Furkids And Our Family

February 23, 2015 § 3 Comments

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The end of February is a favourite time of year.  Winter is coming to a close and it’s a tradition in our family to watch the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Even Mica, our seven-month-old puppy, joined us this year, frequently gawking up at the TV with curiosity at the furkids running into our living room.

This year’s viewing was bittersweet. It’s a year ago later this week that we suddenly lost our beloved Jasper.

If there was ever an example of how much a pooch becomes part of the family, it was Jasper. I’ve written a few times about how Jasper thought he was a human.

My eyes welled up often as I watch the Dog Show as they described the role canines play in watching out for their families while providing amusements for adults and children.

It’s a cliché, but dogs really are humans’ best friends. They are loyal and don’t hold grudges. They’re always ready to make our day. They make you smile, even when you don’t feel like it. They provide comfort and are the best listeners, whether we have tales of woe or happy stories to share.

Shortly after we brought Mica into our home in September, a work colleague, Karry, shared the verse below by author Erica Jong. It perfectly describes what dogs mean to us:

Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love,
they depart to teach us about loss.
A new dog never replaces an old dog;
It merely expands the heart. If you have loved
many dogs your heart is very big.

Joyce and I have been married nearly 29 years and we’ve had a dog almost 27 of those.

First, there was Sammi. She was always nervous and traumatized from shoddy treatment prior to joining our family. She was smart-as-a-whip, the most patient big sister when Peter was a toddler, gnawing on her legs, and the most loyal dog ever.

Then there was Jasper, a golden lab/shepherd/mutt cross.  He was once described diplomatically as rambunctious by a neighbour but he wanted to be everyone’s friend. His belief that he was a person was defined by taking up his full third share of our bed.

Mica, a Bouvier-Golden Retriever cross, is still forming her personality, which, much like her fur, is still trying to figure itself out – she was born completely black but now tufts of white are showing through.

Anyone who thinks dogs are just animals has never come home from a stressful day to a happy-faced puppy, wagging its tail, bounding up to greet you.

Here’s to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for reminding us of all the various breeds of these fine companions. And here’s to all the joy they bring my family and all the other furparents out there.

Goodbye But Never To Be Forgotten

March 3, 2014 § 10 Comments

Jasper soaking up a sunbeam.

Jasper soaking up a sunbeam.

I had absolutely no intention of getting another dog after Sammi went to Canine Heaven in July 2002.

The idea certainly wasn’t on my mind that Sunday afternoon just two months later when I was off to Staples with Joyce to get some office supplies for the communications business I operated at the time.

She suggested we stop in at the Humane Society along the way. I recall thinking there would be no harm in looking.

I didn’t buy the printer cartridge and paper I’d set out to purchase that day. Instead, it would be the start of another wonderful journey with a very different dog from the smart-as-a-whip, loyal and protective, but timid girl who’d been part of our family for 15 years.

Check out the blog I authored four years ago profiling the short story I penned about Jasper for a writing competition.

We had to say goodbye to him this past Thursday before I finished turning it into a book. It was sudden and much too soon.

Once you read the blog, you’ll know that Jasper would want his story to be told. It is one that deserves to be shared with the world.

Jasper was just eight weeks old when we met him. Joyce and I were immediately drawn to him but we didn’t make any impulse decisions as we are known to do.

In the ensuing days, Peter and I went back and looked at dogs and then the three of us returned within a week. I remember wandering around the Humane Society looking at other possibilities while Joyce and Peter had turned their attention back to the floppy eared Golden Lab/Shepherd/mutt.

They brought him to me to make a final decision.

I was trying to make a serious choice as I took him for a brief walk and then picked him up. It didn’t take long for that happy face to make the response a resounding Yes.

Like any puppy, Jasper created his fair share of frustration, including eating some heirloom books and an autographed Jean Beliveau autobiography. A neighbour lady politely referred to him as rambunctious.

However, once Jasper became a person, as he clearly thought of himself, he turned into my hero.

The world would be a better place if more people had Jasper’s qualities. He lived life to the fullest and made sure those around him enjoyed his company. He could make me laugh even on the crappiest days.

If he was a regular school child, Jasper would have been the class clown, but always to amuse others. He was always himself – gregarious, happy-go-lucky and fun but equally there if you needed to talk to someone.

A co-worker who came by to express her condolences described Jasper as a character and related a story that made me smile.

When she and her daughter took a walk with us once, the girl hopped onto a park bench to rest and Jasper jumped up right beside her as if he were just another child.

Even in his waning days, Jasper knew how to capture a heart.

We took in a boarder in early January and it didn’t take long for Brianne and Jasper to be fighting over space on the couch. Once territory was established, he would cuddle in just like he did when he assumed his one-third of the bed with Joyce and I.

Even on his last night with us, Jasper gave us glimpses of his old self. We tried to distract him with treats. He was pacing around after his first of multiple seizures. He chowed the morsels down like he did as a puppy.

He was eager to go with us on a walk down to the mailbox. Jasper’s tail wagged spritely and he even surged ahead, something he hadn’t done much lately. Perhaps he knew the end was near and he wanted to give us a final gift.

I will end with excerpts from Facebook tributes Peter, who is attending college in Kelowna, and Joyce wrote:

“Today I was informed that one of my best and oldest friends was unfairly taken from this plane of existence. Jasper was the only being to always show his overwhelming excitement to see me and tolerated moods both good and bad. He never once judged me for coming home in the wee hours of the morning, even if I had had a few too many drinks.

He, as all the best dogs do, had a great sense of emotional ESP and never failed in cheering me up after a bad day. He was a great wrestling opponent and a decent snuggler. He was a barrel of laughs and a cauldron of joy. I will endlessly miss his adorable furry face.

Now, he is leaping across the Rainbow Bridge, past the gates of Asgard and into the mighty halls of Puppy Valhalla to receive a Kong from Odin himself, filled with the finest peanut butter in all 12 kingdoms.

So long, Jasp-articus. It was a slice.”

Joyce wrote:

“Today we said goodbye to our funny, crazy, wonderful, cuddly, loving and always entertaining Jasper. He was the best thing at the end of the day … coming home to that wagging tail, happy face and overwhelmingly enthusiastic nature.

I’m sure that for a long time we will hear the jingle of his collar as he woke up, the click of toenails on the floor coming to check out what was interesting in the fridge and his distinctive “hooting” when we came home too late or were ignoring his more subtle hints that it was time for a walk.

“Rest peacefully my sweet boy.”

Celebrating Our Fortune

May 3, 2010 § 2 Comments

I love to drive, particularly when there’s interesting terrain. It doesn’t get any better than going from Banff to Jasper along the Icefield Parkway, and then north via Highway 40 to Grande Prairie.

One reason I enjoy getting behind the wheel is that I find it relaxing, a great time to contemplate life, particularly on a beautiful, albeit long journey.

This past weekend, my thoughts turned to just how fortunate we are to have such a spectacular playground in our backyard – a photo opportunity around every corner of the highway – as I passed by one fabulous vista after another on my way home through the Mountain Parks.

I can’t wait to go back this summer and spend more time, camping and hiking.

We in Western Canada are certainly lucky to have Banff and Jasper National Parks so close. Countless tourists flock to the region year-round to take in their splendours and share our fortune for a few days, or longer, for sightseeing or recreation.

Then there is Rena, a young, effervescent New Zealander my wife and I met while having lunch at the Jasper Brewing Co. on Sunday. The pub is a good spot for her to earn cash and check out a country she’s already fallen in love with after six months.

What a great opportunity!

I also had a reason to consider how blessed I am in another way while on my trip to southern Alberta, which included a visit with my brother and his family in Canmore and taking in the Alberta Municipal Communicators Conference, held in High River on Thursday and Friday.

My brother was telling me about his close friend, Dave, who doesn’t have long to live because of a terminal brain tumour, but is managing to live with dignity, grace and a sense of humour.

It is a second time in recent weeks I have learned of someone so full of life but whose time is cut short.

Here in Grande Prairie, Samuel, who had been a political prisoner in Uganda for seven years, died a few weeks ago, shortly after learning he had a brain tumour.

Samuel, whose daughter was born while he was in prison, only knew this child for 14 months.

Why does it seem that often the people with the most reason and desire to live have their lives end far before their time?

There is no logic. The only sense we can make of it is that we need to make the most of the time we, ourselves, have.

When people like Samuel pass on so quickly, it’s a reminder that we should celebrate the fortune we have. We may not feel like getting up in the morning or have a minor ache or pain, but there are always people who are worse off.

What will you do to celebrate your fortune? I think I will plan my next trip to the mountains.

“It’s not all a Dog’s Life”: Jasper

April 12, 2010 § 4 Comments

A few weeks ago, Wendy mentioned the writing competition I was entering with the Grande Prairie Public Library. The theme was pets and I wrote about my dog, Jasper. The gist of my submission was that he thinks he’s a person.

I was a non-winner as we used to say when I worked with the Ontario Lottery Corporation in terms of prizes, but Jasper won the admiration of those who read the story before I entered it in the competition.  I share it below for your entertainment.

It was also a winning experience in that I don’t often get a chance to write feature pieces and it was a lot of fun encouraging others to enter the competition and to have a friend drop the gauntlet at my feet to get me to push my creative skills.

I am happy for whoever won. I have had my taste of awards throughout my career and I believe Jasper’s story will have a future life in some other form. Stay tuned.

I hope you enjoy reading about Jasper’s escapades as much as I have writing about them and experiencing them … well most of them.

It would be great to hear about your own pet experiences!

And now, without further ado, meet Jasper!

A Day In The Life of Jasper

Hi, my name is Jasper. I am eight years old and this is my story.

Before I get into telling you about my life, I must apologize in advance if you have trouble understanding what I have written.

First, my housemates insist on having swivel office chairs in front of our computer.  It is difficult enough for a short, furry person, who is only 2 ½ feet tall to get up into the chair, tuck his tail, and then steady the seat in one spot. On top of that, they don’t have a keyboard that is conducive to someone with dew claws.

But it is not my fault I am going through this ordeal. The other guy in the house should be writing this tale. He is the writer of the family.

However, it is Saturday, February 20 and the deadline for the writing competition is looming. My story deserves to be told.

Therefore, it is up to me to enter my own submission, even though I am not a gifted writer.

My family would tell you that I wouldn’t even know a subordinate claws.

I am not sure what that word means. I think it has something to do with equality – we all get one third of the bed!

But I digress.

Today was a great day.

The others in the house know the routine for a Saturday morning.  They have begun to realize that I know the difference between Saturdays and Sundays and weekdays.

Before they have even made coffee, I get out of our bed and remind them it is time to head out to the hot tub so I can have my kong filled with peanut butter and treats. I have them trained that I need some cold coffee to complete my weekend morning repast.

I go outside and enjoy the sunshine as they sit in the tub. Apparently I would not like water that hot. My baths in the big soaker tub inside are with tepid water and special shampoo.

It is busy for me, trying to get those tasty morsels out of the kong while also protecting everyone from the birds hidden in the hedge. First these vermin will infest the shrubs. I think they will try to get into the house next! Not on my watch!

I scare those pests off and resume my breakfast.

I don’t let the others rest for long after they finish their soak in the tub. They should know by now, the next thing on the agenda is going for a walk, often around Hudson’s Pond, located in the south end of the city.

They know the routine. I pace. I sing. I pace some more. I pant. I sometimes even throw in a howl. This will go on for about an hour. Eventually, they realize resistance is futile.

My efforts are for their own good. If not for me, they would get involved in other things and put off our excursion. I need to be exercised. I think they would spell it … e-x-o-r-c-i-z-e-d.

Walks are a good thing. I get to catch up on the news of the neighbourhood as I snuffle my way along the paths and roadways.

There are also regular snacks, especially when we meet people with those creatures called “dogs”. I am always very curious about them so my family wants to distract me.

Today is a good day as we reach the pond. No critters are in sight.  I am allowed to run ahead.

There are a lot of things to see and smell. There have been animals out here – coyotes, deer and moose. I always enjoy seeing these “big dogs” but I am not allowed to play and frolic with them for some reason.

We complete our outing. It was satisfying. Now it is time to nap.

Hmmm, which bed should I choose?

I pick the couch downstairs. It has a nice cozy blanket and is quiet and dark there. There are fluffy pillows and I can bury my nose.

An hour later …

Ahhh … stretch. That was a good snooze.

I wander around to see what everyone else is doing.

Hmmm! The house smells yummy. They are preparing f-o-o-d. That is one of the words they spell out when I am around.  I know they are up to something when they spell out … w-a-l-k … or … p-a-r-k … or… v-a-n … or … t-r-e-a-t.

Since I am not allowed to sit at the table yet – that will happen sooner or later – I assume a strategic position to catch anything that drops.

I did take matters in my own paws one time.  Once, when we had company, I helped myself to their bowl of cereal on the table.  Mmmm. Froot Loops.

Now, I am careful not get banished. That will surely mean I don’t get to be the pre-rinse cycle for the dishes when dinner is done.

My family has come a long way over the years. At one time, they tried to suggest that I should stay out of the living room as if I were some kind of animal!  Can you believe that?

Baby gates! Pffft.

Granted, not having access to the whole house wouldn’t be quite as bad as the indignation of living in a dog house. However, by the time it came to move across the country from Ontario, they found hotels that accept furry children with tails.

I must admit, I didn’t get off to the best start. But the way I like to think of it … if I were a dog or cat, I would have been long gone.

You see, I consumed books voraciously before the age of two – literally.

I had a taste for heirloom and special books, including an autographed Jean Beliveau book. The woman here was so concerned I would be a goner when her husband arrived back from a conference that she didn’t inform him of the munched book until six months later!

Well, it wasn’t totally chewed up. I did leave the autographed page unscathed. I don’t know what the problem was. I always saw the two of them spending a lot of time with books.

Then there was the time the other guy fell asleep on the couch downstairs and left his glasses on the coffee table. I was curious. They were crunchy. You fill in the blanks of what was said … because he couldn’t see me. This is a G-rated story.

Eating glasses didn’t help me see better anyway. My teeth just hurt and I got in a lot of trouble. That is one of the last times I really got scolded. I stuck to chewing what I am supposed to after that.

Well, except for the time I got into that black plastic bag with turkey bones after Christmas. I can’t believe I ate the whole thing. My tummy hurt and they made me see the doctor.

I don’t think that was the time he said I was a “solid” boy.

Or then there was the time I tried to turn on the TV using the remote with my teeth. I learned yet another use for Duct Tape.  I don’t know what everyone was upset about. The device worked perfectly after that!

I am pretty much a regular child now. Like I said, sometimes I can be demanding for walk time or snacks. But mostly I am pretty content with my life … just like any other 85 lb. floppy-eared, furry boy with brown eyes and a long nose.

So, if you meet me on the street, be sure to stop and say hi. I am a real people person.

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