“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.

Our four legged friends

January 18, 2010 § 7 Comments

Last fall, David asked me for my opinion and some ideas on a piece about pets.  The library in Grande Prairie does a writing competition every year, and this year pets were the topics.  I’ve always felt that pets are an important part of a person’s life for those of us that have them.  They can bring us great joy, they can disarm even the most protected person, and we can learn so much from them.

It was my last at home (home being my mom’s place) over the holidays before heading back to Calgary.  I had just returned home from Edmonton and there was a cute waggily tail waiting to greet me at the back door.  I let Tetris into the back porch so we could properly greet one another without the discomforts of the cold outdoors.  That waggily tail continued to wag, and as usual, Tetris was beside herself with joy to see me.  She eventually calmed down and became the sweetest dog in the world (and no I’m not biased at all).

As I sat in the doorway petting her and scratching her belly, I noticed just how relaxed and at peace I was with her.  It’s taken me a long time to become that way with other human beings, but with a pet it’s just so natural.  I remembered a friend in Calgary mentioning once that she wished she could be as at home with herself with the rest of the world as she is when she’s hanging out with her four legged friend.  What is it about a pet that can only bring out the best in us?

A dog operates from only one place.  They don’t know how to lie or deceive, they are easily hurt, but trust again just as readily.  They will always be home to greet you, even on the days you may have parted on a harsh word because they left a spot on your tie… or chewed up one of your favourite shoes.  And yet, they remain a source of love and affection.  That’s what being on the receiving end of unconditional love is like.  Imagine if most people operated from the same plane.  Where those you interact with are not a source of distrust or stress, but such an unfathomably endless well of joyful emotion, that you know no matter what you do, they love you anyway.

This is the lesson I learn and relearn from Tetris every time I’m back home.  The ability to open myself up and accept her the way she is… holes in the backyard, mud on my jeans and everything… and allow her to accept me the way I am… messy apartment, laundry that’s never done… and everything.  It is easier done with a dog, they don’t have the capacity to judge.  But what if we refrained from judging one another as well?  How much easier would it be?  How much farther ahead would the world be because we trusted one another and weren’t scared to be who we are?

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