Saturday, 30 June 2012

Saturday 30 June 2012

At last!  I am BACK!!

It is so wonderful to return to my blogging home – although I cannot rightly explain precisely where it is that I have been…  This is not due to any bond of secrecy; I just am at a total loss as to how to account for it.

I have tried to look at previous blog entries, to see if they contain a clue, but met with no success.  I asked my partner to help me to scroll back with the mouse (I have never been able to use the mouse, being denied the human blessing of opposable thumbs) but she refused.  She said that I must not look.  I also noticed a small, exquisitely carved, dark mahogany, marquetry box sitting on the computer desk, next to the monitor and the telephone.  Closer examination revealed a small brass plaque affixed to the box, which read “JASPER”.  I was intrigued.  My partner told me that I must never, EVER, under any circumstances, open - or attempt to open – this box.  Of course, this only intrigued me further, but my partner was insistent.  She has told me that I cannot know what transpired or what is in the box.  I must concede that she has generally been consistently correct about such things, so the recent past will remain a mystery.  But what DID happen to me…?

I remember tears; goodbyes; a trip to the vets – and then…  Then what?  There was a departure of sorts.  In no time at all I found myself falling, falling, falling through blackness.  I couldn’t see anything, but I wasn’t afraid.  Down, down I fell – until, suddenly I felt myself being caught by a large, gentle pair of hands.  I struggled to see into the velvety blackness but to no avail – and then, all at once, I was no longer falling but floating.  Floating, drifting, in the great nothingness, supported by the large and gentle unseen hands.  I paddled my legs, savouring the sensation of “swimming” in air.  Gradually, I noticed that I seemed to be rising.  The blackness began to fade to tones of grey and finally a misty rose-pink.  With alarm, I realised that I could no longer see my snout in front of me.  I looked down; I couldn’t see my feet either!  I felt whole, but seemed dispossessed of my whole body – I was PART of the nothing…

Whilst I was musing on these alarming discoveries I failed to realise that I was no longer floating.  I was no longer supported by the mysterious hands.  In fact, I was standing in a lush green garden – and I was not alone.  With a yelp of pure joy I recognised Kipper, my dearest friend from the Rescue Home (see my “Evolution of Jasper” series).  We greeted each other in mutual ecstasy.  Despite the fact that I seemed to be entirely invisible he could clearly see me and I him.  Standing beside him, I marvelled at the exquisite surroundings.  It was like a fantasy landscape from a dream, yet I was undoubtedly standing there.  I suddenly recoiled in terror and flung myself at Kipper as a Bengal tiger and a large lion walked past.  But my horror was as nothing compared to my astonishment as I noticed that trotting alongside them was a tiny terrier puppy.  I gaped, open mouthed.  The little pup was chatting excitedly, jabbering away to the two large wildcats, who were listening politely with interest and not the slightest glimmer of hunger or malevolence in their eyes.  My gaze strayed to the edge of a river where the water that flowed was of the purest crystal blue.  A couple of zebras and an elephant were drinking at the water’s edge, totally unconcerned by the small group of huge alligators drifting aimlessly nearby.  I wanted to cry out a warning, but only a pathetic and mildly embarrassing squeak came out of my mouth.
“They’re not drinking because they’re thirsty.” said Kipper, mistaking my incredulity.  “They just like the sensation of it.”
I found my voice.
“Is there food here, then?”
“For those who want it, yes, there is plenty.  But are you hungry?”
I thought about it.  I expected to be ravenous.  But I wasn’t.  I felt as though I had just eaten a good dinner, not stuffed too full, but satisfied.  Most odd.  I was about to ask Kipper about it, when I noticed a young man, dressed in white, half-leaning, half-sitting on a large grey rock nearby.  He was smiling at me and my friend Kipper.
“That man’s hurt!” I barked in surprise, looking at several nasty-looking wounds that he bore.  “I didn’t think that anyone was hurt here!”
“He isn’t hurt.” grinned Kipper, wagging his plumy and magnificent tail, “Those are marks of honour!  They did hurt once, like my heart did and your snout did – we all hurt once.  But he’s the only one who has kept his scars.  He says he doesn’t mind them, he says that they’re a good reminder.  You can ask him if you want, he doesn’t mind.  Go on.”  Kipper nudged me forward and I hesitantly crept towards the young man.  He was very handsome – quite swarthy, with a slightly Middle-Eastern look to him, but his eyes – oh! His eyes were the kindest and most beautiful I had ever seen.  He had the sort of look to a human that straight-away puts you at your ease, like my partner or a nice vet, someone who just wanted to help you be the best that you could be without forcing their own ways upon you.  I liked him instantly.  As I trotted up to him he grinned.
“Hullo Jasper.” he said, and I felt a glow wash over me at the sound of his voice.  “You are welcome here.”  He patted my head and played with my ears the way I liked.

Somehow, without knowing or understanding anything, I knew that it was going to be alright.

And then I found myself back here, typing this to you now.  It is all most odd.  For I have found myself in a den of women.

They are everywhere.  Well, it is a very small house.  First, there is my partner.  Next, a large grey tousle-furred pretty lady of middle-age named Betty.  And last, but by no means least, an exquisite young wire-haired Jack Russell called Gisèle.  Why?  Where did they come from?  I am not entirely at ease in finding myself amidst this nest of harridans.  One can almost taste the oestrogen that pollutes the air.

Besides these horrors, I have other concerns.  It is almost as though I am here – yet not here.  My partner, Betty and Gisèle, undoubtedly can see and communicate with me as before.  I am not entirely convinced, however, that everyone besides these three and certain others are aware of my presence.  I daresay it will all become clearer in time…

For the present, however, my partner took me quietly to one side.  It seems, as she confided to me, that Betty and Gizmo (Gisèle’s commonly-used nickname) do not get along.  Far from it, in fact.  There has been much bullying of the latter by the former and some savagery has ensued, culminating in a distressing episode during which Betty tore off part of Gizmo’s lip.  With tears in her eyes, my partner implored me to step in and restore order to the household.

Stepping in to mediate between two exceptionally attractive feisty young ladies...?  Well, it’s a tough job – but I believe I may know JUST the Staffordshire Bull Terrier for the task, hehehe…

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Sunday 10 June 2012

Well, little Gisèle (Gizmo) continues to grow more delightful by the day.  We have had some lovely walks this week (weather permitting) and she is impeccably well-behaved each time.  It's good to know that she can be trusted off the lead, as she has seemingly boundless energy.  I've also finally achieved success in discovering something that she likes to eat for her dinner.  This was a worry, as she is slightly too thin and in refusing the various things that were offered night after night she was starting to get thinner.  She likes, it turns out, the same thing that Jasper liked - meat in jelly with a handful of mixer biscuits.  She's not a big eater of treats and snacks though, which is perhaps a good thing.

Gizmo is very buoyant and amusing in her attitude, she's quite comical.  She has a funny little tuft of hair on her head, which is usually laid flat but occasionally sticks up and makes her look hilarious.  It's just like the classic "Bobby Charlton comb-over" - 

I'll try and get a picture of her (as opposed to one of our nation's finest) to show you what I mean.

She almost came a bit of a cropper yesterday actually.  We had enjoyed a very long walk (even Giz was flagging a bit) in the woods and met some very nice ladies walking their dogs - two large, Retriever/Setter-type chaps; one black, one russet.  The larger, black-furred dog (I believe his name was Tudor), his owners informed us, was very elderly although he didn't look it.  Gizmo, ever eager to make friends with other people and dogs, was her charming self - but very soon received possibly the greatest shock of her young life thus far...  Tudor gripped her firmly with his fore-arms either side of her rib-cage, turned her around, mounted her and began thrusting in a manner which can only be described as sexual (my sincere apologies to the more sensitive reader).  Nothing could deter Tudor, despite Gisèle's loud protests, and in the end his owner had to spank him with her stick to get him off poor Giz.  She immediately fled, with the young russet Setter and the elderly Tudor hard on her heels.  She was quite happy to play with them, but every time Tudor caught her he recommenced fornication procedures.  I am afraid I had little sympathy for her.  She was flirting outrageously with both dogs and squealed every time Tudor caught and tried to "enjoy" her.  In the end, I had to pick her up and carry her back to the car, as I ended up walking with the ladies and their dogs and chatting - they were parked in the same car park as me - for the short distance to the end of the walk.  Tudor's owner said that he looked about ten years younger - Gizmo must have been good for him...!  But I kept her safe and unsullied all the way back to the car, whether she liked it or not.  I shall have to be more careful in future; this is the first time that I have owned a dog who has not been "done" - I didn't know how powerfully alluring an unspayed young lady can be to a lusty hound - and there is no way that I can afford to have her "seen to" just yet.  Actually, part of me disagrees with the idea of having an animal's vital functions interfered with, or removed altogether, for the sake of human convenience.  Of course, it is very worthy to prevent thousands upon thousands of unwanted puppies being born - but, I sort of like Gizmo as she is and am not inclined to meddle.  She will certainly be supervised most scrupulously when she is in season - but... well; it's a hard decision to consider.

This leads me on to a not entirely unrelated subject, which came about long before Gizmo entered the frame: Betty and Fizzy.

I am relieved that Gizmo has made friends with Fizzy - but Betty didn't even try.  When she was first spotted by Ewan and Fizzy they were sitting in their vehicle and Betty was in the work-yard.  Fizzy barked at first sight of pretty Betty but Ewan, I noticed, was looking at her with interest, a beaming smile and a twinkle in his eye.  Fizzy obviously noticed this too and clouted poor Ewan around the back of the head until he was cowed into barking unpleasantries at Betty as well.

Poor Ewan - he does adore his Fizzy AND his behaviour has been remarkably less mad since she went to live with him - but I believe that such things have not come without their price.  Fizzy has not been spayed and, even though Ewan HAS been neutered, she pursues him with  relentless intensity when she is in season.  Their owner told me that, when Fizzy is on heat, Ewan abandons the dogs' shared basket and attempts to hide from Fizzy under the dining-room table - he apparently believes that there is such a "forest" of table and chair legs under there that he cannot be seen.  But Fizzy invariably finds him, drags him out and smacks him around the back of his head until he capitulates and performs his conjugal duties.  Poor Ewan.  He is still utterly devoted to his Fizzy though...

Anyway, the relationship between Betty and Fizzy was doomed to total failure once the seeds of jealousy had been sown.  Initial steps were taken to try and encourage a friendship between the two, but immediately abandoned when the futility of the idea became obvious.  Ewan doesn't seem to mind - in fact, I think he secretly enjoys the situation.   I'll admit, though, that I am not the only one who finds deeply troubling the fact that these two otherwise intelligent, articulate and attractive young ladies would happily tear each other limb from limb - and all for the ultimate "prize" of Ewan's affections.  Worrying.

Before I turn back to little Gisèle, I would like to say a very hearty thank you to the friends who sent lovely messages after the previous post - Lance, Keetha, Gibbs, The Secretary, Lady Miss Till and others - I am immensely grateful  to you.   

For various reasons I have decided against revealing which of Jasper's chums throughout the blog during his lifetime were real and which were fictional - not least because Jasper will imminently be resuming his rightful place as author of this blog and I'd hate to incur his wrath...  You are most welcome to see if you can guess which are real and which are imagined if you like but, for now, my typing fingers are sealed.  I WILL tell you, however, that the character (real) which is most like his genuine self (apart from Jasper himself of course) is, perhaps surprisingly, Ewan.   He really IS that dim and generally helpless without Fizzy - but, as Jasper was always keen to stress, utterly inoffensive and friendly.  Very little effort indeed is needed when putting words and situations into Ewan's online persona - the work has already been done by nature itself.

To Gisèle, then.  She came to live with me on what was originally intended to be a temporary basis on Saturday 19 May this year.  My colleague (Ewan and Fizzy's owner) telephoned me on my mobile in the early evening to ask for my help in a bit of an emergency situation.  Her nephew, who lived just around the corner from me, had to leave his house and be gone by the end of that day.  He had also lost his job and his car.  He had managed to find a room to rent elsewhere, but was unable to take his dog.  Could I help by taking the dog in the interim?  My colleague could not take her, as she already has Ewan and Fizzy and is only allowed a maximum of two dogs where she lives.

I was reluctant, to be honest.  I was not ready, financially or psychologically, to have a new dog, plus I also have a commitment with Betty's owner.  But I couldn't leave a dog to be sent off to a rescue home or worse, and Betty is not due to return until at least 24 June, so I agreed to temporarily accommodate the dog - for a month at most.  Less than five minutes later, the nephew arrived in the van belonging to my colleague's partner with little Gizmo in his arms.  After a brief chat, she was left with me.  She arrived with a collar and two leads, a small bed, a bowl and a cage.  I was given £10 to buy some food for her and told "just stick her in the cage all day and let her out for a wee at night, she won't be any trouble."  And that was that.  Still reeling somewhat from shock, I dismantled the cage and put it away as soon as the van had departed.  I had never made any dog of mine sit in a cage all day, and I wasn't about to start now.

The poor little dog was terribly confused and afraid.  She sniffed the house all over, refused to eat or drink anything, and put herself to bed in her little foam basket trembling and crying.

I still hadn't quite recovered from the incredibly rapid turn of events the next morning - in the space of fewer than ten minutes I had gone from being dog-less but increasingly content with my pet-free situation, to owning a bewildered and energetic live-wire  of a two-year-old Jack Russell.  I was particularly unimpressed the following Monday morning when, already at risk of being late for work, I opened the gate and the dog shot off like a bullet.  Cursing, swearing and calling for her, I took off after her, accompanied by one of my neighbours.  We caught up with her on the other side of the housing estate, her progress halted by some mercifully secure fencing.  I scooped up the dog, thanked my neighbour, and left for work feeling hot, tired and cross.

My colleagues were enchanted by the sweet little dog (although, I thought bitterly, they hadn't had to pursue her across a housing estate with their neighbours watching and laughing) and there was no shortage of takers for her if she didn't go back to her owner and I didn't want to keep her.  After that initial couple of days, however, Gizmo and I began to bond.  I couldn't blame her, of course, for her initial behaviour - she was young, frightened and confused and had been left with a total stranger in a house completely unknown to her (one which, no doubt, smells strongly to a sharp canine nose of Jasper and Betty).  But little Giz continues to grow more affectionate and delightful by the day; almost by the hour.  She has been extremely well-trained - her obedience is total and her behaviour at home and out of doors is impeccable.  She is also now utterly devoted to me and entirely trustworthy with other dogs and children.  The rest of the history you know.

So, a most bizarre acquisition of a new dog.  But perhaps it was meant to be.  I am not much of a believer in the fates or spirits behind such odd coincidences, chance happenings or circumstances.  But what I DO know - and this is rather bizarre - Jasper's little holly-tree, which he helped to unearth and support following notice of it (a bird must have dropped a berry, as there is no holly nearby.  See here for Jasper attending to his sapling tree),  was beginning to die and wither to a brown, chewed-up tiny stump.  Since the arrival of Gisèle, however, it has begun to grow and flourish again, sending out bright new green shoots.  Make of that what you will...

Keep smiling!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Monday 4 June 2012

Well, here is something of a surprise.  Which, being me, will probably come as no surprise at all to anyone except myself.  I have tried to find a new writing-style for Jasper's blog - tried, but failed at every attempt.  I just cannot do it.  This evening as I was walking Benji (Cinnamon Trust devildog) I realised what was wrong.

My writing-style IS Jasper, for this blog at least.  I recall, on Jasper’s passing, that one of my friends, Keetha, said that in time I would find my own voice.  I have tried – but this The Dog’s Blog and not my blog.  Several times since that bleak January day there have been incidents, silly little happenings, Ewan’s ongoing innocent blunders at work, etc., and each time I have imagined how it could have been expressed here on the blog by Jasper.  His sardonic style and brand of wit (if one can call it wit) were all his own.  I cannot find the words to put into the mouths of his canine friends and his various misadventures without him.

So, I have come to a decision.  This will continue to be Jasper’s blog.  He is gone – but his words live on.  During his lifetime, I was in Jasper as we composed our blog entries.  Now that he has gone he exists in me – and “his” writing continues.  Please don’t be deceived in me – I have not spent too long out in the sun and baked my brain.  Nor have I lost the few marbles remaining to me or taken complete leave of my senses.  I know and accept that Jasper Horatio Stafford is dead, physically and spiritually, and that he is not coming back.  But his forceful character, which long-time readers have seen grow and develop here since the inaugural post on Sunday 13 August 2006, has imprinted itself so firmly on this blog – and my part in it – to fall away.  Forgive me then, if the posts continue from Jasper’s viewpoint and in his voice.  I hope you understand.

I have been steadily learning to live again through the good offices of Betty.  I now have a new permanent canine sidekick.  She came to me in the most coincidental, unlooked-for and convoluted way – the merest coming together of chance and fate.  I didn’t want another dog – indeed, I STILL owe the vets’ £400 (or $616, if you prefer) from Jasper and can barely afford to feed and house myself, let alone another dog.  But we will find a way, I know it.

She is a wire-haired Jack Russell Terrier (undocked and unspayed).  The name with which she arrived was Gizmo, but I prefer sensible, proper, names for dogs and so have rechristened her Gisèle (with Gizmo, or Giz, for short).  Here she is:

Sweet, isn’t she?!  She is about two years old and has an utterly delightful character.  She is already great friends with Rosie next door, William across the road, as well as Ewan and Fizzy.  And here she is making friends with a colleague’s young Cocker-Spaniel puppy, Bug:

I have been caring for Gizmo for just over two weeks and she became “officially mine” at 11.28am on Friday 1 June 2012.  She and Betty have yet to be introduced.  I have no qualms about Gisèle – she delights in meeting new doggy friends and playing games with them.  Betty, on the other hand, inspires less confidence.  I’ve been told by her owner that she greatly dislikes other dogs.  I have yet to see evidence of this myself – the only dog Betty truly despises is Fizzy (and that is entirely mutual) – but all other dogs we’ve encountered have been tolerated with equanimity.  Fortunately, Gisèle has already charmed my parents (particularly my father, who is utterly entranced by her.  I cannot blame him – Giz is very reminiscent (apart from the curly fur) of our first-ever family dog, Jaki the Jack Russell) and they have generously offered to look after her whilst Betty is staying, should the two ladies fail to get along – for I cannot afford to do without the money that Betty brings in just now.

The next post will describe how Gisèle came to find a home with me, precisely WHY Fizzy and Betty would happily tear each other limb from limb, and – to mark a clean break between the old Dog’s Blog and the new Dog’s Blog – a revelation of which of Jasper’s friends and characters were real and which were fiction… stay tuned!

Keep smiling!!