Jasper 12-24-99 - 1-15-11
Roger here.... Ten years ago... Our daughters grew up, graduated, and moved out of the house. We were happy, but there was a definite void in our lives.
Within the year, we drove to Bloomington IN. In the parking lot at the Indiana University Football Stadium, we met Jasper for the first time. He was nine months old and living with a grad student at Indiana University.
The young man who owned Jasper wisely realized that he was too busy to care for a dog that was so full of life. Jasper became an integral part of our lives from that moment.
On the way home, we stopped at a pet store to buy the essentials for taking care of a dog. Dianne went into the store while I walked Jasper around the parking lot. I will never forget how he looked at me during that first walk with those big brown eyes. We bonded instantly.
When we opened the doors of our house to him, he immediately bounded up the two flights of stairs, rarely touching the steps. We watched in amazement as he leaped OVER (not on) the bed. Our boney, skinny-looking dog with the hind legs you could see through on a sunny day was an athlete.
When we went to bed that night, he did not hesitate to hop up and burrow his way under the covers where he warmed our feet -- a nightly ritual for the next ten years.
Jasper loved me, but he adored Dianne. He quickly became her shadow, and remained so. One day, I took him off his leash while hiking in the woods a couple miles from our house. He gave me one of those brown-eyed looks and went into a 35 mph sprint. No way for me to catch him. He made his way straight home to Dianne.
He loved to run - to chase squirrels, to leap over flower beds, to chase tennis balls (when he was in the mood). Unlike most whippets, he also loved to swim.
He was not a good swimmer, but any time there was activity near the water he joyfully leaped in as if he were a labrador. He never met a person he did not like, running up to strangers while wagging his tail and begging for attention. (He was not a good guard dog.)
He was so very, very gentle with our granddaughter, Kaia, during her toddler years. I have vivid memories of her leading him around the house on his leash, while he remained so calm and patient and walked so-o-o slowly beside her.
We loved Jasper so much, that we found Chaplin a couple years later. Chaplin is a sweet, gentle, fun dog who has been a good companion for all of us (including Jasper). However, from the outset, it was evident that Jasper would be the alpha male -- a role that Chaplin readily acceded to. Jasper's role at the dog park became one of intervening with the other dogs if (in Jasper's mind) they became too rough with his dog, Chaplin.
Jasper always considered himself to be a person. (Dianne and I did, too.)
Jasper was not without his faults :-). He was an expert at stealing Chaplin's treats (and ours). If we forgot to put the cat food away, as soon as we closed the door, he would immediately leap onto the console of the motor home, where he licked the bowl clean. He often knocked over the trash can, but he would always wait until we left the room.
He did not bark often, but if a large dog or a raccoon (and in one case an armadillo) got too close to the campsite he did not hesitate to run them off.
He was an expert counter surfer. One evening, after work, when Dianne and I were enjoying a walk around the yard, the two chicken breasts that were thawing at the back of the counter disappeared. There was no evidence that they had ever been on the counter other than a very clean, empty plate. We soon found Jasper in the corner of the family room, head lowered, tail between his legs, looking at us with doleful brown eyes. It was hard to be angry with him.
Two weeks ago Dianne noticed blood in his urine. Since he was acting perfectly normal, we were not that concerned - the internet led us to believe that it was probably a bladder infection. We took him to the vet, that day. We were devastated to learn that he had a large tumor on one of his kidneys. An x-ray revealed that the cancer had spread to his lungs. We knew that there was no hope. The vet was surprised that he was doing so well. He was not in any kind of visible distress, so we brought him home, where he received more table food and coddling than he has ever had in his life. (Actually, he has always received a lot of coddling).
We were blessed with two weeks of the Jasper that we have always known. Perky ears, curiosity, those intelligent eyes, prancing along during his walks -- always insisting on taking the lead. We also had the mischievious Jasper -- stolen cat food from the console, stolen treats from Chaplin, trash can surfing.
Two days ago at the dog park he chased Chaplin doing a full-blown 35 mph run. So glorious, yet so sad. It was a great day. It was his last good day.
We knew yesterday morning that he had gone into a rapid decline. By the middle of the day, he could hardly walk. On the way to the vet's office, he licked my hand. His last view before passing was of Dianne's face.
Writing this is one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I am writing this because it is too difficult for Dianne to do so. Selfishly, it is also therapeutic for me. We have lost pets before and are familiar with the pain, but this is different; Jasper was much more to us than a pet.
We'll get back to our regular, hopefully upbeat, posts in a few days.
By the way, our blog name will not change, because Jasper's spirit will always be traveling with us.