.  I jumped up and dashed to the door of my pen, my tail wagging nineteen-to-the-dozen.
“There you are!” beamed Pepé, “I told you she’d come back for you!  My people will be back in a few hours, when it starts to get dark.”

“Oh, thank you Pepé!” I yipped, beside myself with joy, “You were right all along!”  I jumped and strained for the earliest glimpse of my partner, which couldn’t come quickly enough for me.

At last I saw her.  My partner was clearly equally eager to reunite with me and beamed broadly as she heard my yelps of delight.  The chain-smoking proprietor trudged up and fixed the lead to my collar.  As he grabbed my beanbag and my chews, I bid a hasty farewell to Pepé, thanking her for her barks of comfort and wishing her well for the future.  Such was my eagerness to get to my partner, the smoking man couldn’t withstand my strength, and I raced down the hill, the lead trailing behind me, and jumped into the open arms of my partner.

As overjoyed as she was to see me, I could see shock registered in her eyes.  She noticed that I’d seen this and explained immediately.
“Jasper – you reek of wee!”  As my beanbag was handed over, my partner was astounded to find that my bed was damp and also smelled strongly of my urine.  She began to apologise straight away.  “I’m so sorry – so, so, sorry.  I promise I will never leave you in a boarding kennel again.”  Of course, I forgave her instantly.

Finally, and yet for the first time in my life, I realised that I was safe.  I knew that I was home.  I knew that I was loved.

I had become the me that I was always destined to be.  I was then, am now, and always will be, finally Jasper.

So how does one end a series such as this?  Beginning was easy enough - but how to conclude a story of such a life saved?  How two such diametrically-opposed individuals came to be together, to survive their initial mutual dislike, to become two souls united as one, to the point where each saved the other in so many ways?  But alas; there is where my voice falls silent and my paws cease to tap at the keys.  I possess not the skill necessary to put into barks how much my partner has come to mean to me.  I have endeavoured to repay her love and faith in me; I hope I have succeeded.  To the words of another, then, I turn - and I realise that I am straying dangerously near melodrama here, but this beautiful song by Kate Rusby is all that I want to say.  If I was clever enough to be able to write a song for my partner, these are the words I would choose:


Something of a rollercoaster early life then.  But I would not change a single thing - it made me the dog that I am today.  It made me Jasper - and for that, I will always be grateful.



THE END



Well...  I am not quite sure what I was expecting to happen when I uploaded that final instalment.  I suppose I thought that, as soon as I had barked "The End", a bolt of lightning would crash down and eliminate all mortal trace of me from this Earth.  But here I still am!  Granted, I may not be destined much longer for this World - but here I still am...

I wish you a very happy Christmas and every conceivable happiness for the new year and beyond.

Good night.

 

Friday 23 December 2011

So, inevitably, my permanently-baffled canine best chum, Ewan, has found himself floundering about in hot water once again.  His latest blunderings had their genesis back on 4 December when he, his long-suffering mate Fizzy, and I went to investigate Owl - the over-sexed and under-moraled tomcat from the farm across the lane from our workplace - following the latest in a long line of litters of increasingly inbred kittens emanating from Owl's loins.  (My report into our investigation is here: Owl).

Fizzy had revealed that one of the farm dogs had barked to her that Owl, when no queen-cat was within clawing distance, had been known to "have a go on" a passing farm duck or hen in order to sate his revolting appetites.  And, you may recall dear reader, that this snippet of gossip guided Ewan down a dark and bewildering path of inter-species breakfast items.  Briefly, he expressed delight at the prospect of finding an hideous part-kitten, part-chick foetus in his dippy-egg (a soft-boiled egg, into which he dips his breakfast biscuits - I believe that this is popular among human pups, who like toasted bread "soldiers" to dip into their egg).  I did try to enter into the spirit of his imaginings - I really did - but the mere idea of discovering such a monster in my breakfast egg provoked in me nothing but nausea.

Alas, I now find that the matter was not laid to rest there - at least, not for Ewan.  When next he and Fizzy and their partner (one of my partner's colleagues) arrived at work, it was clear that a state of high dudgeon towards Ewan existed.  He twitched nervously whenever his partner walked by him (which hinted at the fact of a previously-spanked bottom) and Fizzy wasn't barking to him at all.  My marshmallow-brained friend wandered aimlessly around the office, trying to be conciliatory, but it was clear that he had committed some kind of major misdemeanour.  I was trying to nap, having slept only fitfully the previous night.  At length, I could avoid Ewan's eye no longer.

"Go on then." I sighed, emerging from my bed beneath my partner's desk and sitting beside the forlorn wanderer in the middle of the passageway.  "What did you do?"

I won't insult your intelligence, dear reader, by repeating Ewan's explanation verbatim.  Suffice it to bark that, on his arrival home after our afore-barked investigation, he had sought out and cracked open all of the eggs in his house, attempting to find a feathered and beaked "chickitten" foetus inside one of them.  His partner had returned from her living-room to find her kitchen floor and surfaces covered in sticky, eggy, mess.  Quite apart from having to clean up this ovum-based turmoil, the financial implications of having a month's-worth of eggs utterly wasted did NOT sit well with Ewan's partner.  Fizzy (Ewan's exquisitely beautiful, smart, diminutive black Labrador wife) was annoyed partly because of the human anger in the household, but largely because Ewan's "investigations" had not been limited to the kitchen.  Egg-gunge and eggshell fragments were liberally strewn across Ewan and Fizzy's shared marital basket.  No matter how hard Fizzy endeavoured to clean the basket, a rogue sharp piece of shell lurked within to prick her flesh.  She was unbarkably livid.

"Right." I decided, after listening with ever-decreasing patience to Ewan's explanations.  "Ewan.  Listen to me.  Chickens - and poultry in general - CANNOT make babies with cats.  A cat could NEVER be a chicken's daddy.  A cat can only be a cat's daddy, a chicken can only be a chicken's daddy and a dog can only be a dog's daddy.  ALL mummies have eggs - but only PROPER daddies can turn eggs into puppies.  Got that?!"
"Oh!  Right.  Yes.  Brilliant!" grinned Ewan enthusiastically.
"And the egg bit?  Do you understand about eggs now?"
"Definitely.  Yes.  Yes I understand all about eggs now as well.  Brilliant.  Yes."
"Really?"
"No."

Abandoning all hope of a quiet and restful morning, I sighed and prepared for another flogging of this long-dead horse...

Let me assure you, sweet reader, that I strongly debated within myself as to the wisdom of pursuing this subject with Ewan.  I had not forgotten that my last attempt to explain the mysteries of the female menstrual cycle to Ewan, using analogies that I thought he'd understand, ended in violence, recrimination and an ill-advised suggestion of Ewan's involving a potato, Fizzy, and the lips she doesn't kiss with (if you really want to acquaint yourself with this, it's here: The Potato Affair).  I know that I vowed at the time that I would never again endeavour to explain ladies' matters to Ewan - but three years had passed since then, and I pitied him in his disgrace.

"Right then, Ewan."  I sighed reluctantly.  "Ladies and eggs.  Here's the thing.  ALL ladies have eggs inside them, which can turn into babies if their man does his bit properly."
"Which bit, Jazz?" asked Ewan, puzzled.  "Is it a magic bit?"
"Well..." I hesitated, "I suppose you could say that a magic wand IS involved... But let's leave that for now.  So.  Eggs.  All ladies have eggs in them.  Alright?"
"Yes.  Brilliant.  Eggs."
"Good. OK then.  Things with feathers or scales - "
"Mummy's got scales in her kitchen!" interrupted Ewan eagerly.
"Not those sorts of scales, Ewan."  I muttered.  "I'm barking about lizards, snakes, and crocodiles."
"Are they the ones with the feathers?" whispered Ewan.

Bl**dy h*ll.

Trying to battle a rising urge to bite Ewan hard, I gritted my teeth and began again with forced calm.

"No, Ewan."  I barked firmly.  "Those animals have scaly skin.  Chickens, ducks, geese, things like that have feathers."
"Oh, right.  Brilliant.  Yes."
"Well, animals who have scales or feathers lay their eggs outside of their bodies and then sit on them to keep them warm.  Ladies like Fizzy, your mummy, my partner, queen-cats, mares, vixens, mice... they have their eggs inside their bodies - and when their man, erm... 'waves his magic wand', the egg turns into a baby inside them and comes out as a proper baby and not an egg.  Alright?"
"Oooo... ummm..."
"Here it is again."  I frowned.  "All ladies - eggs.  Ladies with feathers or scaly skin - eggs outside.  Ladies with fur or smooth skin and hair - eggs inside.  Right?"  (I decided not to even venture near the Piscine world.  Fish aren't normal - trying to explain their whole procreative mess to Ewan could well have been the death of us both).
"Right.  Got it."  nodded Ewan, to my inexpressible relief.  I flopped back down onto my bed, exhausted, as Ewan trotted off happily wagging his tail, delighted with the information he had just learned.

Not fifteen minutes later I was abruptly jolted back into wakefulness by a sudden volley of sharp, angry, female barking, which culminated in a shrill yelp of pain.  Ewan bolted back into my office, bleeding from a nasty bite to his ear, and squealing loudly.
"She bit me, Jasper!  She bit me!!" he wailed as he jumped over my prostrate form and attempted to hide behind me.  Fizzy, however, obviously felt that Ewan had been punished enough, as she did not pursue him.

Wearily, I raised myself to my paws and turned to look at my cowering friend.  Two puncture wounds indicated where Fizzy had nipped him.  After ascertaining that the incisions were only superficial, I began to clean them.
Between licks, I muttered "You asked Fizzy if you could dip a breakfast biscuit into one of her eggs, didn't you?"

"I did, Jasper, yes." replied Ewan, solemnly.  I nodded resignedly, and sighed to myself as I finished patching up the ear.

There really is no hope for the lad.  But no-one could ever accuse me of not trying to help him to help himself...

Good old Ewan.  I hope he never changes.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Thursday 22 December 2011

My ending is beginning. 

Forgive me for sounding melodramatic - perhaps it is an after-effect of my former theatrical days.

I hope that, all being well, I will see the new year in.  However, I am not deceived as to the unlikelihood that I shall live to see the end of January 2012.  My 'Evolution' series is complete and ready to be shared with you.  I am two-thirds of the way through the amusing (although I bark it myself) post I originally intended to publish this evening (Ewan and his late eggy-misadventures) and hope to finish it for you tomorrow.  But late developments mean that I can be nothing but open with you at this precise moment in time.  Please forgive me.



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


I saw Kipper this evening.  My old friend from the Dog Rescue home (Kipper).  I was in a deep, deep sleep.  He was standing, strong and proud, in a lush green grassy field, his mighty tail wagging wildly at the sight of me.
"Jasper!" he barked, grinning at me.

I was puzzled - how did he know my name?

Kipper grinned again, winked, and looked over his shoulder.  Behind him, a short way off, stood my late wife Isolde - also looking strong, healthy, whole again and wagging her pretty tail.  "It's herself." grinned Kipper, wagging his own tail again.  "She says you don't like being called Captain these days.  Your name's Jasper..."

I opened my mouth to reply - but no sound came out.  As I blinked, the scene began to fade away.  I didn't want them to go.  "It's OK mate," barked Kipper, as I felt myself falling away, "Don't be afraid.  It doesn't hurt.  We'll come to meet you.  It's OK..."  And then, he was gone.

Coughing and spluttering, I opened my eyes.  It was pitch-black and I was in my bedroom.  Sleepily, my partner turned over at her end of the bed and mumbled "You OK, Jazz?" 

I coughed again.  My partner gently manoeuvred me closer to her and placed a blanket around me.  I gazed up at her, and she, in return, looked into my eyes.

And she saw.

I wish this could be as easy for her as it will be for me.  After all, events are now removed from my paws.  The hardest things I have yet to do (and in these I have no choice) - are to wait and to bark goodbye.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Saturday 17 December 2011

Fond greetings, dear Reader.  I must apologise once more for a lengthy absence - I have not been well of late.

My partner has discovered a secondary tumour in my throat.  Be not alarmed - I continue well, buoyant, and pain-free.  In fact, I am better than when I last barked to you - but 'tis only fair to inform you that my partner and I have been investigating local funeral parlours.  We have settled upon a respectable local firm and, together, chosen a casket; an exquisite traditional English wood, as stout and true as my heart.  It has been set aside for me for when the time comes, but who can say when it shall be needed?  Perhaps in the next few weeks - or yet perhaps not for the next few months nor years.  I have already exceeded my surgeons' forecasts and continue to thrive.  So let us cast away, for now, such gloomy thoughts and be of good cheer.  It IS nearly Christmas, after all!

The reason for the minor improvement in my health is that my snout-tumour burst open approximately ten days ago.  "Urrrgh!" I hear you cry - well, yes and no.  I am somewhat outwardly scarred, though my partner's early diligence in tending to the wound has meant that it is healing nicely.  But - oh! - the exquisite relief!  The bursting and subsequent seepage relieved the pressure on my snout enormously, with the results that the lump is about one-third of the size it was at its worst point and my breathing is much eased.

I am glad to report this progress, for my illness has taken a great toll on my partner.  One night recently, I awoke at around 3.00am to find her on her knees beside me, wailing in anguish, pleading and begging - literally begging - God to save me; to take the tumour from my snout and put it into her own.  She has also been volunteering madly for every local good cause, for example, in addition to signing up for The Cinnamon Trust, she has also spent this afternoon at the local church, doing activities for children, and is giving up her Christmas Day to prepare and serve Christmas Dinners to residents of local home for the elderly.  All this, in the hope that it might buy me a few extra months of continued existence.  But none of us can change the fates - each of us has a pre-ordained beginning and a pre-ordained end.  I am content in mine, secure in the knowledge that I am loved, valued and appreciated by those I hold most dear.  And, if you are reading this, I extend this to include you my friend.

Incidentally, for those of you not repulsed by the idea, would you like to know what a tumour, burst and laid open for all to witness, smells like?  Certainly nothing I would have expected...

Sherbert Lemon.  A popular tasty and pleasantly-scented boiled sweet.  That is what my tumour smells like.  How odd that something so wretched should smell so delightful.

To other matters.  Regular readers will be interested (and perhaps not a little relieved) to learn that I have now  completed the final instalment of "The Evolution of Jasper" (this being my autobiographical series).  I shall share it with you tomorrow - along with the chaos that ensued when I decided to take the advice of a Lady (Miss Till) in respect of promoting my bubble-brained friend Ewan's understanding of the female reproductive system.  Never - I repeat - NEVER again.  Oh, dear me, no.

Until then,

Good night.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Sunday 4 December 2011

'Tis one life's eternal mysteries that those who have genes least-worthy to be passed on to the next generation are often the most fecund.

Another litter of kittens has been born in the workplace haystack.  That's four separate litters this year alone.  Each new litter has been virtually identical to the last and 'tis no mystery whatsoever as to from whence they sprung.

One of the latest batch

Owl.  The rampant, over-sexed tom-cat from the farm across the road.  After each fresh litter, the farmer has taken steps to assure my partner and colleagues that Owl has "been done" (that certain surgical procedure of which we do not bark).  They remain unconvinced.  The problem, you see, quite apart from the kittens themselves is that the woodlands beyond the work-yard are a Site of International Nature Conservation - home to a rare species of bat and an even-rarer species of dormouse.  Easy pickings for the feral cats who are threatening to over-run the woods, all of whom emanate from the over-active loins of Owl.

The further problem is that most of these kittens are terribly inbred and subject to genetic problems.  The only queen-cat who was able to keep Owl's appetites in check was the mother of the original litter who, regular readers may remember, was killed in a car accident on the crossroads at the bottom of the hill.  All subsequent kittens are, therefore, the offspring of cousins, of brothers and sisters, of nieces and nephews or of father and descendant.  Revolting in and of itself, not to mention the ghastly mutations that are the tainted results of such foul couplings.

Even my marshmallow-brained chum Ewan grows weary of the presence of kittens - and he is generally doting towards innocent newborns of any species.  After the appearance of the latest litter, Ewan, Fizzy and I decided to investigate whether the farmer's most recent protestations concerning his fecund feline were true.

We trotted along the lane towards the farm-yard, chatting as we went.  Stopping just before the main lane (which we aren't allowed to cross by ourselves, as it's busier than the other little roads) we peered into the farm-yard.  Sure enough, there was Owl, swaggering about the place with the smug grin of a fellow who knows he gets more action than he has any right to.  I shook my head and tut-tutted.
"Maudie" [one of the farm dogs, a feisty wire-haired Jack Russell] "says he even tries to have a go on the chickens and ducks sometimes." barked Fizzy, a note of marked disdain in her voice.
"That's gross." I snorted.  After a brief pause, Ewan began to cackle with mirth.  "What's up with you?" I asked.
"Just imagine!" laughed Ewan, "If Owl makes a chicken have a kitten!"
"Erm..." I muttered, wondering if I ought to stop Ewan there or wait to see what else had popped into his simple head.
"Sometimes I likes a dippy-egg for my breakfast." giggled Ewan.  "Just imagine if when Fizzy bites the top off for me and there is a little chicken-kitten inside!"

Fizzy and I exchanged a glance.

"Well, Ewan," I managed, after a pause, "If I had a boiled-egg for my breakfast and I nipped the top off to find an unbarkably horrific beaked kitten foetus inside I'm not sure that laughter would be my first response..."

Fortunately for our collective sanity, Owl turned his back to us and stalked off down the hill towards the piggery.  We watched him go.

"Well, either those are two of the largest rectal tumours I've ever seen," I sighed, "Or Owl hasn't been done."

Fizzy laughed and, after a moment, Ewan joined in.  I'm not convinced that he fully understood what he was laughing about, but his laughter was joyful to my ears all the same...


Good afternoon.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Tuesday 29 November 2011

I return - not for the first time - with an apology for my lengthy absence.

My partner seemed to enjoy her time in London, at the BBC and elsewhere, with her friends despite my absence.

Chris Evans, Moira Stuart, Lynn Bowles, Ken Bruce, Jeremy Vine, Tony Blackburn, Len Goodman, Sir Cliff Richard, Nicky from Westlife - these are just some of the "entertainment professionals" with whom my partner had least some interaction at the BBC.  Alas, worthy and decent though these good folks are, none can eclipse my own celebrity.  I did, at least, have a small presence at the Radio 2 HQ however - see if you can spot your very own Jasper Horatio Stafford in this (slightly out-of-focus) snap of my partner with Nicky-from-Westlife:


My partner failed to recognise the (admittedly passably attractive) young gentleman at first, and confessed this to him - he did not seem to mind.  In the absence of any celeb-chat therefore, and noting the charming Irish lilt of the fellow's accent, my partner instead decided to apologise on behalf of our ancestors for the appalling cruelty meted out to the Irish by English oppressors throughout the ages, including (but not limited to) their inexcusable failure to act during the truly horrific Irish Potato Famine.  She thinks he appreciated that.  As for myself - I am just wondering if there will ever come a time when my partner ceases to embarrass me in such open and public ways...  For goodness' sake...


Away with such trivialities - let us return to the true celebrity of this forum...

I have been a trifle unwell since my last post.  I continue to be in good form and am suffering no actual pain, but the tumour in my snout is now visible to the casual observer and is no insignificant irritation to me.  I wondered where the wretched thing would ultimately manifest itself and settle for the long-haul.  'Tis at the base of the right-paw side of my snout, not too far from my eye, and is approximately the size of a Robin's egg.  It occasionally impedes my regular breathing, though not often to be more than an irritation, and my liveliness, appetites and energies remain undiminished.  My partner has procured a supply of anti-inflammatory medication, which she feeds me through a dropper each morning (I am a good boy for my medicine-taking), and this helps to keep secondary swelling and infection to an absolute minimum.

Unfortunately, my return from the last vets' trip coincided with Peaches the cat's nightly amble back to his house from the allotments and the river, which takes him past my house.  The impudent fat furry fungus squinted at me in the autumn dusk, an ugly smile spreading across his foolish face, as he registered the lump on my snout.
"Bl**dy h*ll, Jasper." he sneered, "Is your tiny brain finally trying to eat its way out of your thick head?!"
I ignored him.
"I hope it makes it out of there!" continued the abominable feline, "Then you'll be nearly as clever as your meatball-for-brains friend Ewan!"

"Funny, aren't you."  I muttered, dangerously, not giving Peaches the satisfaction of provoking an angry bark, "I must look out, in case my sides should split with laughter at such wit from our greatest living comedian..."

Peaches was not so contented with this response as to hazard another cheeky insult and, on my taking a step towards him with teeth bared and a malevolent twinkle in my eye he fled, squealing (no doubt remembering our last encounter).  Satisfied that the ghastly beast would not return (at least for that evening) to further insult me or my friends, I accompanied my partner into our home for a late dinner followed by a chapter of our book (we're now on Mansfield Park Volume I, Chapter XII) and then sleep.

I recall that, in my last blog entry, I promised you, dear reader, an account of my good friend Ewan's attempts to comprehend egg-based procreation and its many limitations.  This will, again, have to be put off until next time, for I grow weary.  Medication and the sweet insensibility of sleep await me.

Until tomorrow then;

Good night.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Thursday 17 November 2011

And so it has come to pass. My partner is leaving me.

Only for a couple of nights though. I am staying with her parents, though I am still not entirely satisfied. She is off to BBC Radio 2 tomorrow to answer telephones and take donations for the very worthy Children in Need charity. If you live in the UK and telephone 0500 22 11 22 between 10am and 7pm tomorrow to request a song and donate some money to the charity, you will get to speak to my partner, one of her fabulous friends, or even a celebrity (not me, alas.  I do not enjoy barking on the 'phone - I tend towards rudeness and that is unacceptable at the BBC).  For non-UK friends, you can visit this site to find out more: BBC Radio 2 Children in Need 2011.

Please spare a couple of quid for Children in Need, if you can.  I, in the meantime, shall be devising a series of subtle yet devastating punishments for my traitorous partner.  Should there come another opportunity in the future, I shall ensure that she thinks twice before abandoning me for two days to hobnob with celebrities in London.

Good afternoon.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Friday 11 November 2011

11.11.11

I remember with pride those who have fought in wars past AND present - the dead and the living - with the courage to fight and risk all that they have so that my country and the world can remain free and safe.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
("For The Fallen" by Laurence Binyon, written in September 1914)


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Good night.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Dearest reader, I thank you from the bottom of my heart (or the heart of my bottom, if you prefer...) for all your birthday good wishes.  I appreciated them all most sincerely, as well as the gifts (all edible this year, I am delighted to report!).  Alas some of the time betwixt those celebrations and this very moment have been somewhat less jolly.

I rise from my bed of pain and misery to write to you now.  I have been suffering all manner of torments since the weekend.  Only now is my misery beginning to abate.  Perhaps you will be kind enough to indulge me whilst I explain...

Saturday morning (29 October) was turning out to be a truly exquisite day.  One of those beautifully perfect autumnal ones, with the trees at their rich, russet and gold, best - the scent of bonfires in the air and that hint of a chill, which sharpens and heightens all the scents to be sensed.  After a morning of grocery shopping, my partner took me to Chawton Woods (opposite Jane Austen's House) - one of my favourite local spots for a stroll.  I felt better and more energised than I had for several weeks!  Around and about I capered, through the fallen leaves and conkers, glorying in simply being alive on such a delightful day.  And then, I saw her.  A vision of loveliness through the trees - a young spaniel, female and precisely formed in the way that I like.  As she spotted me, I uttered a silent prayer of thanks that I was looking my most handsome best.  Autumn always sets me off to the finest advantage - if, indeed, such a thing can be barked to be true.  In fact, when the inestimable Keats wrote his ode To Autumn, I cannot fathom out why - after the line "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" - he chose to strike out the intended following line "And impossibly handsome dogs in flawlessly perfect natural lighting".  I digress.  The comely maiden bounded over to me and gave me the time-honoured sniff-over.


"Hello!"  she enthused, with fluttering eyelashes and wagging tail.  "I'm Ellie!  Who are you?!"
"Good morning, my dear!" I replied, offering up my most winning smile, "I am Jasper.  And what a pleasure it is to meet one so charming as you on this loveliest of days!"


My new acquaintance giggled coquettishly, piquing my interest (fear not, dear reader, my pretty neighbour Rosie never takes her exercise this far East.  I shall not be detected...).
"D'you want to play hide'n'sniff with me?!" she yipped, "It's my favouritest game EVER!"
"Why, what an uncanny coincidence!"  I replied (smooth at all times, Jasper, smoooooth, hehehe...), "That is my favourite game as well!  Who could have believed that two such intertwined souls should meet in one place?!"


The pretty young spaniel giggled, calling "Me first, then!" as she dashed off into the woods.  Of course, I pretended to shield my eyes - but she was young and inexperienced at the game and didn't notice that I was watching her - I saw where she had concealed herself and didn't have to use my snout at all (something of a relief, for those who know my recent snout-based history).  After a few exhilarating rounds (all of which I could have won without effort - but which I allowed the deliciously pert young beauty to win.  Didn't want to scupper my chances, after all...), we decided to play "chase-tag".  After being "tagged" (tapped on the flank) by the fair maid ('tis only fair to give the Lady first victory), I sped off in hot pursuit of her enticing rear, enjoying the chase but not forgetting to keep my eyes on "the prize", hehehehe...


Oh, reader, do not underestimate me.  I still have strength in my body as well as in my mind - and, yes, still where it matters most to a man.  Rejoicing in my ability to keep up with the pretty lass, I ran, ran, and RAN.  Alas, my eyes were focussed on the quarry and not the path.  Laughing and barking as I chased her - 


- ** - SMACK!!!! - ** - 


- I ran into a tree that wasn't there before!  It hurt.  A LOT.


I managed to make an hasty retreat whilst still retaining my dignity.  I won't lie to you - this one REALLY HURT.  I had the black eye to countenance all other black eyes throughout history and the swelling - oh, Dear Lord, the swelling.  My head looked like a football.  The right-paw snout passage and eye-surround, already tender because of previously-described tumourous activity, blew up like a balloon.  I was able to conceal it from my erstwhile new lady.  Not, alas, from my partner.  All evening, she stared at me in a most unsettling "there's something not quite right about you, but I cannot put my dewclaw on it"-type manner.


Come Sunday, it was beyond my control.  I was in agony and unable to eat or even drink beyond a few cooling sips, and my partner was in hysterics.


The very next day, my folly was revealed.  "This is an impact injury, not a tumour growth!!" bleated the traitorous surgeon.  I was despatched home, tail between legs, with medications that - even now - are proving the (female) veterinarian correct.  I am being a good boy, and am taking them without fuss.


But even my partner, I suspect, is only partially convinced of my integrity.


Be a love, dear reader, and don't enlighten her.  'T would only baffle and distress her...   I thank you.




Next time - Ewan (dog); kittens; and the mystery of fatherhood.  Oh, for goodness' sake....




Good night.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Sunday 23 October 2011

I have made it to the birthday that I never thought I'd see! Yes - today I am thirteen years old!

It was my partner's birthday yesterday, and we have passed a most agreeable birthday weekend, with cake, gifts and treats of every good kind. It's no small wonder to me that I have reached this age still in full possession of my sanity, my hearing and my vision. I can traverse the stairs, get in and out of the car and bed unaided and I retain my spirited enjoyment of life. How blessed I have been. Particularly as, if you have read my "Evolution of Jasper" series (to be concluded very shortly), you will know that my life very nearly ended twelve tears ago as a bloodied and broken wretch on a veterinary table in Buckinghamshire; after my first "owner" had smashed my fragile little bones into fragments. Yes; I am blessed indeed.

I was basking in the sunshine yesterday morning, before my partner and I met her parents for coffee and birthday cake, when my perfectly agreeable day was spoiled by the arrival of the scourge of the neighbourhood and Satan's accredited representative on Earth, Peaches the cat (I cannot bear to launch into another description of the wretch. Should you so desire, you can read an introduction to Peaches and his revolting nature here: Peaches: An Introduction).

I groaned inwardly, as Peaches sauntered nonchalantly over to my fence, his tail twitching from side to side.  Entirely uninvited, he leapt the fence in a single bound and padded up to me.
"Good morning, Jasper." he simpered, all false purrs and smiles.
"Get out of my garden." I grunted, not bothering to acknowledge his greeting as I racked my brain to try and fathom what he was up to.
"Ha!" snorted the black creature from Hades. "I heard that you had died.  I was coming over in the hope of being able to dance on your grave."
"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." I muttered, quoting Twain.  "I'm happy to disappoint you."
"Still," purred Peaches, "You don't look well.  Oh, not well at all...  It's tragic to see you looking so old and haggard, with your grey fur and wasted muscles..."


I let him burble on, determined to deny him the satisfaction of needling me into an angry response.




What the bl**dy hell is the purpose of cats anyway?!  What are they for?  What do they want?


I'll admit that there are those cats whose company I will tolerate - Honey and Kittenjasper from the house opposite, for example, though I doubt that I am high in their favour after I liberated a young shrew they'd caught earlier in the day.  I couldn't see the poor innocent tortured to death, however, so my conscience is not pricking me too badly.


I don't know if you are, as I am, a fan of the very excellent "QI" - QI Website.  My partner has a QI book, called "The Book of Animal Ignorance" - a slender but fascinating tome containing all sorts of arresting facts about members of the animal kingdom.  Here is a portion of what the QI Elves have to say about cats:


"Cats spend 85% of their day doing absolutely nothing.  Eating, drinking, killing, cr*pping and mating take up just 4% of their life.  The other 10% is used just to get around.  Otherwise they are asleep, or just sitting."


The piece goes on to say:


"Today, only a quarter of American cat 'owners' say they deliberately went out to acquire a cat; in 75% of cases it was the cat that acquired them.  And studies have shown that many more people claim to own a cat than than there are cats.  When your cat disappears for a while it is not, in fact, off on a hunting expedition, it is next-door-but-one having another free meal or asleep on the window-sill with one or another of its many doting 'owners'.  Cats need to eat the equivalent of five mice a day.  A cat given unlimited access to food will only eat a mouse-sized portion at a single meal.  Is your cat eating five meals a day ?  Of course not: its dining out elsewhere, later."




I knew I was right to despise them.  Wretched little free-loaders.


All throughout my ponderings on cats, Peaches mewed on with a variety of disparaging remarks about death and disintegrating health in general and me in particular.  I opened my eyes and squinted at him in the sunshine as he continued.


"...and so when they bury you, I will be able to use your grave as my special toilet - I can't wait to empty myself out all over your manky old carcass.  Finally you will be useful."


"Well, it's important to have a dream..." I muttered.


"And I can't imagine you'll smell any worse when you're mouldering in the Earth.  You stink like an open sewer anyway - although I feel nothing but pity for all the little worms.  And as for th- mrreeoorwrrrrrlllll!!!"


With a lightning speed, unanticipated by the insolent Peaches, I had leapt up and pounced on the wretched creature.  My jaws snapped shut with a resounding crack - oh yes, sour Peaches, I am in full possession of ALL of my teeth, hehehe...!  As the ghastly beast streaked back across the road to the safety of his own house, screaming, yowling and cursing all the way, some drops of blood spattered down onto the patio.


B*gg*r.  I thought, looking down at the expanding droplets. Now he's brought on a nosebleed.  (The one open manifestation of the tumour in my snout is an occasional nosebleed from the affected nostril).


I wiped at my snout with the side of a paw, preparing to seek assistance from my partner and an absorbent paper pawkerchief.  However, I was surprised to see, on withdrawing the paw, that it remained clean.  Checking that no ladies were in the vicinity, I discreetly spat on the flagstone.  Out came more blood droplets, accompanied by a few short black hairs.


YES!!  I had managed to take an successful bite from the bedevilled hide of Peaches!  Now THAT is a birthday treat which we can ALL enjoy!


Happy days!




Good night.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Overwhelming - simply overwhelming.

This is the only way I can describe the messages of love and support that you left following my blog post of Monday evening. I cannot find the barks to tell you how much they mean to me. They provided SUCH comfort to my partner - indeed they, along with the other messages that came through via Facebook and telephone, were all that stood between her and a complete descent into despair. So much did she weep that a migraine ensued and she and I remained at home today.

The trip to the vet was interesting in and of itself. The waiting room was full (as is often the case on a Monday). The other waiting beasts and their humans were most kind and sympathetic towards my partner and I. To myself on account of the dreadful rasping, whistling and bubbling sounds that issued whenever I tried to breathe, and to my partner because of her tears and her impotent endeavours to comfort and becalm me. For a brief time, we repaired to the car park to wait: there were children in the waiting room and I feared lest my laboured throes should distress them.

When we returned, a very kind lady (accompanied by a cat, of all things) leaned towards us and said "I'm next on the list to be seen, but would you like to take my place and go in straight away?" My partner and I hesitated, not wishing to take advantage of generosity if it involved another's suffering, but the kind lady sensed our thoughts and explained that her cat was only in for a post-operative check-up. This being explained, we gratefully accepted this most thoughtful offer and were ushered into the surgical chamber.

Diagnosis was swift. The tumour in my snout is, apparently, on the move. Possibly towards my throat, though one cannot be certain.

My partner was reassured by the surgeon that, despite the horrific sounds emanating from my head and chest, I was in no pain and was receiving enough oxygen through my remaining healthy nostril and my mouth. Two options were presented, each involving an injection: the first would not solve my predicament in the long term but would relax and therefore open up my nasal passages; the second would resolve my predicament - but in a somewhat fatally permanent way.

As you are reading this, you can guess that my partner opted for the former jab. This was administered by the vet, albeit with a warning that my partner "must prepare herself".

This we are, together, endeavouring to do. It is settled between us that my toys are to be bequeathed to my dim-yet-wonderful canine friend Ewan, my larger chews to his wife Fizzy, my smaller chews to my pretty neighbour Rosie and any remaining food to be divided between neighbourhood Staffie pups William and Milo.

After passing an uneasy night, I find myself greatly recovered. My partner is comforted by the fact that she made the right choice (again). This all reminded me that the aforementioned was not my first brush with the fatal needle, and that the rest of my biographical series "The Evolution of Jasper" remains unfinished. I must apologise for this - I recall that I left it on something of a cliff-hanger . I have now written most of the concluding instalment and it shall be posted here very soon, I assure you. Forgive me for my reticence.

I smelled Death on Monday, I really did. Despite eventualities, I confide to you now that I did come close to Death. For a few moments, my heart could not compete with my desperate struggle for breath, and I set my first paw on the Ultimate Journey. I always thought that there was a bright light, towards which one should advance, and that one's previously-deceased friends and family moved forth to greet one. I even began to look out for Kipper... But nothing. It wasn't My Time. But I swear I smelled Death.

How to describe the scent of Death...? Most bizarre, for a start. It smelt like a curious blend of fresh rain on new tarmac, warm popcorn and, oddly, lavender. Not a frightening smell at all - quite comforting in fact.

But enough of death! I live - and gratefully so. As I left the veterinary chamber, my surgeon bid me "Happy Birthday for Sunday, Jasper!". For that day heralds my 13th birthday! Let us smile and hope for better things for my fourteenth year. I have so much to be thankful for - your friendship, dear reader, not least among those things.

Smile on, good friend, and be thankful for all that comes our way - good or bad - in this transient life.


Good night.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Monday 17 October 2011

At 18:14 this evening I was suddenly taken ill and was rushed to the vets' by my partner.

So ill, in fact, that I believe I might actually be dying.

Please pray for me - indeed, I beg you to please pray for us both (my partner and I - if it isn't too much trouble).

I fear not the journey to death - but that voyage which comes after. I am frightened of the dark, and I cannot bear the thought of facing it alone.

Thank you.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sunday 16 October 2011

"Jasper!  JASPER!! Jazz! Jaspey! Jazzie! Jasper!  JAZZ!! JAAAAAAASPER!!!"

Ewan's frantic barks pierced Friday's crisp autumnal air, sending small birds chirruping into the skies and pheasants diving for cover.  "Come QUICK!  It's doing it!  It's DOING it!  QUICK!!"

To judge from the tone of my lovable-yet-brainless friend's cries, one might be forgiven for thinking that he was desperately seeking assistance in order to save the live of a frail, helpless, drowning kitten who was about to submerge for a final, fatal, time.  No such horrors in the woodlands adjoining our work-yard, fortunately.  No; Ewan was urging me to join him on the bridleway and witness for myself the true miracle of his "Magical Singing Stick".

Wearily, I got up and trotted off towards the sound of Ewan's voice.  Not so much because I was intrigued by the concept of the Magical Singing Stick, but rather because I have found myself the object of increasing desire to Ewan's basket-mate - pretty black Labrador Fizzy.  She barks that, now I am visibly ageing, I've "got that Jack Nicholson/Michael Douglas/Sean Connery thing going on".  I take this to mean that as in certain fortunate men (apparently, according to Fizzy, I find that I am one of them), they become more desirable to ladies as they get older.  I would be flattered - but I am not sure there isn't a back-pawed insult in there somewhere...  Whatever the case, Fizzy simply will not leave me alone.  And I've tried hiding, I really have.  But it's no use - she always finds me.  And then she sits - far too closely, in my opinion - next to me, fluttering her eyelashes, winking at me, and staring at my 'Little Jasper' in a most persistent and disconcerting manner.

Don't get me wrong - I am flattered.  Fizzy is just my type - and I am NEVER too old for a lovely lady, hehehe...  But Fizzy is Ewan's lovely lady, and Ewan is my friend.  I just couldn't do that to him.  So I affected the appearance of more enthusiasm than I felt and ambled onto the bridleway to join him and my partner to witness the modern marvel of the Magical Singing Stick.  On sighting me, Ewan broke away from my partner, who had been kicking his football and throwing sticks for him and hurried to greet me.
"There it is." he whispered reverentially, indicating a stick which lay on the ground before us.  I looked at it and jabbed at it with a claw.  I wasn't impressed.

"That's not the same stick as the one you showed me last week."  I barked.

"It is!" yipped Ewan, indignantly.  "It is too the same one Jazz!  It's just a different one, that's all."

I sighed and shook my head.  I didn't have strength to argue with Ewan, so decided to let this one go.
"Let's see it sing, then." I muttered doubtfully.

"OK.  Hang about."  Ewan lowered his head down to the stick.  "Sing!" he barked.  Somewhat predictably, nothing happened.  "Sing, my beauty!" he commanded.  The silence from the inert stick was virtually deafening.  My partner wandered over to us and picked up the stick.
"D'you want to play with this one, Ewan?!" she asked.
"Sing! Sing! Sing!!" barked Ewan, jumping about, almost beside himself.

In an effort to tempt Ewan into chasing the stick, my partner tapped the stick on the ground close to Ewan's paws and began to hum a jaunty tune, beating time to it by tapping the stick on the ground.  "It sings..." breathed Ewan, awestruck.

"Ah-ha.  Riiiight..."

As Ewan worked himself into an ecstatic frenzy, my partner threw the stick along the bridleway and Ewan sped off after it, almost tripping over himself in his haste to retrieve and return it.  On delivering it back to my partner, the whole process began again.

"D'you see Jazz?!" panted Ewan.  "Could you have believed that we'd see such a magical miracle in our lifetime?!"

"Actually, Ewan, I'm finding it hard to put into words exactly what I think about the stick just now..." I muttered, dryly.
"'Tis an eternal mystery..." intoned the incredulous dog.
"Yup." I sighed.  "I think I might just need to go and have a lie-down now..."  Suddenly, an afternoon attempting to endure Fizzy's attentions didn't seem quite so bad.  Bl**dy hell.

Yesterday wasn't much better.  My partner took me to Abbotstone and I wasn't in the mood.  On the way, we passed a large shoot in progress.  Shooters, beaters and gun-dogs (mostly Labradors) were spread across several fields.  Gun-dogs are often held in much respect for their skills, control and intellect.  I have never been able to comprehend this.  Surely if the dog was truly intelligent, it would retrieve the pheasant or other quarry and - instead of being a complete mug and delivering the quarry back to its master - gobble up the still warm flesh.  Why any dog would willingly surrender some tasty fresh game without snaffling at least one mouthful defies all rational explanation.

My partner and I had an argument at Abbotstone.  As I mentioned, I wasn't really in the mood and so every time my partner's back was turned I ran back to the car.  She was about as impressed with this tactic as I had been with Ewan's Magical Singing Stick.

Determined not to let me "get away with it", each time I escaped I was retrieved and the walk commenced again.  I began to whimper about how old and frail I was feeling and how I couldn't cope with a walk, but this only earned me a lecture about not giving up and being idle.  I was about to protest further, but my partner pointed out that, were I that weak and feeble, I would not have raced back at top speed to the car.

Dammit.  I hadn't thought that through properly.  Adopting a sullen, mutinous, expression, I was forced to submit to a proper walk.  Actually, I enjoyed it in the end, and had a nice run, but I wasn't about to give my partner the satisfaction of knowing that.  I was so annoyed that, as we passed the fields where the shoot was taking place, I leaned out of the window and shouted "Puppets!  You're all a bunch of witless puppets!" at the gun-dogs.

It was only when we were almost home that I began to wish I'd called them "eunuchs" instead.  With the benefit of hindsight, I realised that the gun-dogs had probably thought I was complimenting them on their youthful looks by calling them puppies.  Thwarted again!  Sometimes, I wonder why I bother...

Good night.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sunday 9 October 2011

I return!!

My apologies for a lengthy absence.  It is not because of my tumour - far from it.  In fact, dewclaw on wood, that has settled down considerably and is merely tiresome, as opposed to painful.  No, I was absent due mostly to our straitened finances.  For three weeks in September, due to a series of unfortunate situations, my partner and I found ourselves having to live on a mere £26.  It was, to say the least, not easy.  I always had enough to eat, but my partner had to manage with just one very basic meal per day.  Consequently, we retired to bed at about 8pm on most days, with a book by candlelight, in order to conserve both energy and electricity.

But now we are back!  Back, solvent once more, alive and sniffing bottom!  (The latter is just me.  My partner doesn't sniff bottoms, to the best of my knowledge).  AND I have been mentioned on the radio!!  Oh yes.  The DJ is the ever-excellent Kevin Williams and he broadcasts at 7.00pm on Tuesdays here: http://www.hospitalradiobedside.co.uk/ ("Listen Live" can be accessed by clicking on the headphones in the right-paw column).  There is a current popular track by Maroon 5 (featuring Christina Aguilera) called "Moves Like Jagger").  Sweet Kevin rechristened it, live on-air, for me: "Moves Like Jasper"!  And, although I bark it myself - my moves ARE good.  Oh yes, believe it baby.  Seriously.  Listen to Kev. - he deserves a wider audience.

My Holly tree continues to thrive.  My partner and I did a spot of gardening this afternoon and put a little bit of compost around it.  My partner says that this will help to feed the roots.  I can quite understand this; compost is delicious.  I always try and snaffle a few bites of it from the garden whenever we visit my partner's parents house.

I have got a brand-new next-door neighbour!  He is a very, very young Staffordshire Bull Terrier and his name is Milo.  He looks very much like me.  So much so, in fact, that were it not for the operation of which we do not bark, I would have been racking my brains to try and recall any recent indiscretions.  Particularly as the pup has already shown a decided fondness for my other neighbour, pretty Westie Terrier Rosie, - and (as we all know) the apple never falls far from the tree...  Milo, apart from his infant cuteness, has one temporary advantage over me however - his diminutive size.  Several times now the puppy has escaped from his rear garden by hopping between the fence posts and, each time, it was to scamper directly to Rosie's kitchen!  By rights, I ought to be jealous, but I confess that I admire the lad's pluck.  Plus which, Rosie continues to show a distinct preference for me (one cannot blame her - she is only canine, after all).  I can therefore chuckle with fond indulgence over Milo's love-struck antics.

Following the mortifications visited upon me by having my teeth brushed, I have been subjected to further indignity in the bathroom.  Yes, dear reader, yes.  It's true.

On Wednesday, I was enjoying the unusually-warm October sun and was dozing peaceably in the work-yard.  Alas for me, however, I had settled my rear into a small pool of spilled diesel fuel.  My rump was irredeemably tarnished.  I tried to shield it from my partner but, of course, she clocked me straight away.  After a bit of light verbal chiding, and mockery from other friends and colleagues, I thought I'd got off lightly.  But no.  Oh no.

As soon as we arrived home, I was marched directly upstairs to our salle de bains and lifted into the bath/shower.  This, in itself, was troubling enough.  I was then ushered into a nightmare from the mind of of the inimitable Alfred Hitchcock himself.

Uh-oh...
My terror mounted as my partner left the room for a moment.  When she returned, however, she was not dressed as her mother and brandishing a fish-slice.  She had merely changed into some casual clothes and was armed with nothing more sinister than a bottle of shampoo and an extra freshly-laundered towel, lest I suffer from a chill on exiting the bathroom with damp fur.

This was the first shower I had received since our bathroom was re-fitted earlier this year.  I have to admit that the warm jets of water that issued from my new shower unit were infinitely pleasant and not a little relaxing.  My partner had also shown consideration in selecting an unscented shampoo, so that I would not be transformed by this episode from the mighty Jasper H. Stafford into a pampered fool.  Submitting happily, therefore, to my bath it proved as painless as it was pleasurable.  More than can be barked for the unfortunate Marion Crane, I feel - but she really shouldn't have stolen that cash in the first place.  And taking a room in a place so obviously sinister as the Bates Motel is just asking for trouble.

For the sake of appearances (and in the hope of gaining an extra supper-biscuit by making my partner feel guilty), I pretended that I had been traumatised by my appalling defilement in the shower.  Yet again I was thwarted.  I left my partner to clean up the bathroom by herself, whilst I headed downstairs for a drink and a nap.  Unfortunately, I was so soothed by my evening bath that I fell fast asleep.

For any reader troubled by the prospect of my Hitchcockian trauma in the shower, I offer you comfort here in this post-bathing image, in which I was captured unawares by my partner - curled up snugly in the foetal-position with a great big grin on my face.  My partner says this is one of her favourite pictures of me, despite it being taken less than four days ago, with my tumour-infested-snout side uppermost:



Good night.