I even found the energy to be a naughty boy on Wednesday, disappearing into the woods whilst my partner's back was turned, in pursuit of a pungent wily beastie and was gone for ages! Joe (Ewan and Fizzy's partner) and my partner were searching for me for at least twenty minutes; ultimately admitting defeat and returning to the office to wait for me to make my own way back. Heheheheee....
When I ultimately returned, I only received a light-to-mild telling-off. In fact, it rather pleasant. My partner was incredibly pleased to see me again and dashed out to the yard to greet me. I'm not entirely certain what has happened, but she seems to be taking care to savour each and every moment with me. I do still get told-off for being naughty, however, so that is an on area which I need to work.
Another high point of the week was the return of my doggy chums Ewan and Fizzy from their camping and canoeing holiday. You may recall that the noodle-brained Ewan had been making plans to catch a big fish for his belovèd Fizzy to eat, though his planned methods did not bode well for success.
When I first encountered my friends they were both so exhausted that neither could summon the energy to do more than greet me affectionately. The following day they were a little more forthcoming. Ewan, it seemed, had become something of a celebrity among his fellow-campers. His madcap antics when in the canoe had attracted many amused spectators. I bark "when in the canoe" but, in fact, it seems that he was more out than in, as he constantly leapt from the boat into the water and had to be retrieved. Every time he was hauled back into the boat by either of his partners, a great cheer went up from the riverbanks. Alas, it was not just Ewan who got a regular dunking. Such was the force with which he launched himself from the boat, that more often than not, he upset the entire canoe, sending his partner Joe and some of her possessions into the river as well. Her tobacco tin is probably half-way to Nova Scotia by now.
I listened with amusement as Ewan chattered on about his holiday (Fizzy let him do the barking, as she was still fairly exhausted). At length, I asked him if he had met with any success in his fishing. Ewan cocked his head on one side and stared at me as if I'd asked him whether he'd seen any dinosaur-eggs.
"What?" he asked, eventually. I reminded him about his plans to catch a fish for Fizzy's supper. Ewan shook his head. "Sometimes I worry about you, Jazz. Are you losing the brains from behind where your eyes are?"
"No..." I sighed, getting to my paws and stretching before heading off to the bridleway. After a moment, Ewan trotted after me.
"Jazz!" he called. I stopped.
"What is a fish?"
Oh, for goodness' sake.
The bond between my partner and I continued to grow and blossom after my late attempts to save her from harm, whether imaginary or real. Each day I became more and more thankful that I had found myself with her and especially, after I had done my utmost worst to scupper things for myself, grateful that she had been good enough to offer me a second chance.
With passing time, I made more and more friends. Maisie and her husband Bob, who lived in the house across the road, chief amongst them. They have a great affection for me (which continues to this day; Maisie buys my tins of dinner-meat, to help my partner out during our current financial troubles) and Maisie asked (nay, practically begged) my partner if she could look after me whilst my partner was at work. Of course, my partner said yes, and I have had some wonderful times with Maisie. I would amble over to her house after my morning nap, and Bob and I would enjoy a play-fight with a large garden broom. Then, Maisie would prepare me a light lunch - meat with chopped egg or a bit of mashed potato in the winter; a tasty, refreshing, salad in the summer. After another short nap, Maisie and I would go for a long walk - sometimes lasting around three hours! We would go to the river, where I learned to swim, sit in the War Memorial Garden, where children from the local secondary school would come sometimes to eat their sandwiches (they would let me help them with that arduous task!), visit the local station to watch the steam trains coming in and out and chat to the Station Master, browse the local shop windows, and ramble far and wide across the local countryside. And, as if that weren't enough, I had my partner's return from work to look forward to, and she would often take me for another walk in the evening! I sometimes wondered what I had done to deserve such blissful happiness. I go to work with my partner every day now, as Maisie's advancing age precludes her from exercising me, but I visit her every Sunday, which is always a pleasure.
Other friends made in the early days included my partner's friends, including the fair Dolores, and extended family. I had the pleasure of being present when my partner visited her brother and he introduced us to his lovely new girlfriend, Nicola (who went on to become Mrs. Partner's Brother and mother to the effervescent and adorable Ewan and Carys, our nephew and niece.) I also made my first-ever canine friends since leaving the rescue home. Jack the Retriever was the earliest, and he was soon followed by Candy the Chocolate Labrador, young Staffie pup Harvey, and a number of others.
One of the highest points in my first year with my partner was when she took me to Dartmoor for the first time, on a little holiday. She had reserved an holiday cottage for the two of us, run by a delightful couple with whom she had some prior acquaintance. The couple had a beautiful young bitch of uncertain ancestry, named Hazy. She and I enjoyed a brief holiday romance or two over the years (sadly, Hazy's life was cut tragically short when she fell prey to Lyme's Disease after being bitten by an infected tick. I mourned her death). I had never been on holiday before - and it was fantastic! I wasn't allowed off the lead on the moors, though. My partner explained that I had to learn that I must never, ever, chase the sheep, ponies, or cattle which graze freely on the moors. That was the year that my partner and I fell down the side of an ancient quarry (not my fault - she fell, and I followed because I was attached to her via my lead. This episode is described in an early blog entry). I took care to learn this lesson well, as I was keen to be unleashed and race all over the moors, exploring the granite tors and rocks, delighting in the heady, bewitching, rich perfume of heather and gorse. Even now I never allow myself to forget that lesson, as the merest hint of my desire to chase the sheep only results in a spanked-bottom, reapplication of the lead, and the nearest path off the moor and back to the car. A lesson well-worth the learning, then. On the final day of that holiday my partner, with much trepidation and many repeated warnings, unclipped my lead and allowed me to run free for a supervised period of twenty minutes. I did not let her down. I raced around like a mad pup, leaping over spiky gorse bushes and plunging into a crystal-clear moorland stream. The sheep in the area eyed me suspiciously, but I yielded not to temptation. At the end of my twenty minutes, my partner called me back and I took care to instantly obey. She declared herself utterly thrilled with my behaviour and spent much of the 3½-hour drive home telling me how impressed and very, very proud of me she was. We haven't had a Dartmoor holiday for a number of years - since my partner became insolvent, in fact (this will come to a closure in around 18 months' time). I would like to have just one more Dartmoor holiday before I die. But we shall have to see whether the fates allow me that privilege.
As the barking goes, however, "Into every life a little rain must fall". It was not all that long before the heavens opened in torrents upon my furry head.
Maisie and Bob had gone away on holiday to Jersey. I always missed them, but they never failed to return armed with booty for me from the Jersey pet shop. One day, not long after their departure, I watched as my partner retrieved her suitcase from the cupboard. "Brilliant!" I thought to myself, as I watched her pack her clothes and bathroom items, "Another holiday for me!". I was slightly unsettled to see that she didn't put any of my things in the case, but I didn't worry too much. Perhaps there was a separate bag for me.
There was - and it was placed in the boot of my partner's car alongside her suitcase one fateful Friday morning. We set off - but had not been going for more than fifteen minutes before we pulled off the road into a driveway by some low buildings and a large field. There was a large, shed-like, wooden building at the top end of the field. My partner got out of the car, clipping the lead to my collar, and I hopped out after her. A man with a cigarette in his mouth came out of the nearest building to meet us. It did not escape me that my partner had taken my bag and bed out of the car-boot. "This is Jasper." she said. The man muttered something in reply, without taking the cigarette from his mouth. I thought he was very rude. "This is his bed, and here is a bag of his favourite toys..." continued my partner, with a slight tremble in her voice. She leaned down to give me a cuddle but, without further ado, the cigarette-man grasped my lead and the items brought by my partner, and dragged me away from her, towards the wooden building. I struggled furiously to get away, but the man was too strong for me.
As I neared the wooden building, I gave a gasp of horror when I saw that it contained a number of locked metal pens. I could hardly believe my eyes. It was my worst nightmare made real. A rescue home. Panicking, I wondered why my partner was getting rid of me. I could only think that I must have misbehaved in some terrible, unwitting, way. I tried to wrench my body around, as my partner was still standing beside the car.
"I'M SORRY!" I cried desperately, "I didn't mean it! I PROMISE I won't do it again! I'M SORRY! PLEASE FORGIVE ME!" None of this had any effect. "I'M SORRY! PLEASE FORGIVE ME!!" I squealed, with increasing desperation. I tried every form of apology and entreaty I could think of , but to no avail. I was pushed into one of the metal pens, my bed and toys were flung in after me, and the door clanged shut and was locked tightly. I continued to wail and scream "I'M SORRY! PLEASE FORGIVE ME!!" over and over again, even after I had heard my partner's car driving away, until a rough voice bellowed "SHUT UP!"
Picking up a corner of my beanbag bed in my mouth, I dragged it to the back of the pen, flopped down onto it, and lost myself in silent, uncontrollable, sobbing...