Saturday, 17 September 2011

Saturday 17 September 2011

I don't know if anyone is aware of the matter - but, next year, my homeland is hosting some kind of sporting competition.  The Olympics.  All well and good.  Competitors of every nation and ability will come together in an endeavour to be the best in their chosen discipline.  I note that there is no special event entitled "The Stupid Olympics".  This can only be because my canine chum, perennial idiot Ewan, would win each and every medal.

His latest "discovery" is, apparently, a "singing stick".  A stick that sings to him.  He brought it into the work-yard from the bridleway to show me the other day (I don't always go along the bridleway with Ewan these days. Although I continue well, my snout is delicate and Ewan is not careful with his toys.  I have taken several nasty knocks to my face and, though I cannot blame Ewan for these accidents (the lad has not a single malicious whisker on him), I would prefer not to take another sound whack on the snout).  Ewan carried the stick aloft in his mouth as he trotted across the yard and then laid it reverentially at my paws.  "The magic singing stick."  he announced, with awe in his voice.  I looked at it dubiously.

It looked like, well, a stick.  I prodded it with a paw.  It didn't sing.

Ewan began to extol the musical powers of the stick.  How it sang to him at regular intervals, with surprising vocal range for a discarded bit of tree.  I have to bark I wasn't convinced.  I noticed Fizzy, Ewan's Black Labrador basket-mate, ambling towards us.  She stopped abruptly and changed direction when she saw the subject of Ewan's enthusiasm on the ground in front of me, muttering "Not that ruddy stick again..." to herself.

On this occasion, I regret to inform you, the stick failed to respond to Ewan's earnest entreaties and did not regale us with a medley of hits from musical theatre or an homage to Presley - or, indeed, any sound whatsoever.  Eventually, Ewan grew bored with his latest "discovery" and wandered off to investigate something else.

Another truly gold medal-winning performance from the always-reliable Ewan.

In researching a recent magazine article, I had cause to look over some of my blog entries from the last few months.  I find that my snout-tumour was first diagnosed on Saturday 4 June - and I was given months only to live.  "Three at most."  I didn't reveal that at the time, as I could hardly process the news myself, let alone bark about it.  But we are more than three months on now - and I am still here; still strong; still Jasper.

I am enjoying being me, and have no plans for ceasing just yet!  My partner cries a great deal though.  I wish she would not, for it unsettles me.  Often, she cannot be comforted.  I like to think that this may be due to our ongoing desperate financial situation (we are hoping that the darkest hour is, indeed, before the dawn - then what a bright dawn it ought to be; we cannot continue for many more months in our current state...), but I am forced to admit to myself that my health troubles must be, at least in part, to blame.

Of course, my partner makes every effort to appear buoyant before me, and I am grateful for that.  I am sure it is largely due to her care and attentions, as well as my naturally strong and healthful internal make-up, that I continue so well.  But I have noticed that she now never fails to take an opportunity to hug me, kiss my little furry head, or tell me what a good boy I am and how she loves me.  Sometimes she cannot settle to sleep at night until she has done this several times over - even after we have had our bedtime chapter of our book (currently still on Sense and Sensibility, Volume Three now though) and lights-out.  I never mind these extra shows of affection, although I'll admit that sometimes I am baffled as to the reason for them.

I mentioned these supernumerary attentions to my friends Ewan and Fizzy yesterday afternoon (obviously I didn't use the word 'supernumerary').  The "singing stick" having been temporarily forgotten by Ewan, the three of us were basking in the afternoon sun.  Fizzy was on one side of Ewan, quietly enjoying the scene,  Ewan was in the centre, washing his forepaws, and I was soaking up the sun as I explained my present situation.  As I chattered on, I rolled over onto my back and rested my hindpaws up against Ewan's slim flank, enjoying the warm late summer sun on my belly.  My two friends listened as I wuffed to them about my partner's increased hugs and marks of affection, countered somewhat by the despair and abject heartbreak clearly visible in her eyes at these times.

"Well, of course, that's the awful tragedy of the thing." remarked Ewan solemnly, when I had finished barking. He was still licking his paws as he barked.  Still lying on my back, I looked up as Fizzy's head appeared over Ewan's shoulder, to exchange an amused glance with me.  We wondered what he was going to come out with now.  I asked Ewan what he meant.  "Well," he replied, his attention still engrossed in washing his paws, "That's it, isn't it?  No matter how many hundredillions of times she says it, it'll never be enough. She's trying to make up for the one thing that she can't never ever have."  I listened, with one eyebrow raised.  "I mean," he went on, "Cause when someone is gone forever in upstairs Heaven, all their best friend ever wants is just ONE more cuddle and just ONE more kiss and just ONE more smile."  Still licking his forepaws, he concluded "And that's the one single thing that you can't have.  Even if you give away everything for just ONE more.  You can't have it.  I bet my favourite piece of cheese - she is trying to get lots of kisses done before it's too late."  Ceasing his licking, Ewan looked down and admired his freshly-cleaned paws.  "But it won't make any difference." He settled his head on his clean paws and closed his eyes, ready to nap.  "Because always you just want ONE more.  And then it's too late."

I was barkless.  Utterly barkless.  I opened my mouth to bark a reply - but no sound came out.

I could tell from the tone of her silence that Fizzy was as profoundly struck as me.  I felt humbled and deeply moved by this unexpected, uncharacteristic, yet undoubted wisdom from Ewan.  I confined myself to nodding, before losing myself in thought.  After some minutes, Fizzy raised her head and planted a firm, sincere, kiss on her beloved mate's cheek.


Today, as we were doing some gardening, my partner and I happened upon a most curious appearance - a tiny Holly tree sapling has sprung up in the middle of my estate over the past day or two.  My partner was well into her weeding and almost pulled it up before realising what it was.  There is no Holly near to my estate, so it must have sprung up from a berry, dropped into our garden long-ago by a feathered visitor to our bird table.  My partner has decided not to pull it up, but to nurture it and let it grow.  I helped her to clear the stones away from its little base and put soil and compost around it to support its minute, supple, stem.

Helping to make space for, and shore-up, my Holly tree

All done!

Surveying my work with satisfaction from the patio

My partner says that this will be MY Holly tree - it will be green and beautiful all year 'round and, when it's grown bigger and stronger, it will have pretty red berries on it to feed the birds in winter.  And, when I am gone, I will be able to look down from Heaven at my pretty Holly tree and think "I helped that tree to live."



Good night.
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