Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sunday 30 January 2011

"Fizzy's pregnant."  announced my witless but lovable canine chum, Ewan, proudly.

"WHAT?!?" I yelped, incredulous.  "But how...?"
"Well, I'm surprised that you has to ask!" barked Ewan.  "What happened is that I put my winkie in Fi-"
"NO!!!" I snapped, "I mean, I thought you'd been snipped!"
Ewan shrugged.  I continued, completely dazed, "So how..."
"Don't know." responded my simple friend.  "But all I does know is that Fizzy is having some babies.  Mummy took her to the vets and they putted something on her belly and she saw six babies on a television.  They is ALL look like me!"

I began to feel nauseous.  Ewan noticed not, and prattled on, grinning from ear to ear.  "They is two baby-ladies and four baby-boys.  Think about that!  Fizzy has got four little willies growing inside of her!  Four little willies, Jasper, hiihiihiihiihiihiiihiiiiii....! They's all lined up in her tummy with three on each sides!  Theys look like beans in a pod!"
"Peas." I corrected, weakly.  This was one of my all-time worst nightmares made flesh.

"What?" yipped Ewan.  "Oh, of course! You doesn't have to ask politely, Jazz, Of COURSE you can see her! Come with me."

I staggered behind him as best I could, feeling numb in every quarter.  Ewan led me into the workshop, where Fizzy was lying on her side on a piece of carpet, her belly noticeably swollen.  She smiled serenely.  I managed a watery grin back.  "Isn't she beautiful?" beamed the proudly expectant father.  Before I could even whimper out a response Fizzy called me over.
"Come Jasper," she smiled, extending out a welcoming paw. "If you listen carefully you can hear the babes within my womb."  There was nothing I would like less than that.
"Erm..." I muttered, "There's nothing I'd like more..."  I forced my legs to walk towards the happy black labrador and rested my head sideways against her flank.  At first, I could discern nothing, save the normal passage of juices through a warm, living body.  And then I heard them.  Tiny, high pitched, almost imperceptible, unconscious squeaks.  A human ear would not have been able to hear them.  They came, sometimes together, sometimes overlapping each other, in time with the rhythm of one adult and six foetal heartbeats, the same squeak inside Fizzy's belly, mingling with the gurgle of the amniotic fluids.  The same squeak.
"Cheese!", "Cheese!", "Cheese!", "Cheese!", "Cheese!", "Cheese!", "Cheese!",  OVER and OVER and OVER...

"Are you ok, Jasper?!" asked Ewan, with concern in his voice, as I staggered backwards in horror and almost fell over.  I whirled round to look at him - and screamed.

For he had turned into a giant prawn, his long pink antennae wavering at me.  Spinning back, I saw that Fizzy was also a prawn, curled up, her tail flicking in my direction...  "Are you OK?" repeated prawnEwan.
"Jasper, are you alright?!" asked prawnFizzy, extending a pink pincer and shaking my shoulder.

I screamed again.

"Jasper!  Are you alright?  JASPER!  J A S P E R?!!?!"  The voice morphed into that of my partner's.  I opened my eyes - and saw her concerned face staring down at me.  I was entangled in my favourite blanket, which was cast wildly about me, and I was hot, breathless and numb.  My heart was flinging itself against my ribcage as though it sought to snap through and escape.  My partner relaxed somewhat when I opened my eyes and she saw my pupils focus upon her pretty young face.  "You were screaming in your sleep, Jazz." she explained, giving me a reassuring hug.  OHHHHH, thank goodness.  THANK goodness.  I wept with relief until my breaths once again came easily.


And THAT, ladies and gentleman, is the price of stealing.

Yes - it's true.

Yesterday evening, my partner decided to treat herself (it has been a long time since she had a treat) to a Chinese take-away meal.  And, whilst her back was turned, I took away some of her take-away.

A portion of prawn fried rice.  Easily snaffled; it went down a treat.  My partner was VERY angry.  Alas, my reward was also my punishment.  A portion intended for human consumption is a prawn too far for a handsome, slender, dog's consumption - and hallucinatory nightmares were the unhappy consequence of such a crime.

I report this so that it may serve as a salutary lesson to others minded to thieve delicious take-away meals.

I shall wish you a good night - though 'twill be a long time before I sleep soundly once more:

Good night.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Friday 28 January 2011

Jakey and Deevs!  Thank you for sniffing us out and for stopping long enough to lift a leg and add us to your list of followed blogs!

Before I proceed any further, I will hearken back to the last, somewhat disturbing, blog entry for an explanation.  Let me explain that, occasionally, dogs such as Ewan and I (who were both condemned to the operation-of-which-we-do-not-bark AFTER we had passed our years of puberty and reached physical maturity) lose our ability but not, necessarily, our passions.  Indeed, my own struggles with post-snippage desires will form the final chapter in my "Evolution" series...  And "entire" ladies chase after the boys just as much they are chased by us boys in turn.  Particularly if they have, erm... , if you will forgive me, "experience".  Fizzy, we are told, bore a litter of puppies in her younger days (before she was adopted by Ewan's partner) - so she knows the delights she is pursuing.  Happily (for Ewan and his sleep-deprived partner, at least) Fizzy's season has passed and everything is once more as it was.  Ewan's partner is still frowning with concern, however, lest there had been a slip with the snip, so to bark, and Ewan has been able to successfully... great heavens, I cannot even bark the words.  The fact that Fizzy may now be carrying a bellyful of baby Ewans chills me to my very core.  I love my friend Ewan dearly - but the line must end with him.  His genes are such as should never be passed on.

I very much doubt that Fizzy is in pup.  It has been three weeks or so now and the fair one has shown no signs of increased maternal behaviour.  I think the future generations of dogs can breathe a collective, spectral, sigh of relief.  But it has been many a night since I have enjoyed a completely peaceful sleep.  Every time I lay down my head and close my eyes, my mind fills with the vision of six or seven tiny Ewans capering around my ankles and dewclaws with their high-pitched little yips and squeaks - "Uncle Jasper!  Uncle Jasper!  What cheese is this?!  Where do we go for our milks - mummy or daddy?  Uncle Jasper!  Which bit of a tree is a cat?  Why are squirrels?  Uncle Jaaaaassssper....?"  Arrrrrrgh....!!!!  Let us continue to pray that this horror never becomes reality.

And let us move hastily on from this murky business.  I have new neighbours!  They moved in last weekend, into the house formerly occupied by the permanently-annoyed, loud electric-guitar-playing, misery-monger.  My partner met the young man of the household, who had formed an advance furniture-installing party with a couple of his friends.  The young man's lady and baby daughter are also to live there, although we haven't met them yet.  They are slightly younger than my partner.  He was most pleasant to me, happily scratching my furry head and greeting me by name after we had been introduced.  I have since, once, heard the young baby squalling but I can tolerate this noise.  'Twas the ill-advised persistence in believing his own proficiency in music that vexed me so about my former neighbour.  The innocent cries of a helpless babe-in-arms are sweet sounds in comparison.  Yes; I welcome my new neighbours.

And, barking of neighbours, I had an opportunity to talk with the exquisite Rosie - the beautiful young, delightfully pert, West Highland Terrier, who dwells with her partner on the other side of my property, on Tuesday.  My conversations with her are never up to much.  Generally, I bark a friendly greeting, wag my tail, she begins to respond (fluttering her eyelids at me all the while) and then dissolves into giggles and scampers shyly away.  I cannot comprehend her - but she seems nice enough.  I was beginning to recall that I hadn't seen sweet Rosie for some time lately when her partner, in talking to MY partner, accounted for this mystery.

Apparently, an horrendous canine sickness bug has been "doing the rounds" locally.  Twelve straight hours of constant, unceasing, vomiting afflicts each victim and, following on from that, the dog recovers as if naught had ever ailed him (or her).  Poor Rosie had been the latest to succumb (although thankfully now recovered).  According to Rosie's partner, only three out of the many dogs in the vicinity have not fallen prey to the virus; Archie, the Jack Russell from two doors along, Eddie, the Rottweiler from across the way, and myself.  Not that this is much of a clue to the business - I had a trifling night of minor illness last Thursday and suspect that was a fleeting glance of the bug, sparing me from its worst.  Archie is so irrepressibly chirpy that it's well-nigh impossible to tell whether he's ill or not, and Eddie is so robust that he'll probably still be in excellent health on the day they finally lay him in his coffin.  I am not worried for myself - worrying uses up too much energy, I have decided.

The new neighbours mentioned above are not the only recent arrivals.  The lady in the house directly opposite mine has got herself three new young cats.  Three!  Why?  She already has Honey, the ginger-striped queen, and now she also has three smokey-coloured others.  I cannot fathom why anyone would want to blight their own life with even one cat, let alone four of the parasites.  However, one of the latest arrivals provided me with an unexpected source of amusement this morning.  I will explain.

This morning, as my partner and I were leaving our house for work, our attention was arrested by a most unusual spectacle.  One of the new smokey-cats opposite was attempting to re-enter its house through the cat-flap.  Unhappily (for the cat), it could not master the workings of the small door.  The dimwit cat repeatedly, and with increasing frustration, batted at the flap with its paws, tried levering it open from each side, shouted at it, head-butted it, all to no avail.  After some fifteen minutes of this, a small human hand appeared, pushing the flap up from inside the house and holding it open to allow the baffled moggy to enter.  I laughed until my belly hurt and a little bit of wee accidentally dribbled out of Little Jasper.  My partner laughed too.

As I meandered to my New Teal Megane, still laughing, I spotted the queen-cat Honey, lying atop the wheelie-bin (one of her favoured perches).  Her face was a picture of wry disdain.  I met her eye and, instead of barking foul abuse at her, I grinned and winked.  Honey rolled her eyes heavenwards, winked back at me, and was gone.  I have asked it before and I ask it again now.  Cats:- why?!

For goodness' sake.

Good night.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Saturday 22 January 2011

The following blog entry contains material that some readers may find offensive.  Don't bark that I didn't warn you.  JHS.


I mean, I...

I just... It's just that I can't... I cannot... begin to...

(come on, Stafford, get a hold of yourself).  Right.  I'm barkless - utterly barkless.  I mean, seriously, this time.

I have struggled with the burden of this for almost a fortnight.  Two weeks, this has been pressing upon me, and I have tortured myself about how I could account for my silence - for I am an HONEST dog.  If 'twere the mere fact that I couldn't be bothered to post an entry, I would account for myself.  But THIS?  Oh no.  Oh no, no, no.

To set the scene, then.  Fizzy was on heat. Or, as Ewan put it, it was Fizzy's "potato time" (see this entry: for an explanation).

I was snoozing 'neath my partner's desk at work when I heard the approach of the vehicle belonging to the partner of Ewan and Fizzy.

Ambling out into the yard, I greeted my friends in the time-honoured fashion.  All seemed well.  Later that day, however, Ewan did something I have never seen him do before: he dropped his stick at the height of the game.  I ran up to him.
"Are you OK?!" I yelped, almost in a panic.
"I's a bit tired, Jazz.  Bit tired I is." replied Ewan, yawning.  But he soon seemed to recover.
The next day was the same.  The day after was even worse.  I began to grow afraid for my most stupid, yet most cherished, friend.  He seemed drained; almost in a permanent state of exhaustion.  I began to fear the worst - that Ewan was succumbing to a terrible bodily sickness...

Merely twenty-four hours later, I was sniffing around the boundaries of the yard for errant weasels, when I heard a most peculiar, alien sound.  My ears suggested that it emanated from Ewan.

"Oooffff, ooffff, ooffff, ooffff..." it went.  I was instantly alarmed.  An accompanying sound from Fizzy was heard.

"Errrrrehh!  Errrrrrrrrrehhhhhh!" I heard her cry.  I raced to join her, to witness the passing of my best friend Ewan.

Oh.  Oh, dear G*d in Heaven, NO!!!!!!!

I mean, I...
I just...
It's just that I can't... I cannot... begin to...

Ewan was neither dead nor dying.  In fact, he was very much alive.

He and Fizzy were - well and truly - locked into "The Tie That Binds".

I feel PHYSICALLY SICK.   If you wish to share this feeling, highlight with your mouse-left-button/cursor the space below.

Tie - This term is used to describe the swelling near the base of the dog's penis that temporarily binds the dog to the bitch during intercourse. As the swelling develops, the bitch's muscles clamp down around it to hold the organ in place. This helps insure proper delivery of semen, and though not completely necessary for producing a litter, it does increase the chance for fertilization.

Yes.  It's true.

I strode away in utter disgust, feeling the undigested remnants of my breakfast welling up within my belly.

Some time later, I was following the trail of a cheeky stoat.  I pursued the scent as far as the narrow space behind the wood-shed, where I bumped into Ewan, who looked wide-eyed and desperate.

"Shhh!" hissed Ewan, desperately, "She mustn't find me!"


"Ewan," I barked, firmly, "WHAT is going on?"
"It's Fizzy's Potato Time!" whimpered Ewan.
"I gathered that." I replied.  "What's the problem?!  You've been 'done' - you can't make pups with her - why are you hiding?!"  I had decided against mentioning that I'd seen him and Fizzy engaged in the Deed of Darkness.

"Well, she-" began Ewan, before he saw Fizzy some distance away, looking for him. "Ohhh, cover for me Jazz!" he pleaded, before scuttling away to another hiding place.  I trotted out from behind the shed and intercepted Fizzy's approach.

"Alright Jazz?" muttered Fizzy, distractedly, looking everywhere about her.  "I thought Ewan might be over here somewhere?"
"Sorry Fizz," I replied, shaking my head, "I haven't seen him for ages.  Have you looked in the workshop?"  I felt a bit guilty for telling a lie, but I felt that I really had to defend Ewan - I'd never seen him looking quite so unsettled before, plus he'd been my friend longer than Fizzy had.  As I cautiously made my own escape, I could feel Fizzy's sharp dark eyes boring into my departing self.
"Actually,"  I heard her say in an odd tone of bark, "Jasper...?"  She caught up with me in an instant.  I eyed her nervously.  "You've always thought I was pretty, haven't you...?"

Oh poo.  I knew what it meant when ladies used that tone and I was having none of it.  Escape was my only option.  I pretended I hadn't heard her.
"Oh, is that the stoat I was chasing?!" I said, lifting up my snout and sniffing the air so violently that I almost hyperventilated.  I fled into the woods without a bark or a backwards glance.

Later, after I had summoned the courage to creep back unseen, I sought out Ewan (still hiding) and got the truth out of him.

I won't insult you by repeating him ad verbatim.  In a nutshell, then.  In normal times, Fizzy and Ewan shared a basket but when Fizzy was in season Ewan always retreated, alone, to his own basket for the duration.  One fateful day Fizzy asked Ewan if he wanted to "learn a new game".  Ever eager for fun, Ewan willingly agreed.  And that was the beginning of his present troubles.  Initially delighted with this new source of merriment, the novelty soon wore off for my ever-baffled chum when it rapidly became apparent that Fizzy had something of an addiction problem.  No matter where Ewan dragged his basket, so that he could have an untroubled night's sleep, Fizzy sought him out and smacked him around the head until he capitulated.

Before I could express my sympathy, we heard the nearby clattering of Fizzy's claws.  I shoved Ewan out of his temporary refuge, madly looking around for yet another place of concealment.  Just in time, my eyes alighted upon one of the few sites where Fizzy would not think of looking for us - and one where our scents would be conveniently masked.

Ewan and I spent the rest of the day squashed together extremely uncomfortably in the tiny space between the wall and the workplace septic-tank.  We both got the most fearful cramps, but didn't dare move or even squeak with pain, in case Fizzy found us.

"What a tangled web we weave..." I grunted, trying not to think about the pins-and-needles sensations in my paws.
"Jazz!" hissed Ewan, "Fizzy isn't a spider!"
"Oh, shut up Ewan!" I muttered irritably.  But it was too late.  Ewan had collapsed against me and fallen fast asleep.

That was NOT one of the best days of my life thus far.  Happily for Ewan, his partner is giving thought to having Fizzy spayed.

More Evolution next time!

Good night.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Sunday 9 January 2011

A new follower!  Hurrah!  Cherisong - you are very welcome here; thank you for sniffing out my trail!

Well, thus far the year seems to be proceeding well.  My partner upset the equilibrium a little by going to the doctors' yesterday and getting told that her blood-presssure is "dangerously high".  She has to have a load of scary tests next week.  But that is beside the point.  What I refer to is this afternoon's evildoing. The vacuum cleaner was unleashed in this house.


I mean, why?  The house was cleaned last year.  It isn't fair.

I watched crossly as my partner pushed the purple behemoth along our little hallway.  My partner watched with a different expression altogether, as she found the suction powers of my nemesis to be woefully inadequate and nowhere near as strong as anticipated..  The mighty roar of the beast was stilled as my partner ushered it into our kitchen.  I pretended not to watch as it was disembowelled, emptied and cleaned.

But what was this?!  My partner thought she had located a mysterious blockage deep within the trachea of the accursed creature.  I maintained both my vigilance and my distance as she poked and prodded at my mortal enemy, finally utilising a baby-bud to ease out the blockage that had rendered impotent the mighty Hoover.

Why - it seemed to be some kind of biscuit...  If I didn't know any better, I could almost recognise it as a dog biscuit...  My partner held up the freed blockage 'twixt her dewclaw and index-pad.
"That's a dog biscuit!" she exclaimed, brushing away some of the grey dust and fluff.  "How on Earth did it get in there?!"  Her gaze transferred from the dirty biscuit to me.  "Anything you would like to comment on, Jasper?" she enquired.

I pretended that I hadn't heard - a useful strategy I have begun to employ of late.  I have not perfected the posture, as my involuntary facial reactions often betray me (and, despite what people say, my partner isn't THAT stupid - she knows as well as I do that I can see and hear her with no age-related diminishment.  But practice, they bark, makes perfect.)

"Good heavens!" I remarked. "Why, that looks like some kind of biscuit!  However did it find its way into there?  Anyone would think that someone had attempted to deliberately break our dear old cleaning machine!  But only you and I are here!  How mysterious...!"
"Hmmm..." muttered my partner, looking at me through narrowed eyes.  She threw away the dirty biscuit and finished unblocking the machine.  Once reassembled, the wretched thing roared and sucked like new and my chambers were ushered into disgusting cleanliness.

I wasn't happy.  The big purple beast would NOT be allowed to crow in its triumph over me.  I made a den in my armchair and barricaded myself in with cushions.  I only ventured out a few minutes ago.  I headed straight for my biscuit box - but a moment's consideration changed my mind.  I'm not sacrificing ANOTHER biscuit to the belly of the beast.  I will just have to endure clean rooms for the present.

On another topic, I accompanied my partner to the shops, following her doctors' appointment, yesterday.  Waiting for her outside the pharmacists', I viewed their window arrangement of items in their Christmas sale.  I was astounded by the array of "celebrity fragrances" on offer - footballers, actresses, singers, wannabes, everyone seemed to have their own perfume.  My way was clear...

I, myself, am often celebrated for my pungent natural allure - fox, duck, deer - if the beast has left deposits, Jasper has rolled in them, to squeals of delight from my partner and other assorted females.  And if a scabby old footballer can do it...  Gentlemen of discernment - for your delectation and to increase several-hundredfold your powers of seduction - I have blended for you:

But don't fret ladies!  My Scentateers are working on a female version - just in time for Valentine's Day...

Good night.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Sunday 2 January 2011

A new entry and a brand new year!  A very Happy New Year to you from me - I hope it brings you nothing but happiness.

I am pleased to report that my partner's geranium propagation experiment has been a TOTAL success.  Not a single one of the three prunings she planted has survived.  I managed to look sufficiently mournful as the withered shoots were disposed of, concealing a grin of malicious glee behind one of my pillows.  At the same time, my partner confided that she is thinking of putting a raised soil-bed into our garden this spring, in which to grow our own vegetables.  We both enjoy home-grown tasty veg.  Apart from lettuce, of course, which my partner likes but which I simply cannot abide.  That naughty leaf is the devil's own toilet paper.
"How exciting!" I beamed, when my partner mentioned her horticultural plans to me.  "How naïve..." I chuckled to myself, rubbing my paws together with glee, as soon as my partner had turned her back...  I do SO love victims who fail to learn from their experiences - they truly are the gifts that keep on giving...

Barking of gifts, I was in my garden yesterday when I spotted my friend and near-neighbour Eddie the Rottweiler outside his house.  His front-door was open and he and his female partner were clearly on the watch for something or someone.  Most likely, they were waiting for the arrival of a friend of the partner and her Rottweiler - Eddie's long-term gentleman-'companion', Angus.  They generally all went out in a car every day to take their exercise and exchange gossip.  Edward had been dressed in a brand-new dark blue coat, which I assumed had been a Christmas gift.  He saw me in my garden and ambled over for a chat.
"Happy New Year, young sir." said Eddie as he arrived at my fence.
"Happy New Year Ed," I replied, with a wag of my tail.  "That's a very handsome new coat you have on there - was it a Christmas gift?"
Eddie frowned and grunted dismissively, but I gleaned enough to learn from his muttering that it had, indeed, been a present from Angus and that Edward was NOT a grateful recipient.  "Well," I persisted, "I think it looks very smart.  Don't you like it?"
"It's the one I gave him for his birthday!" replied Eddie, crossly.
"Ah.  Whoops - Oh dear."
"Hmmn... do you remember me telling about the ghastly chequered jacket he got from his partners last Christmas?" asked Edward.  I thought for a moment.
"Ah yes - the one that made him look like a 'fat old fairy'?" I smiled.
"The very one." said Eddie, dryly.  "Well, it was becoming absolutely ridiculous.  You know the trouble Angus has with finding something to flatter his hips.  When he was wearing that silly little jacket and out walking I never knew whether it was Angus and his fat ar*e or the number 64 bus that was looming down on me."
I laughed.  "You're a vicious old s*d sometimes, Edward."
"I bark only the truth, dear boy."
I took a closer look at the big Rottweiler's coat.  "Are you sure it's the same jacket as the one you gave him, Ed?" I asked.  "I thought Angus's one had leather strap and brass-buckle fastenings?"
"Only the best for my Angus." replied Eddie.  "What's your point, old Jazz?"
"Well, your coat IS the same colour - but it has silver popper fastenings. Look at them there.  Are you sure that Angus hasn't given you a similar coat so that you can go out dressed almost the same way?"

Eddie looked down and examined the fastenings at the rear-underside of his new coat.  He grunted.
"He must have customised it." muttered Eddie.
"Oh, come on, Ed."  I sighed.
"Oh, alright," decided Eddie with a grin.  "Yet again I defer to your greater wisdom.  Did you get any nice gifts yourself?"
"Mine were all edible." I said.  "My partner puts them out of reach though, and rations them carefully so that I don't eat them all at once."  I didn't necessarily agree with this policy, but am well aware of my partner's views on pilfering, so I generally let it be.  Plus, of course, I have long-since learned that stuffing one's belly full of rich treats usually has unfortunate and embarrassing consequences on the following day.
"Oh, don't even get me started on that topic!" exclaimed Eddie, rolling his eyes heaven-wards.  "I have to keep a very tight lead on Angus's Christmas treats.  But for my constant vigilance, Angus's ar*e would take up an entire Google Streetview page to itself.  It's already well on the way to having its own Post Code."

I mused to myself that, between the two of them, I'd always felt that Eddie was the larger dog.  This was a thought, however, which I had resolved should go unbarked.  I wondered if Angus knew of the sorts of things that Eddie said about him  (looking later at earlier blog entries, I find that it was on 5 November 2006 that I first encountered Eddie.  Angus was with him then, although not mentioned in the entry.  I'm guessing, therefore, that after at least four years Angus is well-aware of the full extent of Eddie's manner and is happy to endure it.  He probably even likes it.).

I laughed and shook my head as the Rottweiler turned to see a car pull up outside his house.  Angus's head bobbed up and down in the back.  Eddie bade me a chirpy farewell and bounded over to the car, just as his partner came out of their house and closed the front door.  She got in the front and Eddie leapt into the back beside Angus - who (as I had predicted) was wearing his own blue coat, strap and buckle fastenings and all.  I watched them chattering happily away to each other as the car moved off.  They were probably discussing how fat my hips had become.


What had I done...?   What had I DONE...?

Ruined things for myself - THAT is what I had done.  It became clear to me in an instant and I felt ill.  Sick to the very pit of my stomach.  How could I have been such a thoughtless fool?

But it was now too late - and there was no-one left to blame but myself.  I had a fleeting vision of myself when I had first been liberated from my first owner and rushed by the kind Police officer to the veterinary hospital.  I saw my prone and shattered little body, whimpering, bleeding - dying - on the surgical table.  Somehow, almost by way of a miracle, I had recovered.  I had promised my first-ever canine friend, Bobby, a fellow-patient at the hospital, that I would be a good and respectful boy.  I had let him down.

I returned to my senses as the young woman came out of her parents' bedroom, drying her eyes.  She seemed startled to see me standing there - I tried to give her an apologetic and winning smile, but she would not meet my gaze.  She turned and went to the bathroom to brush her teeth.  On her return, I followed her into her own room and she wordlessly lifted me onto the bed.  Another flashback hit me with startling clarity as I watched the lady change into her pyjamas.

I was sitting in my pen at the Stokenchurch dog rescue shelter, laughing with my friends Kipper, Rex, Pebble, Jake and Rats.  We had just been fed by the manager, Dave, and I was a welcome and accepted member of the pack.  I remembered the burning sense of emptiness on visiting days, when lucky dogs would be chosen by new owners and the rest of us remained behind, unpicked - the aching hunger for affection which would devour you if you let it and the efforts of the pack to ensure that this didn't happen to any member.  Our jokes, our songs - our united grief at the fate of poor Kipper.  Tears pricked at my eyes as I realised that Dave, Kipper, Rex, Pebble, Miss Smart - and all the others - I had let them all, each and every one of them, down.

I shuffled over on the bed as the young lady extinguished the light and got under the duvet.  I tried to snuggle up to her, but she pushed me away and turned her back on me.  And with a sense of realisation, which almost squeezed the life from my throat, I knew that I had let her down.

All through the night the voices and images from my short past returned to taunt me.  Suffice it to say that I did not sleep well.  If only there was something I could do to mend the damage and hurt I had caused.

The following day, the young lady departed to an appointment at a hospital a couple of hours after her parents had gone to work.  I made a conscious effort to behave myself.  I didn't even look to see what was lying around, in case I was tempted into wickedness.  I jumped onto the nice, comfortable settle on one side of the room and looked out of the window.  It was a quiet street, so not much to watch.  The lady in the house opposite came out to work in her garden, so I watched her for a bit.  I didn't really know much about her, apart from the fact that she had an immaculate garden, a husband called Bob, and that she was called Maisie.  After watching her for a time, my eyes strayed upwards to the trees beyond the houses.  There were hardly any leaves left on them now, and a vast rookery stretched across the tops of several of the largest trees.  The antics and bickerings of the crows were highly diverting and I was kept very well entertained in watching them.  Before I was fully aware of it, I had drifted off to sleep.

I woke to the sound of the young lady's key in the door.  She returned in a state of some distress, and looked around suspiciously for the latest damage I had inflicted upon the house.  She seemed almost incredulous to discover that I had behaved myself perfectly.  What she DID find, however, was a letter waiting for her on the doormat.  On opening and reading it, she began to cry piteously.  I didn't understand what the business was all about, but I knew what I must do.

I hopped down from the settle, trotted quickly across the floor, and jumped onto the young lady's chair.  I clambered onto her lap and pressed myself up to her, nuzzling at her neck with my snout.
"There, there." I soothed, "It will be alright.  Just have a good cry into my fur.  I am here, I will stay by you."  Although the girl still did not understand my words, she did understand my sentiments - and I pressed myself harder against her as she embraced me and gave way to her sorrow.  For the rest of that entire day - and indeed from thenceforward - I stuck to her as a barnacle adheres to the hull of a boat, ensuring that she was not alone, taking particular care to demonstrate that I was there to support her to the best of my doggy abilities.  That night, when I snuggled up to the young lady after the light was extinguished, she neither pushed me away nor turned her back on me.  In fact, she was happy to find me still clinging steadfastly to her arm when she awoke the next morning.

My behaviour continued to improve.  I now found that, instead of bitter resentment, I actually enjoyed being helpful and co-operative.  Monday came and went, with no mention of sending me away.  The following day, I had another opportunity to demonstrate my usefulness.

The young lady took me to the park for my exercise and, in another milestone moment, once we were in the park she unclipped my lead and allowed me to run free!  It was SUCH a pleasurable experience, and one during which I took especial care not to misbehave and to prove that I could be trusted with this limited freedom.  My enjoyment was only enhanced when the young woman produced one of my new toys from her pocket and we shared an exciting and hilarious game of chase/fetch/tag.  In fact, so engrossed were we in our game that we did not notice the onset of night.  It grew dark early in such winter months and the young lady was somewhat alarmed to find that we were still in the lower of the two park fields and it was fully dark.  The toy was replaced in the pocket and we hastened our steps towards the upper park-gates.  We had only gone halfway at an uncharacteristically brisk pace when I became aware that we were being followed by a large figure, dressed in a black cloak.  My hackles instantly rose and I began to growl.  I did not like the way that the fellow was moving towards us and I knew that he was intent upon wickedness.

There was a small but sharp intake of breath from the young lady as she witnessed the transformation in my body language.  My growls turned to snarls, complete with curled-up lips and exposure of my dripping, razor-sharp fangs - the proof that a dog is NOT messing about.  Display of this behaviour is any dog's "final warning" in tense situations and must NEVER be underestimated.  Coupled with this measure, I now began to circle the young woman with deliberate slowness.  I crept, snarling, hissing and growling, around and around her, taking care that I was constantly facing outwards (with my back to her) - to leave the sinister pursuer in no doubt whatsoever that I was completely willing to fight to defend my lady.  The lady herself was excessively nervous, but took a great deal of comfort in my spontaneous actions.
"Show yourself!" I demanded, in my most aggressive bark.  "Show yourself, man, or I will rip and tear apart your flesh!"

No reply.

There was a small sound of recognition from the young lady and she knelt down on the damp grass, patting my shoulders and head (though taking care to stay away from my glittering fangs).
"Jasper, you complete turnip."  she said, with quiet firmness.  "That's not a person - it's the cricket practice nets."

Squinting into the darkness, I saw that she was right.  Our assailant was NOT a tall cloaked man, but the dark nets on metal frames, in which the local cricket team practiced their bowling, swirling and billowing in the wind.  My snout un-tensed and my snarls died away as the young woman collapsed into hysterical laughter.  "Oh, you're such a funny little muppet!" she said, wiping away tears of amusement.  I was too relieved and too pleased to see her laugh to be offended at her mirth.  I even had a bit of a chuckle myself.

As we recovered, we continued on or way to the park gates.  When we were almost there, the lady knelt down beside me again and, clipping the lead to my collar said, quite seriously - with her hand on my shoulder: "But Jasper, I shouldn't laugh at you.  You were prepared to fight to defend me, and I can never thank you enough for that."
"I would die for you." I replied earnestly.
"Thank you so much."  I knew she had not understood my words, but I wanted to say it all the same.

My partner and I walked home (once out of the park it was perfectly safe, as the pavement ran alongside the main road into the small town).  Once in the house, she explained what had happened to her parents and there was more uproarious laughter, in which I happily joined, whilst my partner held me close and stroked my ears and head.  The last time that I remembered laughing so much was back when Kipper was alive - our last recital, with Rex, to the other pack-members of our escapades on The Night of The Isolated Bitches.  Conversely, this was the first time that I once again felt that this was where I belonged.  No - not just where I belonged.  This was where I mattered.

But, a few nights later, something else happened whilst out with the young lady.  And this something else was NO laughing matter.

I sincerely hope that 2011 is a wonderful year for you.  Thank you for your support of my humble little blog.

Good night.