Saturday, 13 August 2011

Saturday 13 August 2011

Well, here it is: the day that I never thought I'd reach.
On this very day, five years ago,
I applied to my partner for permission to start my own blog!

For 'twas on 13 August 2006 that the world first heard from Jasper Stafford.

I hope I have not bored you over these years.  I hope I shall not bore you for the time that remains to us, be it years, months, weeks - or mere days.  And to each and every one who has taken the time to share a moment with me - I thank you most gratefully and whole-heartedly.

For some time now, I have been struggling to choose a subject for my Fifth Anniversary post.  Nothing maudlin, yet nothing too trivial.  I have much still to bark; of Ewan and his wasp antagonists, of the turbulent affection between Edward and Angus, of Rosie, Honey, Peaches, Archie, William, Kitten-Jasper, and all those close to me.  Also, of course, the final instalment of "The Evolution of Jasper" - that would have been ideal but, in line with my customary idleness, I have yet to finish the piece.

I mused on all these things as I walked around the park with my partner last evening.  As we neared the end of the lower field, we were met by a lady with two dogs.  One was a young, dark, curly-haired young fellow, affable enough but somewhat shy.  The other was an Alsation-type, but with shorter fur.  This latter dog was clearly very elderly indeed.  His forelegs were rather misshapen and protruded at odd angles.  Despite this, he seemed happily content and hobbled along as best he could.  On speaking to the lady, my partner ascertained that the aged dog was well into his fourteenth year - over twelve months older than myself.  I wandered after him, and soon caught up with him, for his progress was slow.

"Hello, son." he barked, as I drew up alongside him.  I greeted him politely, almost deferentially, but he seemed not to hear me.  "Look at them." he continued, as I followed his gaze towards the skateboard ramp, on which several young teenagers were whizzing up and down on their skateboards.  "Enjoying the prime of their lives.  What I wouldn't give for a turn on one of those skateboards."

I nodded silently.  I'd often fancied chancing my paw on a skateboard myself.  Before I could bark anything, the elderly dog turned and began to clumsily attempt to break into a run.  He stumbled, but resisted my efforts to support him, and his partner called out to him as he steadied himself,
"No, Charley!  You can't run any more!  Did you forget?"

"Silly me." grunted Charley, puffing a bit as he carefully righted himself. "I didn't forget - but sometimes it's important just to give it a go though, eh? Hehehe...  Sometimes, if I'm heading down a slope, I can still get a bit of a trot on.  Not much, but enough to get a bit of breeze in me fur.  Ah, I remember those days when I ran so fast that the speed would send me ears flapping behind me... Happy times."
I nodded again and smiled politely, privately reflecting on how fortunate I was to still be able to achieve - and maintain - a fast run, even uphill, and enjoy the sweet sensation of the wind blowing my ears back.

"At least I can still shift meself about on me old pins, after a fashion." continued the elderly dog, beginning his awkward journey back to his partner, "And it does me good to watch the young 'un dashing around."  Charley indicated the younger curly-haired dog, who was excitedly chasing a ball thrown for him by the lady.  "Nope," he continued, "Bit of a wander of an evening, a good dinner and a comfy basket.  Can't ask for anything more."  As he barked, he wagged his tail from side to side, ceasing only when it made his walking more precarious.

"But don't you mind?" I asked, as tactfully as I could.  "Doesn't it break your heart that you can't run and play any more?"

Charley stopped hobbling along and sighed, seeming for a moment almost sad and wistful.  He looked down at the withered, twisted, stiff and almost-useless sticks which had once been his fine, supple and proud forelimbs.
"You know son," he said, looking up after a while and grinning, "Some old folks lose the use of their limbs.  And some old folks lose the use of their minds.  I reckon I'm one of the lucky ones.  I might not run about like a pup, exploring everything, and chasing all the pretty bitches that God put in my way - but I can remember the times when I did - and nothing and no-one can ever take them memories away from me."

We had reached the lower park gate.  "Yup." puffed Charley, as he followed his partner and the younger dog through the gate and back towards his home, "I've got LOTS to be thankful for.  See you around, son."

As brief as it was, I felt profoundly moved by my encounter with Charley.  And how timely our meeting was.  For I believe that this was the message I had been looking for, to share with you on this Fifth Anniversary post:

In all that life has thrown at me and in the challenges I continue to face - I have MUCH to be thankful for.

And this blog - and your support in reading it - is just one of my many blessings.

Good night.  And thank you.
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