"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.
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...