I thought I'd try and be strong enough today to tell you how it all ended for Jasper on that last, sad Thursday. I hope you don't mind - I thought that there couldn't really have been all these years of him describing his life, without sharing an account of his death.
Of course, I knew that, towards the end, the hour was approaching with increasing haste. But I did not wake on that Thursday morning knowing that the day would be our last together. In truth, I own that I had been fervently hoping against hope that nature would have taken Jasper as he slept - and perhaps, in a short time afterwards, that would indeed have happened. But I am sure that you have glimpsed enough of me through Jasper over the years to know that I would not have wished any creature prolonged suffering for my own selfish purposes. Obviously, the death-rattle had not subsided in my faithful sidekick - and I knew that there had been an overnight decline when not even some fresh chicken or a couple of spoonfuls of fresh oxtail soup could tempt Jasper into taking some breakfast. He was keen to get into the car and set off for work however so, grabbing my bag and my keys, we left for the day. It was the final time that Jasper would be alive in this house again.
Jasper was comparatively buoyant when we arrived at work, hopping out to reacquaint himself with his scent markers and cheerfully greeting his friends Ewan and Fizzy. However, Jasper did not want to come and sit in the office with me. He was warm on his car blankets and determined that he was going to sit quietly in our car. I helped him to get comfortable and gave him a little kiss on the top of his head before closing him in and heading into the office.
It was a busy morning, which kept my mind occupied. At around 12.00pm I accompanied Ewan and Fizzy onto the Bridleway for their lunchtime exercise. I could see that Jasper was still sleeping soundly in the car, so I decided not to wake him. When Ewan and Fizzy had returned and headed off for their nap, I gently unlocked the car door to check on Jazz. At the click of the lock he awoke, and looked around at me as I opened the door. The look on my little man's face took my breath away. Somehow, some way, I knew - just by looking into his eyes - a part of him had gone. Just gone. The part of him that had, up until that moment, been putting up a spirited fight. The will-to-live was gone. Jasper had had enough.
I burst into tears straight away, but did my best to conceal them from my boy. Until the last, however, he was nobody's fool and he pressed himself firmly against me as I wept, allowing (perhaps even wanting) my tears to spill into his fur.
After I had let him have a brief potter around the yard so that he could use the toilet facilities, I helped him as he jumped back onto his car seat and held him tightly until he had drifted off slowly to sleep once more. Aided, I confess, by recourse to a cigarette (please do not frown upon me - I was in utter despair) I then made The Phone Call.
I knew, then, that I had no other choice. And I was wretched in that knowledge.
The vet was extremely sympathetic, and we fixed an appointment for 5.00pm that evening, half an hour before the practice opened for evening appointments. The next call was worse, perhaps, even than that. It was to a friend of our friend, Sandy, who was a good chum of Jasper, as well as of our family in general. Mr. Winfield (Sandy's friend) runs a local well-established and reputable pet crematorium (I subsequently learned that it was Mr. Winfield's company who received and returned Jasper's predecessor, Tess, to me). Mr. Winfield was the very model of sympathy and dignity in his expressions of sorrow and the descriptions of the services he offered. I engaged him for what I knew would be needed following my appointment with the vet - I knew that I could not afford his services; but Jasper deserved nothing but the very best; in death as in life.
It was then that I had to telephone my mother and Maisie. Out of respect to them, I shall not repeat the details of those distressing conversations. Somewhat fortuitously (if any of this can be even remotely described in terms of "fortune") it was a day when Dave the office cleaner visited. He was a great favourite with Jasper (and it was entirely mutual), so Dave was able to say his goodbyes. He cried, but clearly did not wish it to be known, so I politely didn't notice.
Actually, this is harder than I thought. I'm not sure I can go on for now. Hope you can forgive. I'll be back tomorrow for the end of it all.
With love, amidst tears.