Friday, 28 December 2012

Thursday 27 December 2012

Well.  It was a wretched beginning to the year - and the ending is somewhat less than perfect.

A week or so prior to the Christmas festival my partner and Gisèle, whilst travelling home from work, happened upon an unfortunate road incident.  They were, in fact, the first car upon the scene which was not damaged or otherwise directly involved (despite witnessing) the alarming episode.

Getting out of the New Teal Megane and locking Gisèle safely inside, my partner went to see if she could assist.  Almost the first thing she heard was someone calling for anyone with a knowledge of First Aid.  Being a qualified First-Aider, my partner identified herself as such and was immediately directed to the vehicle which had caused the incident, a large (and thankfully empty) tipper-truck.  Another bystander was already telephoning on his mobile for an ambulance and it was immediately apparent that the driver of the truck was very unwell indeed.  He was unconscious and slumped over the seats.

My partner ensured his airways were clear, manoeuvred, with assistance, the man into the best approximation of the recovery position that was physically possible and took his pulse, which was warm and strong, all the while attempting to rouse the stricken gentleman by shouting such things as "Can you hear me?!"; "Can you tell me your name Sir?!"; "It's OK, you're going to be all right now..."  The 999-dispatcher kept asking the caller infantile, repetitive and unhelpful things.  Even when my partner informed the dispatcher c/o the young man on the 'phone that the unwell victim "appeared to be dying and that an ambulance was needed now" the response was indifferent at best.  Ultimately, all my partner could do for the poor man was to hold his hand until the ambulance came.

Sadly, the gentleman died.  My partner and Gisèle then had to remain at the scene on the freezing-cold night for almost four hours, whilst the Police photographed the scene and interviewed the 'participants'.  My partner was greatly distressed and little Gisèle was utterly terrified.  Both were terribly cold besides, and my partner was, and is, so sad that she couldn't save the driver.  It has had a rather profound effect upon her, to be truthful. What she ultimately drew from the experience is this: NEVER make any journey – even if it is just to the supermarket for a pint of milk – without telling your partner/family (if you have them) that you love them. For you never know the time or the place. I’ll admit that the experience was made more challenging by the fact that the late gentleman’s wife wanted to speak with my partner, as she’d been with him until – well, you know… I think it was helpful for the poor bereaved lady… But PLEASE, never part or go to sleep without telling those you love that you love them.

Alas, now, my partner is besieged on all sides by constant reviews of the "wonderful" and "historic" year that was 2012.  The centenary of the Titanic and sundry commemorations, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, Bradley Wiggins' triumph in the Tour de France, the Olympics and Paralympics and the British Teams' triumphs, the introduction and periodic visits of Betty, the arrival of sweet Gisèle... the list goes on...  But did my partner have a good year...?  No.

Oh no.

For 2012 was the year in which Jasper Horatio Stafford died.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Saturday 22 December 2012

As I had hoped, Elizabeth proved to be just the very salvation needed by Gisèle.  They spent a long time chatting and hugging on the sofa, in the manner shown in the previous post's photograph.

At length, I rejoined them.
"D'you know what I REALLY think you need, Giz?" said Betty, after a long silence.
"Hmm?" responded the little terrier.
"I'll tell you.  You need.... a FIIIIIIIGHT!"  And, with that, Betty shoved Gizmo off the sofa and jumped down on top of her.  The two girls snarled and bit at each other - all in fun of course - and chased each other up and down the stairs, yapping and squealing all the while.

And then I heard something which I'd almost given up hope of ever hearing again.

Once irritating, the sound of Gisèle's laughter was now truly delightful to my ear.  I smiled at the squeals of delight emanating from the two friends and stole a glance at my partner, who was wiping a happy tear from her eye at the reanimation of the inestimable Gizzy.  Up and down the stairs raced our two girls - squealing, laughing and play-nipping at each other.  My partner and I were just careful to keep out of the way as they crashed past us, out into the garden and around our small plot, then up the stairs to jump up and down on the bed (heedless of any effect on the mattress-springs or bed-linen).  This continued until almost midnight, but my partner was loath to put a stop to the girls' amusement due to the long-absent delight of little Gisèle.

When the shenanigans recommenced at 3.10 the following morning, my partner's patience began to wear thin. The play-fighting and noisy, boisterous games continued throughout that day - and the next day - AND the one after that; each time beginning before the winter sun had fully risen in the morning and lasting until long after most normal folk had retired to bed.  As for me, I'll admit that I'd had enough after about ten minutes on the first day - and my partner's smile had, by now, become decidedly fixed.  To be honest, it was more of a grimace.

On the fourth night, the bedroom door was firmly closed on the capering bitches.  I heard the (admittedly mildly satisfying) sound of two heads, one tiny and one large, smacking into the wooden door followed by the (less satisfying) outbreak of fresh giggling - and settled down at last to a full nights' sleep as the pair of miscreants trotted back downstairs, prodding each other and snickering as they descended.  My partner was already fast asleep...

These events took place over a week ago (I have been somewhat remiss in updating the blog for unfortunate reasons, which will soon become clear).  But, with the selective benefit of hindsight, I am very thankful indeed for the short visit of Betty.  She pulled Gisèle from the abyss of her despair.

The healing powers of the simple love and company of friends ought never to be underestimated.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Saturday 15 December 2012

A stop-press on the post I was part-way through writing.

The hearts of Gisèle, my partner and myself are broken, and united with our friends in America today following the appalling and mindless slaughter at Sandy Hook Primary School in Connecticut.

The stolen lives of the innocent babes and those who loved and cared for them reduces me to disbelieving incomprehension.  There are no words - no barks - of balm that I can offer.  Our love and prayers are with you.

The massacre of the innocents will never be forgotten by anyone in the right-thinking world.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone.
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling in the sky the message He is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun.
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Funeral Blues, by W.H. Auden

Monday, 10 December 2012

Monday 10 December 2012

Betty, true to form, arrived a little later than anticipated - although on the same evening she was expected.  She steam-rollered into Giz-Town all guns blazing, ready to have plenty of fun with her very best friend and to play nurse-maid to Gisèle's suckling puppies.

After standing on her hind-legs and warmly embracing my partner in the hall, Betty suddenly remembered the situation in which she had left her little friend Gizmo and bounded into the living room.
"Where are they?!" she yapped, her small stub of a tail wagging wildly.  "All my new little darlings?!  Whooooooo's got the BIGGEST kiss for their Auntie Betty?!?"

The Giant Schnauzer skidded to an abrupt halt at the alarming scene which met her eyes.  NOT a cacophonous melèe of innocent unweaned squalling newborns - just Gisèle alone on the sofa, clutching her teddy-bear tightly and staring blankly out of the window, rocking most unsettlingly backwards and forwards.

"What - where - wh..." stammered Betty uncertainly.  Giz didn't seem to hear her.
"Elizabeth," I murmured to her, "Would you join me in the lobby for a moment, if you please?"
Betty, her eyes still fixed with concern on her little friend, barklessly nodded and followed me out into the small hallway.

As quietly and sensitively as I could I appraised Betty of the situation.  She stared at me for a couple of seconds whilst her mind processed the sad news (Betty was by no means simple, but she was not the sharpest blade on the razor, if you catch my meaning).  When I looked into her face again, the mighty dog seemed to struggling to hold back her tears.

At that point my partner went into the kitchen and began preparing the girls' dinners.  With a sigh I told Betty about Gisèle's medicine-induced anorexia symptoms, and that it had now been a long while since Giz had taken a proper meal.  Betty shook her head, but there was nothing but heartfelt sympathy in her eyes.

The young Gisèle herself appeared on hearing the rattle of biscuits being placed into dinner-bowls.
"Hi Betty," she piped indifferently, with a rather pathetic half-wag of her tail.
"Hi Giz, my friend!" wuffed Betty affectionately, as she nuzzled her little friend's neck and gave her several big licks.  She was about to say something else, when my partner set the two dinner bowls (one small, with semi-moist biscuits, and one large, filled with juicy tinned meat and mixer-biscuits) on the ground.  (Because of Gisèle's propensity towards Colitis, she is generally kept away from tinned meat).

Betty immediately fell upon her bowl and, with much mess, noise and slobber, began to gobble down her dinner.  Giz, on the other paw, reluctantly crunched her way through three or four of her little marble-sized biscuits and then pushed the rest of the bowl away, untouched.  Betty looked up from her meal, meaty jelly covering her snout and beard, and watched Giz with concern as the little Jack Russell glared coldly at the rest of her dinner.  With a momentary pang, Betty looked again at her food and then turned to Gisèle.
"Giz," she barked gently, "I've eaten my mixer but not all of the meat.  I'm not sure - " frowning as she struggled against all of her inner values and instincts "- I don't think I can finish it.  There's only a bit left - would you like to finish up my meat?"  I whipped around to look at Gisèle and felt a glimmer of hope as I thought I detected a flicker of temptation cross her face.  "Go on, Giz," coaxed Betty, "I really can't manage any more.  It would be such a great pity to have to throw it away..."

Giz took a few steps towards Betty's dish and ate a tiny bite of the jelly-covered meat.  Her tail wagged involuntarily and, without much more prompting, she had finished off Betty's dinner.  Betty, in the meantime, had crept around behind Giz and had eaten about half of what remained in the little bowl, to compensate for what she had offered her solemn little chum.

I cannot tell you how glad I was to see Gisèle eat a sensible portion of dinner for a change, and how utterly grateful I felt towards the once-selfish and obstreperous Betty.  After Giz had finished eating, Betty gently and kindly ushered her diminutive friend back to the sofa in the living-room and quietly invited her to bark about what had happened.  I heard Gisèle beginning to cry as she replied to Betty and decided to leave them to it.  I remained with my partner in the kitchen as she did the washing-up.

I confess myself to have been utterly unprepared for the sight that met my eyes when I re-entered the living-room.  I felt as though I had never witnessed a greater character-reversal (consider the early days of Betty's and Gisèle's acquaintance and such incidents as Betty biting off part of Giz's upper lip and her attempt to pull off the little Jack Russell's tail), or such an example of selfless love throughout ALL my years on Earth.

And, with apologies for its blurriness, I can assure you that this photograph was not posed, set-up or otherwise photo-shopped in any way...:-

I am barkless; utterly barkless...

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Gisèle managed to sleep throughout the whole evening and night - 'twas the shock, perhaps.

There were no more tears in the morning from her pretty eyes, but she declined the offer of any breakfast.  She refused to eat her dinner that evening as well, and looked positively nauseous at the next morning's proffered breakfast.  My partner began to grow worried and I have to bark that I shared her concerns.  Whilst Gizmo was in the garden, we examined the leaflet inside the medicine-carton for any clues.  We found it on the third page.

"It has been recorded that some dogs experience symptoms of anorexia nervosa as a result of taking this medication." declared the folded sheet of paper.

"Hmmnm..." said my partner, sighing heavily and putting the paper back in the medicine box from whence it came.
"Well, that's not exactly good news." I remarked, "She hardly eats anything anyway."
My partner nodded, watching Giz through the French Windows as she pottered in the garden, trying her best to go to the toilet despite an empty stomach and bladder.

We could not afford to waste any further time on the subject at the present moment, however, as we needed to set off for work.  I had decided to appraise Fizzy the Labrador of the recent unhappy development at the earliest opportunity.  I knew that I'd have to catch her by herself in order to do it discreetly, but the sooner she knew the better - for the most part so that she could make her pea-brained spouse Ewan understand the situation.  He had been almost beside himself with joy at the expectation of the anticipated pups, frequently chattering on about all the games and gifts he was keen to share with all his new little "nieces and nephews".

On arrival at the work-yard, Gisèle said that she would prefer to sit quietly by herself in the car that day.  My partner made sure that she was well-guarded against the cold and closed the car door on her, after giving the morose Giz a little cuddle.  By a happy chance we had arrived only a few minutes behind Ewan and Fizzy, who were ambling around the yard and sniffing the perimeter.  I sidled up to Fizz-Bang and asked her for a private word.  She could see that something was not quite well and we concealed ourselves behind the fuel-store.  Fizzy expressed much sincere sympathy on learning of the previous evening's events and promised that she would break the sad news to Ewan as quickly as possible - and that she would see to it that he fully understood both the truth and the need to be thoughtful in his remarks to Gisèle.  I was as profuse as I was heartfelt in my thanks.

True to her bark, Fizzy wasted no time in escorting Ewan into the workshop for a discreet chat.  I left them to it and, looking around, was pleased to see my friend Mac the Springer Spaniel in his garden, which bordered the work-yard.  He was no less happy to see me and bounded up to the wire fence for a chat.
"'Ullo Jazz!" he beamed in his deep, rich and strongly-rural accent.  "You still hanging around?  I'll tell 'ee, I were real sorry to see you go.  Last time I saw 'ee, 'twere in the back of the ol' boy's [his master's] van.  I shed a fair few tears at seeing you lying there, I did that."  (Mac's master looks after the pet-undertaker's crematorium, where my mortal remains... well, you know...)  "We laid a right grand do on when we saw 'twas you, yes we did.  We always does the job right and proper y'know - but it fair broke our hearts to see you in that box.  The ol' girl [Mac's mistress] shed a good many tears.  Oh yes.  But what're you doing back, now boy?  You oughtn't not to have more'n your time, y'know.  T'ain't proper."
"I know." I sighed, shaking my head.  "I know.  But people - and dogs - down here hadn't finished needing me."
"No matter, though." replied Mac kindly, "When your time's up, 'tis up.  No more to it'n that."
I nodded and attempted to explain.  "I tried to go back a few months ago - but Gisèle had a fit of the hysterics, so I agreed to stay a bit longer."
"T'aint right." said Mac, "But I'm fair pleased to see 'ee, that I am."
"Cheers Mac," I grinned. "Great to see you too."
"So, what's occurring then?  That young 'un Gisèle's a fair l'il maid, b'aint she?"
"She is, Mac." I smiled, "She's a real little gem.  I couldn't have wished for finer for my partner."  I then proceeded to confide to Mac the recent unfortunate circumstances involving Giz.  Like Fizzy, he was genuinely sorry to hear it and asked me to pass on his condolences and compliments to the little Parson Jack Russell.
I was just about to reply and make further remarks on Gizmo's good-nature when piercing screams wrent the air asunder.  The workshop door flew open with a resounding crash and Ewan almost flew across the yard squealing in terror and then fleeing into the woods on the opposite side to where Mac stood with me.  We watched - and then listened to - Ewan's flight into the woodland, his progress marked by the sounds of headlong crashing through increasingly-thick scrub and the indignant protests of startled pheasants as their secluded peace was disturbed.

"BL**DY H*LL!!" bellowed Fizzy, as she came bolting out after Ewan and thundered past us in pursuit of her hysterical basket-mate.

Mac and I exchanged a bemused glance.
"Fairly average for a Friday morning..." remarked the Spaniel with a sigh and a raised eyebrow.

I was tempted to laugh, but checked the urge.  I knew that he had long "had feelings for" the pretty Fizzy - and he had known Ewan for years before I had ever arrived upon the scene; I didn't feel qualified to comment.  "Tell me, Jazz, has that ol' fool ever tried to preach to you about cheese?"
"Erm...." I responded, "He might have mentioned it once or twice..."
"Nutter." sniffed Mac.  "That fair Labrador maid is wasted on that ol' idjit."
I didn't know quite how to reply - after all, much as I liked Ewan, these had once been my own thoughts...  But before I could formulate an answer - "Aye-ay," muttered Mac, nodding over my shoulder.

I turned and saw Fizzy dragging a protesting Ewan back to the depot.  She had him by the collar, and there was no let-up in his cries, protests and pleadings to be allowed to continue hiding himself in the deep woods. He wriggled and fidgeted without cease.  Occasionally, he managed to wrench himself free from Fizzy's firm grasp between her teeth of his collar, but Fizzy was far too wily for him and as soon as he broke free she seized him by the tail and continued to drag him backwards, until he tried to pull away again and she renewed her strong toothy grip on his leather collar.  He was dragged past Mac and I, the gangly mongrel's claws scrabbling desperately on the tarmac in a last-ditch effort to escape.

With a final, mighty, effort, Fizzy shoved Ewan back into the workshop and kicked the door closed on him.  Wheezing and panting, she staggered over to Mac and I.
"Bl**dy h*ll!" she spluttered again, as she flopped down next to us.

I let her catch her breath before asking "What was that all about?!"

"Phantom pregnancy..." spluttered a gasping and angry Fizzy, "Ewan thinks that Gisèle is going to give birth to a litter of ghosts..."

She shook her head.  Mac did the same and hastened into his house before he was called upon to comment.

And thus died my hopes of Ewan's being able to lift Gizmo out of her grief and depression.

There remained now only ONE hope for our sweet and anguished little Gisèle:

The return, tomorrow, of The Hon. Elizabeth Rae de W***-B*****-N********* a' S*******, more familiarly-known to you and I, dear reader, as "Betty".

Dewclaws crossed, OK...?  Until next time, then...

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Sunday 2 December 2012

My partner decided to heed Fizzy's advice and take Gisèle to the vets'.  Although this was due also, in part, to the observations of her parents.  They had cared for Gisèle over the weekend during which my partner was at the BBC in London, and remarked upon the little terrier's swollen belly and engorged teats.

And so thus it was, that this evening, my partner escorted the irrepressibly effervescent Gisèle to the vet.  I waited at home, not wishing to re-visit the scene where I... anyway - Giz was almost beside herself with maternal joy; my partner scarcely less-so, and I wandered home by myself.  Little Gizmo was singing happily to herself as I departed - I elected to overlook the fact that her tune of choice was Psy's "Gangnam Style"...

I pottered about the house, dwelling on happier times when I had been alive in this space and wondering how best to make myself useful when the time came for Gisèle's whelping.  At the sounds of the New Teal Megane returning and my partner's key in the front door lock I made my way downstairs.

But I was entirely unprepared for what I encountered.  Sweet Gisèle crept into the house, bent almost double like an elderly dog.  Her eyes were glazed and bore a hollow expression of mortification.  Glancing at my partner, I saw that she, too, looked somewhat strained.
"What's the matter?!" I yelped, forgetting my manners.  "Giz - is everything OK?!?"

"Yes, thank you, Jasper." she whispered in a strangled and unnatural voice.  The tiny creature then burst into tears and fled upstairs.  I heard her flinging herself onto the bed and wailing in anguish and despair.
"Wh - whatever has happened?!" I cried.  I saw that my partner was holding a small box of medicine, which she laid upon a kitchen worktop.  She then came into the living-room, slumped onto the sofa and held her head in her hands, whilst the entire house reverberated with the agonised sobs and screams from Gisèle.

"Oh no."  I wuffed quietly.  "Oh - no, no, please no.  Gisèle has miscarried her babies."

"Hasn't she?" I prompted, when no answer seemed forthcoming from my partner.  "Are they ALL dead?  All of them?"

"Oh Jasper," sighed my partner, but she stopped before continuing - casting her eyes upwards as Gisèle's wails became more distraught.  I made a snap decision.
"I'm going back." I announced.  "I know that you and Gisèle will miss me, but I am going back.  Kipper and I will look for the souls of those precious unborn pups and make sure that they are all right and surrounded by friends.  Tell Giz that I w-"
"Oh, Jazz," cut in my partner, sighing heavily again, "You always were a thoughtful dog; that's one of the reasons why so many people loved you during your life.  But you don't need to do anything this time."
"But the babies - those poor pups -"
"There are no puppies.  There never were any puppies.  Gisèle was not pregnant."
"It was a phantom pregnancy."
"But- but- the swollen belly and breasts - the milk...  The nesting and grooming behaviour...?"
"All relatively common for a full-blown case of false pregnancy, apparently."  My partner frowned and sighed once more.
"Well..." I said slowly, "It would have been difficult, I think, to cope with puppies at the moment - financially quite apart from anything else.  I suppose it's for the best really..."  But I could tell my partner wasn't convinced.
"It's just that - well, it would have been quite exciting, and fun to have the little ones in the house.  But I'm SO sorry for Giz.  The vet weighed her, and really felt her belly hard.  And then, when he said 'No, she's completely empty.', the look on Giz's face was awful, I just felt so sick and sorry for her."
"What's the medicine for?"
"To dry up her milk so that she doesn't get Mastitis.  Actually, I'd better give her the first dose and make sure she's OK..." With one, final, sigh my partner got up and went to the get the medicine.  It was in a glass vial and the box also contained a pipette/dropper with the tube made from toughened glass and marked with the dosage level.  She drew the prescribed level and replaced the lid of the vial.  It did not escape my notice that there was a large disclaimer on the outer box stating "Do NOT administer to pregnant bitches as it may induce abortion".

And then I knew for certain.  NO respectable vet would prescribe this medicine to a lady who was, or even MIGHT BE, pregnant.

As Gisèle's screams and sobs of desperate anguish continued to reverberate throughout the house I stopped my partner before she ascended the stairs and indicated the sweet little girl's teddy-bear, lying unattended upon the sofa.  With a half-hearted smile my partner picked up the toy and we went up the stairs together.

We found the little Jack Russell curled up on the furthest edge of the bed, facing the wall.  It looked like she was trying to disappear into the corner as she whimpered and trembled.  My partner lifted her onto her lap and tried to soothe the grief-stricken and humiliated dog.
"Dearest Gisèle, please don't cry." I wuffed gently.  "You are young and pretty.  You've got so much time ahead of you to have puppies.  It will be all right."
"But what will people think of me?" wept poor Giz.  "What will people say when they find out?"
"People will understand, my love." I soothed. "It was not your fault; you haven't done anything wrong."

Whilst I comforted Gizmo my partner prepared to give the medicine.  She gently held Giz's mouth open and administered the dose in one rapid movement.  Gisèle spluttered and wrinkled up her snout - it clearly tasted utterly revolting - but she is a good girl and dutifully swallowed her medicine.
"Well done Giz." said my partner, giving the little dog another comforting cuddle.  "Do you want to come downstairs and have a little bit of dinner?"
"No thank you." whimpered Giz.
"I could look you out a bit of chicken, or something else that you really like?"
"No, I'm not hungry."
"OK.  Look - here's teddy.  He wants to know that you are OK."  My partner held out Gisèle's little stuffed toy.  At the sight of the small bear on which she had practised her grooming skills, Gizmo's expression changed.  She snatched it away from my partner and threw it across the room.
"Burn it!  Put it in the bin!  I never want to see it again!" shouted Giz, in a sudden explosion of violence.
"I'm not going to do that." replied my partner quietly.  She calmly got up and retrieved the teddy-bear and put it on the bed beside Gisèle.  Then she gently kissed Giz's head and suggested that she tried to get some sleep.

As my partner went downstairs, I decided that I would keep company with the unhappy little dog and sat down beside her.  Gizmo glared at me coldly.
"And you can s*d off as well." she snarled.

Her words hurt, but I knew that they were only borne out of her shock and distress.
"I'll go." I said, "But only as far as just outside the bedroom door.  I am not going to leave you while you are so unhappy."  I jumped down from the bed and curled up on the landing.  After a while I heard Gizmo's breathing settle down into a heavy, regular pattern and poked my head around the door.  Little Gisèle had fallen fast asleep, her head resting on her teddy-bear's lap with one paw on its ear.  I smiled sadly to myself and jumped softly back up onto the bed to lie beside her.

Poor Giz.  What a sad end to her happy plans.

Let us hope for better things next time...