Monday, 29 August 2011

Monday 29 August 2011

Dear, oh dear.  Long time no bark.  Mostly my fault, I confess - I was poorly for the first week and tired for the second.  I am much recovered now though, and have not endured a serious nosebleed for some days.

I would like to thank ALL the friends - old and new - for their lovely messages on the occasion of my fifth blog anniversary - I felt very blessed to hear from you.

So now I must pay the toll for a lengthy absence - with a backlog of catching-up.

The sorry saga of Edward and Angus (Rottweilers) rumbles on, with no let-up in tensions.  Eddie is still keeping to his garden, playing the pained holy martyr for all he is worth.  Even a vast dog-fight in the next cul-de-sac (I was NOT involved with those troublesome curs) failed to tempt him out.  The local wee-mail posts haven't been terribly helpful either.  Most of the ones at my height contain traces of Angus' protestations of innocence, though covered-over by the tittle-tattle of smaller, gossiping, dogs on matters I'm not even going to pretend to be interested in.  Higher-up are posts from larger dogs, less-often posted across, and these can be more forthcoming - they seem to contain additional entreaties from the spurned Angus and a variety of remarks, some mocking, some in support of, his case.  'Tis all to no avail, however:  Eddie refuses to grant anyone except Milo, his cat friend, an audience.  He does deign to bark to me or Archie the Jack-Russell through the fence, but I dislike conversations where I cannot see the other participant, and I grow tired of Eddie's constant bellyaching about Angus' supposed indiscretion.  Archie gave up on him weeks ago.  If Edward is going to play the fool, he will find it a very lonely game.

Last week I encountered Ewan (empty-headed mutt) and his basket-mate Fizzy (long-suffering black Labrador) at work for the first time since Ewan's wasp-attack.  Apart from a few lumps and bumps, and a slight cough, he seemed much recovered.  I asked my partner for a piece of cheese (Ewan's bizarre, delusional, obsession) as a gift for him.  She had recently purchased some tasty, mature, Cheddar on special offer, so she kindly cut off a wedge and wrapped it in greaseproof paper for me to give to Ewan.

The simple Ewan was so grateful for his present that I thought he might actually start crying.  Fortunately he didn't.  He closed his eyes and pursed his lips, raising up his snout in concentration to savour the flavour.
"Nice?" I asked, as he finished the morsel.
"The best cheese in the WORLD!" beamed my friend, trotting over and planting a big cheesy kiss on my snout.  I was delighted to have cheered my friend, though he did still seem a little more subdued than normal.  Fizzy clung to Ewan like a Barnacle - no bad thing, as he persisted in gravitating towards the still-active wasps' nest, seeking alternately an apology for their battering of him or their participation in a game of football (the cause of the original assault).  I began to wonder how Ewan had survived as long as he did before Fizzy entered our lives...

The events of the rest of the day are somewhat difficult to describe.  I know not whether they were more complete farce or pure pantomime.  In the end, unable to decide, I settled back and quietly enjoyed the scene.

Firstly, as I barked, Fizzy was sticking to Ewan like a Limpet with additional separation-issues, to preserve his innocent body from the wasps.  Unhappily for our happy canine couple, Fizzy was ALSO on heat (having her period).  Ordinarily, Ewan delights in the company of his belovèd mate.  But when she is menstruating, my friend will do all in his power to hide from her.  Fizzy has urges at these times which are as persistent as they are insatiable.  Even I hide from Fizzy at such times - and I have never been one to shy away from a lovely lady.  Fizzy, in her turn, during her seasons longs greatly for solitude, a heated pad for her aching belly, and a welcome respite from her erstwhile witless husband (until her persistent insatiable urges take hold of her, during which she seeks out Ewan and slaps him 'round the back of his empty head until he capitulates and complies with her desires.  Poor Ewan - no wonder he hides).  Apart from the times of the urges, Ewan's tender nature compels him to watch lovingly over his sweetheart, lest her periodic torments prove too great.  Watching the pair of them trying to outdo themselves in constant attendance on each other - all the while also each trying to evade the notice of the other - gave me the richest afternoon of comedy I had enjoyed in a long while.

I took care to pretend to be asleep when each friend separately approached to entreat my assistance in their endeavours against the other.  Wasps be d*mned - Ewan and Fizzy's relationship was a vipers' nest; into which braver souls than I have feared to venture...  It was all most wonderfully diverting.

Whilst out in our New Teal Megane with my partner yesterday morning, we had to stop at a junction and I found the car at a halt before me to contain Angus.  He was sitting in the boot and, as he turned, a broad grin beamed over his face as he recognised me.  Angus was too well-mannered a Rottweiler to jump up in his car and start gesturing to me, but he did try frantically to mouth something through the rear glass.  Unable to hear him through the vitreous panes which separated us, all I managed to decipher before the cars were once again in motion was "Drowse wetly."  A most odd message.  I was unable to attempt a clarification, as his car turned off at the next junction, whilst I continued on my way.

It was only whilst writing this that I realised what he was actually mouthing was "How's Eddie?"  Oh.

Well - it's not MY fault that Rottweilers have unnecessarily large lips for their mealy mouths.  Had they possessed perfectly proportioned ones - like mine - I would have experienced no difficulty in comprehending him.  They have only themselves to blame.

Good night.

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.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Here's a phrase you won't hear from me very often: "I'm frightened."

And this has nothing to do with the cancer, which has latterly - and foolishly - decided to take on in battle the mighty Jasper Horatio Stafford.  No, I am most unsettled by the vast and violent rampages presently taking place in London and moving also to Manchester and Birmingham.  Streets and buildings are burning, chaotic, and hugely unsafe.  Public transport and sporting fixtures in the affected areas have been cancelled and almost industrial-scale looting is taking place.  Why?

I mean, I am all for free speech - even for humans - but surely the majority of the miscreants are not even attempting to stage a moral uprising, bring down a government or simply make the strength of their arguments heard.  No.  They are heading straight for PC World, the Carphone Warehouse, HMV, off-licences, sports-wear shops, restaurants, banks, et cetera ad infinitum and trying to steal as much high-priced booty as possible.  What kind of public statement is that?!

Entire areas, along with vehicles, local amenities, etc., have been left burnt-out and gutted.  Do not the thuggish masses, whilst high on the euphoria of destruction and anarchy, pause to consider that they - as well as their mothers, fathers, and grandparents - will have to go on living in these now battle-scarred ruins?  How can the already-impoverished taxpayers rebuild the destruction wrought by the cities' own residents?

Should even these questions prove insufficient to trouble the mind, take a look at this news report:

"Blood was flowing in the [streets]. Five or six thousand…, stirred up by a diabolical cabal that aimed to destroy the [authorities]…, gathered at ten o'clock in the morning. Armed…, they furiously attacked the house of a man named ---, who is the manager of a factory… that makes fine wallpaper.
Howling, and screaming…, the rioters scaled the walls and broke down the doors. They looted everything they could find, burned the wallpapers and the designs and even bonds, ransacked the gardens and cut down trees. The house was splendidly furnished — mirrors, books, chests, tables, everything was smashed and thrown out the windows. --- and his wife and children escaped over the garden wall.
The [Police] fired several rounds, but this only stirred up the mob even more. They climbed up onto houses and threw stones at the troops. The [Police] advanced… The rioting lasted until four in the morning…

Another body of five or six hundred… were scattered throughout neighbouring streets. They stopped [vehicles]…, heaped vulgar insults at them before taking their money and their watches… The rabble set off in [another] direction. Luckily most of them were drunk and they soon changed their minds and continued to roam the streets. All this makes one tremble for the unhappy kingdom. It is a tissue of horrors and abominations."

A vivid picture of the ongoing, troubling, events in our major cities - which only seems to be spiralling further and further out of control.  But this news article was not a recent piece.  Oh no.

It is taken from a report written in Paris in 1789 by the Marquis de Ferrières and describes the earliest stages of the foul, bloody, and horrific French Revolution - La Terreur.

And THIS is a world in which I am battling against cancer to survive.  Ye gods.

Let us hope for better things, and offer kindness and sympathy to those who are trapped, terrified, in their own homes by the savagery of their ignorant neighbours.

Good night.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Sunday 7 August 2011

Three, it seems, is the magic number.

I am the third of my partner's three dogs; in general, my most happy packs have consisted of three members (me, Rex, and Kipper - me, Candy, and Harvey - me, Ewan, and Fizzy); I have had three wives and never less than three girlfriends.

Thus it was in the park on Thursday evening.  In a fit of sneezing, three tumours (actually three and a bit) dislodged from my nasal cavity and were projected across the grass by my powerful snout.  My partner retrieved them and wrapped them up to take to the vets.  It gave me much amusement to note that she had to pick up these items in front of two handsome young men who were playing tennis nearby, hehe...

I wanted to put a photo of what came out here on my blog but my partner said that was nasty.  I put my paw down, reminding her that she had defied me last time.  We reached a compromise agreement.  If you click on the link below, you can see a photo (reluctantly taken by my partner) of the three offenders.  My partner says that I have to warn you that you must ONLY click on it if you want to, because it's "gross".  I think it's brilliant!

Click here to see what was in my head only 15 minutes before the snap was taken:  Hehehe...!

I felt SO much better after the matter had been expelled that I ran around the whole park twice, faster than my partner could catch me.  There was a pretty bitch, who I'd never seen before, in the lower field, so I capered around her more than a few times.  By the time my partner had got near enough to apologise to the bitch and her partner for my rapid approach, I was but a mere white speck in the distance.  Brilliant!

Alas for my Rottweiler friend and near-neighbour, Edward, the number three is slightly less-auspicious at present.  I haven't seen him for ages, though I have certainly heard him.  Little Jack Russell, Archie, from the end of my row of houses, paused at the fence of Eddie's garden the other morning on his way out for his walk, to ask if he was all right.  I was still in bed (Archie is a very early riser, and my partner and I had a few days off from work last week).  I heard Archie's polite enquiry and an aggressive, sweary, snarl in reply from Ed.  I sat up suddenly, as I heard Archie beating a hasty retreat.  This was most unlike Edward.  He was almost never irritable in general, and I was completely unaccustomed to such a level of profanity from him.  I grew quite concerned and, later that morning, whilst my partner did some weeding in our garden, I trotted over to see if I could help.

Eddie refused to show himself, but he did deign to bark with me through his fence.  It transpired that Angus, Edward's fellow-Rottweiler and long-term "significant other" had been on holiday with his partners to Scotland and had returned with slightly more than the customary souvenir tin of shortbread.  Apparently, Angus had a mild Highland fling with a dog called Benji.  Quite why or how Angus had been indiscreet enough to let this slip to Edward - a jealous dog at the best of times - eluded me, but Eddie was understandably livid.  He gave me a long list of torments to inflict on Angus if I should chance to see him, none of which can be decently described on this blog.  I expressed my sympathies and left Eddie alone with his temper.  He DID ask me to apologise to Archie for him, though.

My partner and I are about to enter a bleak period of austerity.  Only a week has passed since payday, with another three to go until our next remittance and, after all bills have been paid, we have £48 left to last us until the end of the month.  Troubling times, indeed.

But, for the time being, we are together, healthy, and - united as we are - we find the courage to face each new day.

A nice summer early-evening in my garden

Good night.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Sunday 30 July 2011

Wasps.  Specifically the English Vespula vulgaris (I believe my American friends may know then as "Yellowjackets". A colloquial term in this part of England is, in fact, a "jasper".  But this is an association with either the Latin "Vespa" or the coloured Chalcydony and certainly naught to do with me.).  Even their very name - "Wasps" -  sounds harsh and painful.  Why do wasps even exist?  They serve only to annoy and cause pain.

In short - I believe that Noah made a SERIOUS mistake in offering a wasp-duo accommodation on his antediluvian Ark.

I have no particular argument with the wingèd malevolents, although my partner detests them.  The first of my two predecessors - pretty Jack Russell, Jacqueline, - once inadvertently put her paw through a wasps' nest whilst out on a walk with my partner.  Both Jaki and my partner were badly injured.  My partner still bears a scar on her stomach some 22 years after the incident and poor Jaki was on steroids for three weeks - her little head swelled to the size of a football - and for the rest of her days was permanently scarred on her snout.


Let us turn momentarily to a vastly different world.  The harmless and profoundly simple world of my friend Ewan.  As I have barked previously, he has the intellectual capacity of a garden pea and a bizarre, delusional, fixation with cheese.  No-one who has ever met Ewan could deny that he has some pretty severe cerebral difficulties.  That barked, however, Ewan is the most warm-hearted, loving, trusting friend that a dog could ever ask for.  He is always happy and finds pleasure and delight in every aspect of life (with the possible exception of the times when his basket-mate and sweetheart, Fizzy, is on heat - but we'll not, dear reader, go there).
I have known Ewan for some 3½ years now and have only once, in all that time, heard him raise his voice in anger - and that was to defend a litter of orphaned kittens.  Ewan's simple-mindedness may be exasperating at times, but I doubt there is a more affectionate dog in the whole of existence.


Unhappily, I was privy to events that transpired a few days ago when these two, diametrically-opposed, worlds collided.

For the past two weeks or so, there has been a sizeable wasps' nest in the yard, behind the skip.  We were first alerted to its existence when two of my partner's colleagues went to retrieve some concrete blocks which were occasionally used as anchors for temporary fencing.  They moved one block and then fled, pursued by dozens of angry guard-wasps.  That, needless to say, was the end of the temporary fencing plans.  In addition, as our work is primarily conservation-based, it would be both cruel and unethical to "deal with" the wasps.  I beg, in this case, to differ.

On Friday, Ewan, Fizzy and I were enjoying a mid-morning nap.  It was a hot day and the office doors were all open.  In actual fact, to be more honest, Fizzy and I were enjoying a mid-morning nap.  Ewan was finding it difficult to settle.  He would come and lie beside me, on the floor behind my partner's chair, for about five minutes and then get up and pad over to Fizzy, who was snoozing in her favourite corner in the other office, and lie beside her for a bit, before returning to me - and so on.  And on...  Ewan's restlessness was seriously starting to grate on my nerves, though Fizzy snored on, oblivious.  She was a very heavy sleeper.  Mind you, I think that if I shared a basket with Ewan every night, I'd be a heavy sleeper too...

Eventually, Ewan approached once more, having been mooching about in the yard.
"Jazz!" he yipped excitedly, "I've found some new friends to play with!  They're sort of small and all stripey but I'm going to go and play football with them!  D'you want to come and play as well?!"
"Maybe in a bit, thanks Ewan." I mumbled drowsily.
"Okay!" said Ewan, grinning widely and wagging his huge mad tail.  "Better go because I don't want to keep my new friends waiting!  Bye!"
"Bye-bye." I grunted, as Ewan pattered happily outside.
"Hello my new friends!" I heard him bark.  "Here is my football!  Please will you want to play with me?!"

I began to doze, smiling to myself at Ewan's simple enthusiasm for making friends with all he encountered.  After a moment or two, I opened my eyes with an abrupt jolt as a thought suddenly struck me.  "I bark," I wondered to myself, "I don't suppose old Ewan is messing about with those wasps...?).  Deciding that I'd better investigate, I got to my paws and stretched, before heading out to the yard.

I had only just got as far as the rear door before there was a sudden shrill yelp of pain.  This was quickly followed by another and another.  Glancing briefly back at Fizzy, who was still fast asleep, I knew that I couldn't waste another moment.  Racing as fast as I could to the other side of the yard, where the skip was, I saw poor Ewan - who, by now, was screaming and crying - surrounded by a cloud of angry wasps.  Ewan was hysterical and panicking, unable to move.  I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and barrelled into the malevolent, noisily-buzzing, horde.  I clamped my fangs down sharply on Ewan's tail and dragged him away from the nest.  The wasps followed still harassing and stinging Ewan, who was wailing in extreme pain and fear.
"FIZZY!"  I barked, at the top of my voice, "FIZZY!!"  The pretty black Labrador came bolting out of the building at my second cry, shrieking when she saw the predicament her chosen mate was in.  She, too, became instantly hysterical, rendering her usual good sense absolutely useless.

I pause now, to offer you a fact which you may not already know about wasps.  When they sting, along with the barbed, poison-tipped, sting itself, they also leave a pheromone-based scent on the skin of their victim.  This, in turn, attracts other wasps to similarly punish the hapless quarry.

Fizzy, as I mentioned, was beside herself.  Poor Ewan now, in addition to his yelps and screams, began to sob.
"I hurts! I hurts!" he wailed, giving agonised squeals with each new sting.  "Why is they doing it Jazz?!  I only wanted to play!  I is hurting!  It burns!  It burns!  It burns!"
"Inside!  NOW!!" I barked, snapping Fizzy to some form of usefulness, and together we dragged Ewan into the workshop, where the wasps couldn't attack any more.  Quite how I managed to escape being stung will remain forever a mystery.

Ewan howled and howled, in terrible agony, and began to cry most piteously.  His partner quickly joined us and she and another colleague gathered up the shrieking dog and carried him to her Land-Rover.  "Fizzy!  Go with him!"  I ordered.  Fizzy didn't move, rooted to the spot in shock.  "FIZZY!" I barked, startling her into life again, "With Ewan!  Now!!  You can help to keep him calm!"  Fizzy dashed to the Land-Rover and leapt in just before the door was closed.  The sound of Ewan's screams slowly receded as the Land-Rover sped off to the local vets' practice.

I will now admit that I was profoundly distressed by the whole episode - and not a little angry.  Poor Ewan.  Whilst I can appreciate that the wasps may have viewed him as a threat, not even the most basic species of nematode could ever perceive him as a real threat.  All he had wanted to do was to be friendly - and this was his reward.

After a VERY tense wait of some forty minutes or so, the Land-Rover pulled back into the yard.  It was to my inexpressible relief that I saw two canine forms on the back seat, as usual.  When the vehicle stopped and the rear door was opened, Fizzy jumped out and turned back to assist Ewan.  He didn't look as bad as I had anticipated, but he was extremely subdued and most unsteady on his paws.  My partner had filled a large bowl with water, in readiness for his return, and Ewan took a deep, long drink before he finally turned to me.

"Thank you Jasper." he croaked, weakly.  "You is my bestest friend in the whole of the world."  He went on to inform me that he had received two injections - a painkiller and an anti-inflammatory -  and a course of tablets from the vet, which Fizzy was going to help him to take.  Fizzy, for her part, was utterly devoted to her beleaguered basket-mate.  Nothing was too much trouble for her and she proved over the rest of the day to be a most assiduous nurse.  At length, Ewan began to stride, albeit unsteadily, towards the skip.

"Ewan!" I gasped, incredulously, "You nutter!  What are you doing?!"
"I's going to march myself over there," replied Ewan in a determined bark, "And tell those naughty bad wasps what I thinks of them!  I only wanted to be friends.  Why did they hurt me Jazz?  I don't understand why they makes me all sore!"

I wasted NO time in clamping my fangs down on Ewan's collar and Fizzy similarly grasped the other side of the collar.  Together, we held firm on to Ewan, as his claws scrabbled uselessly on the tarmac.
"Ewan - you have been VERY badly hurt." I told him firmly.  "Fizzy is going to help you back into your Land-Rover, where you can sleep in peace.  You MUST rest and let your little body recover."  I glanced briefly at Fizzy and she nodded.  Ewan weakened his struggles.
"But - " he began.  I cut him off.
"Ewan.  I will go and bark to the wasps and tell them how wicked they have been.  You leave that to me - and leave yourself to Fizzy for the rest of the day."
"Jaspie's right."  barked Fizzy.  "Come along darling.  You need to be asleep now."
Ewan acquiesced.
"I's going to go and be asleep now." he whimpered.
"Good man." I smiled, as Fizzy supported Ewan, hobbling, back to the peace and quiet coolness of their vehicle.  He turned back to me and gave me a watery smile before Fizzy helped him into the back seat.

"Thank you." grinned Ewan, with a pathetic yet heartfelt wag of his tail.  "I love you very much Jazz."

That, to me, was worth risking a violent assault from any number of wasps for.

Of course, I had NO intention whatsoever of remonstrating with the little stripey b*st*rds.  I'm not a complete idiot.  But if they ever - EVER - hurt my friend Ewan again.... Well, let me just bark that I know where my partner stores the insecticide at our home - and I shall not hesitate to steal and employ it.  They may, therefore, consider themselves duly warned.

And Jasper Horatio Stafford only EVER issues one warning.

Good night.