Sunday, 23 October 2011

Sunday 23 October 2011

I have made it to the birthday that I never thought I'd see! Yes - today I am thirteen years old!

It was my partner's birthday yesterday, and we have passed a most agreeable birthday weekend, with cake, gifts and treats of every good kind. It's no small wonder to me that I have reached this age still in full possession of my sanity, my hearing and my vision. I can traverse the stairs, get in and out of the car and bed unaided and I retain my spirited enjoyment of life. How blessed I have been. Particularly as, if you have read my "Evolution of Jasper" series (to be concluded very shortly), you will know that my life very nearly ended twelve tears ago as a bloodied and broken wretch on a veterinary table in Buckinghamshire; after my first "owner" had smashed my fragile little bones into fragments. Yes; I am blessed indeed.

I was basking in the sunshine yesterday morning, before my partner and I met her parents for coffee and birthday cake, when my perfectly agreeable day was spoiled by the arrival of the scourge of the neighbourhood and Satan's accredited representative on Earth, Peaches the cat (I cannot bear to launch into another description of the wretch. Should you so desire, you can read an introduction to Peaches and his revolting nature here: Peaches: An Introduction).

I groaned inwardly, as Peaches sauntered nonchalantly over to my fence, his tail twitching from side to side.  Entirely uninvited, he leapt the fence in a single bound and padded up to me.
"Good morning, Jasper." he simpered, all false purrs and smiles.
"Get out of my garden." I grunted, not bothering to acknowledge his greeting as I racked my brain to try and fathom what he was up to.
"Ha!" snorted the black creature from Hades. "I heard that you had died.  I was coming over in the hope of being able to dance on your grave."
"The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated." I muttered, quoting Twain.  "I'm happy to disappoint you."
"Still," purred Peaches, "You don't look well.  Oh, not well at all...  It's tragic to see you looking so old and haggard, with your grey fur and wasted muscles..."

I let him burble on, determined to deny him the satisfaction of needling me into an angry response.

What the bl**dy hell is the purpose of cats anyway?!  What are they for?  What do they want?

I'll admit that there are those cats whose company I will tolerate - Honey and Kittenjasper from the house opposite, for example, though I doubt that I am high in their favour after I liberated a young shrew they'd caught earlier in the day.  I couldn't see the poor innocent tortured to death, however, so my conscience is not pricking me too badly.

I don't know if you are, as I am, a fan of the very excellent "QI" - QI Website.  My partner has a QI book, called "The Book of Animal Ignorance" - a slender but fascinating tome containing all sorts of arresting facts about members of the animal kingdom.  Here is a portion of what the QI Elves have to say about cats:

"Cats spend 85% of their day doing absolutely nothing.  Eating, drinking, killing, cr*pping and mating take up just 4% of their life.  The other 10% is used just to get around.  Otherwise they are asleep, or just sitting."

The piece goes on to say:

"Today, only a quarter of American cat 'owners' say they deliberately went out to acquire a cat; in 75% of cases it was the cat that acquired them.  And studies have shown that many more people claim to own a cat than than there are cats.  When your cat disappears for a while it is not, in fact, off on a hunting expedition, it is next-door-but-one having another free meal or asleep on the window-sill with one or another of its many doting 'owners'.  Cats need to eat the equivalent of five mice a day.  A cat given unlimited access to food will only eat a mouse-sized portion at a single meal.  Is your cat eating five meals a day ?  Of course not: its dining out elsewhere, later."

I knew I was right to despise them.  Wretched little free-loaders.

All throughout my ponderings on cats, Peaches mewed on with a variety of disparaging remarks about death and disintegrating health in general and me in particular.  I opened my eyes and squinted at him in the sunshine as he continued.

"...and so when they bury you, I will be able to use your grave as my special toilet - I can't wait to empty myself out all over your manky old carcass.  Finally you will be useful."

"Well, it's important to have a dream..." I muttered.

"And I can't imagine you'll smell any worse when you're mouldering in the Earth.  You stink like an open sewer anyway - although I feel nothing but pity for all the little worms.  And as for th- mrreeoorwrrrrrlllll!!!"

With a lightning speed, unanticipated by the insolent Peaches, I had leapt up and pounced on the wretched creature.  My jaws snapped shut with a resounding crack - oh yes, sour Peaches, I am in full possession of ALL of my teeth, hehehe...!  As the ghastly beast streaked back across the road to the safety of his own house, screaming, yowling and cursing all the way, some drops of blood spattered down onto the patio.

B*gg*r.  I thought, looking down at the expanding droplets. Now he's brought on a nosebleed.  (The one open manifestation of the tumour in my snout is an occasional nosebleed from the affected nostril).

I wiped at my snout with the side of a paw, preparing to seek assistance from my partner and an absorbent paper pawkerchief.  However, I was surprised to see, on withdrawing the paw, that it remained clean.  Checking that no ladies were in the vicinity, I discreetly spat on the flagstone.  Out came more blood droplets, accompanied by a few short black hairs.

YES!!  I had managed to take an successful bite from the bedevilled hide of Peaches!  Now THAT is a birthday treat which we can ALL enjoy!

Happy days!

Good night.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Overwhelming - simply overwhelming.

This is the only way I can describe the messages of love and support that you left following my blog post of Monday evening. I cannot find the barks to tell you how much they mean to me. They provided SUCH comfort to my partner - indeed they, along with the other messages that came through via Facebook and telephone, were all that stood between her and a complete descent into despair. So much did she weep that a migraine ensued and she and I remained at home today.

The trip to the vet was interesting in and of itself. The waiting room was full (as is often the case on a Monday). The other waiting beasts and their humans were most kind and sympathetic towards my partner and I. To myself on account of the dreadful rasping, whistling and bubbling sounds that issued whenever I tried to breathe, and to my partner because of her tears and her impotent endeavours to comfort and becalm me. For a brief time, we repaired to the car park to wait: there were children in the waiting room and I feared lest my laboured throes should distress them.

When we returned, a very kind lady (accompanied by a cat, of all things) leaned towards us and said "I'm next on the list to be seen, but would you like to take my place and go in straight away?" My partner and I hesitated, not wishing to take advantage of generosity if it involved another's suffering, but the kind lady sensed our thoughts and explained that her cat was only in for a post-operative check-up. This being explained, we gratefully accepted this most thoughtful offer and were ushered into the surgical chamber.

Diagnosis was swift. The tumour in my snout is, apparently, on the move. Possibly towards my throat, though one cannot be certain.

My partner was reassured by the surgeon that, despite the horrific sounds emanating from my head and chest, I was in no pain and was receiving enough oxygen through my remaining healthy nostril and my mouth. Two options were presented, each involving an injection: the first would not solve my predicament in the long term but would relax and therefore open up my nasal passages; the second would resolve my predicament - but in a somewhat fatally permanent way.

As you are reading this, you can guess that my partner opted for the former jab. This was administered by the vet, albeit with a warning that my partner "must prepare herself".

This we are, together, endeavouring to do. It is settled between us that my toys are to be bequeathed to my dim-yet-wonderful canine friend Ewan, my larger chews to his wife Fizzy, my smaller chews to my pretty neighbour Rosie and any remaining food to be divided between neighbourhood Staffie pups William and Milo.

After passing an uneasy night, I find myself greatly recovered. My partner is comforted by the fact that she made the right choice (again). This all reminded me that the aforementioned was not my first brush with the fatal needle, and that the rest of my biographical series "The Evolution of Jasper" remains unfinished. I must apologise for this - I recall that I left it on something of a cliff-hanger . I have now written most of the concluding instalment and it shall be posted here very soon, I assure you. Forgive me for my reticence.

I smelled Death on Monday, I really did. Despite eventualities, I confide to you now that I did come close to Death. For a few moments, my heart could not compete with my desperate struggle for breath, and I set my first paw on the Ultimate Journey. I always thought that there was a bright light, towards which one should advance, and that one's previously-deceased friends and family moved forth to greet one. I even began to look out for Kipper... But nothing. It wasn't My Time. But I swear I smelled Death.

How to describe the scent of Death...? Most bizarre, for a start. It smelt like a curious blend of fresh rain on new tarmac, warm popcorn and, oddly, lavender. Not a frightening smell at all - quite comforting in fact.

But enough of death! I live - and gratefully so. As I left the veterinary chamber, my surgeon bid me "Happy Birthday for Sunday, Jasper!". For that day heralds my 13th birthday! Let us smile and hope for better things for my fourteenth year. I have so much to be thankful for - your friendship, dear reader, not least among those things.

Smile on, good friend, and be thankful for all that comes our way - good or bad - in this transient life.

Good night.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Monday 17 October 2011

At 18:14 this evening I was suddenly taken ill and was rushed to the vets' by my partner.

So ill, in fact, that I believe I might actually be dying.

Please pray for me - indeed, I beg you to please pray for us both (my partner and I - if it isn't too much trouble).

I fear not the journey to death - but that voyage which comes after. I am frightened of the dark, and I cannot bear the thought of facing it alone.

Thank you.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sunday 16 October 2011

"Jasper!  JASPER!! Jazz! Jaspey! Jazzie! Jasper!  JAZZ!! JAAAAAAASPER!!!"

Ewan's frantic barks pierced Friday's crisp autumnal air, sending small birds chirruping into the skies and pheasants diving for cover.  "Come QUICK!  It's doing it!  It's DOING it!  QUICK!!"

To judge from the tone of my lovable-yet-brainless friend's cries, one might be forgiven for thinking that he was desperately seeking assistance in order to save the live of a frail, helpless, drowning kitten who was about to submerge for a final, fatal, time.  No such horrors in the woodlands adjoining our work-yard, fortunately.  No; Ewan was urging me to join him on the bridleway and witness for myself the true miracle of his "Magical Singing Stick".

Wearily, I got up and trotted off towards the sound of Ewan's voice.  Not so much because I was intrigued by the concept of the Magical Singing Stick, but rather because I have found myself the object of increasing desire to Ewan's basket-mate - pretty black Labrador Fizzy.  She barks that, now I am visibly ageing, I've "got that Jack Nicholson/Michael Douglas/Sean Connery thing going on".  I take this to mean that as in certain fortunate men (apparently, according to Fizzy, I find that I am one of them), they become more desirable to ladies as they get older.  I would be flattered - but I am not sure there isn't a back-pawed insult in there somewhere...  Whatever the case, Fizzy simply will not leave me alone.  And I've tried hiding, I really have.  But it's no use - she always finds me.  And then she sits - far too closely, in my opinion - next to me, fluttering her eyelashes, winking at me, and staring at my 'Little Jasper' in a most persistent and disconcerting manner.

Don't get me wrong - I am flattered.  Fizzy is just my type - and I am NEVER too old for a lovely lady, hehehe...  But Fizzy is Ewan's lovely lady, and Ewan is my friend.  I just couldn't do that to him.  So I affected the appearance of more enthusiasm than I felt and ambled onto the bridleway to join him and my partner to witness the modern marvel of the Magical Singing Stick.  On sighting me, Ewan broke away from my partner, who had been kicking his football and throwing sticks for him and hurried to greet me.
"There it is." he whispered reverentially, indicating a stick which lay on the ground before us.  I looked at it and jabbed at it with a claw.  I wasn't impressed.

"That's not the same stick as the one you showed me last week."  I barked.

"It is!" yipped Ewan, indignantly.  "It is too the same one Jazz!  It's just a different one, that's all."

I sighed and shook my head.  I didn't have strength to argue with Ewan, so decided to let this one go.
"Let's see it sing, then." I muttered doubtfully.

"OK.  Hang about."  Ewan lowered his head down to the stick.  "Sing!" he barked.  Somewhat predictably, nothing happened.  "Sing, my beauty!" he commanded.  The silence from the inert stick was virtually deafening.  My partner wandered over to us and picked up the stick.
"D'you want to play with this one, Ewan?!" she asked.
"Sing! Sing! Sing!!" barked Ewan, jumping about, almost beside himself.

In an effort to tempt Ewan into chasing the stick, my partner tapped the stick on the ground close to Ewan's paws and began to hum a jaunty tune, beating time to it by tapping the stick on the ground.  "It sings..." breathed Ewan, awestruck.

"Ah-ha.  Riiiight..."

As Ewan worked himself into an ecstatic frenzy, my partner threw the stick along the bridleway and Ewan sped off after it, almost tripping over himself in his haste to retrieve and return it.  On delivering it back to my partner, the whole process began again.

"D'you see Jazz?!" panted Ewan.  "Could you have believed that we'd see such a magical miracle in our lifetime?!"

"Actually, Ewan, I'm finding it hard to put into words exactly what I think about the stick just now..." I muttered, dryly.
"'Tis an eternal mystery..." intoned the incredulous dog.
"Yup." I sighed.  "I think I might just need to go and have a lie-down now..."  Suddenly, an afternoon attempting to endure Fizzy's attentions didn't seem quite so bad.  Bl**dy hell.

Yesterday wasn't much better.  My partner took me to Abbotstone and I wasn't in the mood.  On the way, we passed a large shoot in progress.  Shooters, beaters and gun-dogs (mostly Labradors) were spread across several fields.  Gun-dogs are often held in much respect for their skills, control and intellect.  I have never been able to comprehend this.  Surely if the dog was truly intelligent, it would retrieve the pheasant or other quarry and - instead of being a complete mug and delivering the quarry back to its master - gobble up the still warm flesh.  Why any dog would willingly surrender some tasty fresh game without snaffling at least one mouthful defies all rational explanation.

My partner and I had an argument at Abbotstone.  As I mentioned, I wasn't really in the mood and so every time my partner's back was turned I ran back to the car.  She was about as impressed with this tactic as I had been with Ewan's Magical Singing Stick.

Determined not to let me "get away with it", each time I escaped I was retrieved and the walk commenced again.  I began to whimper about how old and frail I was feeling and how I couldn't cope with a walk, but this only earned me a lecture about not giving up and being idle.  I was about to protest further, but my partner pointed out that, were I that weak and feeble, I would not have raced back at top speed to the car.

Dammit.  I hadn't thought that through properly.  Adopting a sullen, mutinous, expression, I was forced to submit to a proper walk.  Actually, I enjoyed it in the end, and had a nice run, but I wasn't about to give my partner the satisfaction of knowing that.  I was so annoyed that, as we passed the fields where the shoot was taking place, I leaned out of the window and shouted "Puppets!  You're all a bunch of witless puppets!" at the gun-dogs.

It was only when we were almost home that I began to wish I'd called them "eunuchs" instead.  With the benefit of hindsight, I realised that the gun-dogs had probably thought I was complimenting them on their youthful looks by calling them puppies.  Thwarted again!  Sometimes, I wonder why I bother...

Good night.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Sunday 9 October 2011

I return!!

My apologies for a lengthy absence.  It is not because of my tumour - far from it.  In fact, dewclaw on wood, that has settled down considerably and is merely tiresome, as opposed to painful.  No, I was absent due mostly to our straitened finances.  For three weeks in September, due to a series of unfortunate situations, my partner and I found ourselves having to live on a mere £26.  It was, to say the least, not easy.  I always had enough to eat, but my partner had to manage with just one very basic meal per day.  Consequently, we retired to bed at about 8pm on most days, with a book by candlelight, in order to conserve both energy and electricity.

But now we are back!  Back, solvent once more, alive and sniffing bottom!  (The latter is just me.  My partner doesn't sniff bottoms, to the best of my knowledge).  AND I have been mentioned on the radio!!  Oh yes.  The DJ is the ever-excellent Kevin Williams and he broadcasts at 7.00pm on Tuesdays here: ("Listen Live" can be accessed by clicking on the headphones in the right-paw column).  There is a current popular track by Maroon 5 (featuring Christina Aguilera) called "Moves Like Jagger").  Sweet Kevin rechristened it, live on-air, for me: "Moves Like Jasper"!  And, although I bark it myself - my moves ARE good.  Oh yes, believe it baby.  Seriously.  Listen to Kev. - he deserves a wider audience.

My Holly tree continues to thrive.  My partner and I did a spot of gardening this afternoon and put a little bit of compost around it.  My partner says that this will help to feed the roots.  I can quite understand this; compost is delicious.  I always try and snaffle a few bites of it from the garden whenever we visit my partner's parents house.

I have got a brand-new next-door neighbour!  He is a very, very young Staffordshire Bull Terrier and his name is Milo.  He looks very much like me.  So much so, in fact, that were it not for the operation of which we do not bark, I would have been racking my brains to try and recall any recent indiscretions.  Particularly as the pup has already shown a decided fondness for my other neighbour, pretty Westie Terrier Rosie, - and (as we all know) the apple never falls far from the tree...  Milo, apart from his infant cuteness, has one temporary advantage over me however - his diminutive size.  Several times now the puppy has escaped from his rear garden by hopping between the fence posts and, each time, it was to scamper directly to Rosie's kitchen!  By rights, I ought to be jealous, but I confess that I admire the lad's pluck.  Plus which, Rosie continues to show a distinct preference for me (one cannot blame her - she is only canine, after all).  I can therefore chuckle with fond indulgence over Milo's love-struck antics.

Following the mortifications visited upon me by having my teeth brushed, I have been subjected to further indignity in the bathroom.  Yes, dear reader, yes.  It's true.

On Wednesday, I was enjoying the unusually-warm October sun and was dozing peaceably in the work-yard.  Alas for me, however, I had settled my rear into a small pool of spilled diesel fuel.  My rump was irredeemably tarnished.  I tried to shield it from my partner but, of course, she clocked me straight away.  After a bit of light verbal chiding, and mockery from other friends and colleagues, I thought I'd got off lightly.  But no.  Oh no.

As soon as we arrived home, I was marched directly upstairs to our salle de bains and lifted into the bath/shower.  This, in itself, was troubling enough.  I was then ushered into a nightmare from the mind of of the inimitable Alfred Hitchcock himself.

My terror mounted as my partner left the room for a moment.  When she returned, however, she was not dressed as her mother and brandishing a fish-slice.  She had merely changed into some casual clothes and was armed with nothing more sinister than a bottle of shampoo and an extra freshly-laundered towel, lest I suffer from a chill on exiting the bathroom with damp fur.

This was the first shower I had received since our bathroom was re-fitted earlier this year.  I have to admit that the warm jets of water that issued from my new shower unit were infinitely pleasant and not a little relaxing.  My partner had also shown consideration in selecting an unscented shampoo, so that I would not be transformed by this episode from the mighty Jasper H. Stafford into a pampered fool.  Submitting happily, therefore, to my bath it proved as painless as it was pleasurable.  More than can be barked for the unfortunate Marion Crane, I feel - but she really shouldn't have stolen that cash in the first place.  And taking a room in a place so obviously sinister as the Bates Motel is just asking for trouble.

For the sake of appearances (and in the hope of gaining an extra supper-biscuit by making my partner feel guilty), I pretended that I had been traumatised by my appalling defilement in the shower.  Yet again I was thwarted.  I left my partner to clean up the bathroom by herself, whilst I headed downstairs for a drink and a nap.  Unfortunately, I was so soothed by my evening bath that I fell fast asleep.

For any reader troubled by the prospect of my Hitchcockian trauma in the shower, I offer you comfort here in this post-bathing image, in which I was captured unawares by my partner - curled up snugly in the foetal-position with a great big grin on my face.  My partner says this is one of her favourite pictures of me, despite it being taken less than four days ago, with my tumour-infested-snout side uppermost:

Good night.