Let us now journey back to Friday, a couple of days ago. At the office, my fluff-brained canine chum Ewan was virtually beside himself with excitement. He could not sit still for more than two moments together.
Getting even less sense from him than usual, I enquired of Fizzy as to the reason for Ewan's state of perpetual exuberance. It transpired that they were heading off to Herefordshire with their human partners for a long weekend of canoeing and camping.
Quite why anyone of sound mind would willingly put Ewan into a boat, in which they themselves intended to sit, was totally beyond my comprehension. In my mind's eye, I foresaw only chaos. Ewan would probably think he could make the boat go faster by biting a hole in the bottom. Fizzy, however, did not seem to share my sense of foreboding, so I left my thoughts unbarked.
On our lunchtime potter along the bridleway, Ewan was good enough to outline to me some of his plans for the trip.
"We's going fishing!" he beamed.
"Oh yes?" I responded.
"Yes." he barked. "I am going to catch a big fish for my Fizzy to eat."
"Coarse or fly?" I enquired. Ewan looked utterly bewildered. I might as well have started barking in Swahili. He trotted up to me until he was level with my face.
"FISHING!" he shouted into my ear, making me jump. "FISHING! FOR FISH!"
I side-stepped hastily away, shaking my ringing head.
"Thank you, Ewan." I muttered, "I'm not deaf."
"Sorry Jazz. I think I will be good at fishing."
I raised an eyebrow.
"It takes more than a fishing-rod to make a fisherman." I said sagely. Ewan nodded.
"No, but I'm going to use a basket." he explained. "I has it with me and then I is look into the water and say 'Come here, tasty fish, come here!'"
"And you're confident that this is going to work, are you?"
"Oh yes." Ewan fell silent for a moment, obviously contemplating something. At length, he said "Actually, I think I will also say 'Only big fishes come here. Big tasty fishes come and sit in my basket'. What d'you think, Jazz?"
"I think," I replied, "That Fizzy will not be getting a fish supper this weekend."
"Brilliant!" cackled Ewan, before racing off to find his football.
Good old Ewan.
My partner and I were delayed in leaving the office on Friday, as there was much to do. Consequently, we just missed the vets' opening hours for my check-up appointment. I snickered quietly to myself as we pulled out of the vets' empty car park - alas, it was but an ordeal deferred. My engagement was rescheduled for the following morning (Saturday).
On entering the waiting room, I was pleased to see that I had been assigned the principal surgeon of the practise - the good Mr. Matthews. I was slightly less-pleased when he called up my medical records on the computer screen and laughed at the late problems I had experienced with my 'Little Jasper'. Through his guffaws, which I did not appreciate, he explained that it could be that I had a prepuce that was too small. I didn't understand what that meant, but my partner did and she, rather archly, told Mr. Matthews that some men might be prepared to pay good money for such a thing. He laughed again, and my partner hastily redirected his attention from Little Jasper to my troublesome nostril. It was from hereon-in that things took a somewhat downward turn.
Careful and thorough examination led Mr. Matthews to conclude that there is, in all likelihood, a cancerous growth in my right nasal-cavity. Should this be the case then there is nothing that can be done, and the remainder of my life may be measured in terms of months rather than years. My partner and I exchanged a glance. She looked like she was going to be sick, though we both managed to keep our composure. Mr. Matthews, in the meantime, was explaining how I could be made comfortable with basic medication.
Once my partner had recovered her voice, she began to highlight the various strengths I still maintained - my interest in life, my continuing visual, aural and mobility abilities, my unwavering healthy appetite and normal lavatory-functions, et cetera. Mr. Matthews nodded and took down his stethoscope from where it hung on the wall. He carefully listened to my chest. After what seemed like an age he turned and looked, first, at the clock on the wall and, then, to his computer screen. He repositioned the stethoscope earpieces and listened again to my chest, frowning in concentration.
"He's twelve now, isn't he?" Mr. Matthews asked my partner.
"Yes - thirteen in October." she replied. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing." he murmured, still listening intently to the rhythm of my lifeblood. Then, looking up, he said "It's just that his heartbeat is so strong and calm. Unusually regular."
"Well, he does eat well and gets plenty of exercise..." suggested my partner.
"Amazing." remarked Mr. Matthews, patting me on the head and replacing his stethoscope. "I think we'll leave things with you to judge." he concluded, fondling my ears and smiling at me. "I'll give you some tablets. If he needs them, give them to him. If you need some more, just pop back anytime. They aren't too expensive. But you know Jasper best. We'll play it by ear."
'Ear?' I thought to myself, as my partner gently lifted me off the table and back down onto the floor. 'It's my nose that's the problem, sonny-boy!' But my partner seemed relatively satisfied with our encounter.
So this, then, looks to be the ultimate fate for Jasper Horatio Stafford. It's not so much the fact that the Big C is probably, even now, working its injudicious way through my healthful cells. It's just that I had always hoped to go out in a blaze of glory. Dragging an helpless kitten from a burning building; pushing a pram out of the path of an oncoming speeding car; taking a bullet for a lady. Not slowly succumbing to a silent killer, who doesn't even have the courage or the decency to face me outwardly, dog to dog, on the field of battle.
But you may be sure of one thing: Jasper Horatio Stafford is NOT going quietly into the dark night without putting up a bl**dy hard fight.