Monday, February 08, 2010
Obit Monday - For Jasper
Usually I talk about medieval history, historical fiction or my writing as it pertains to both, but today I want to honour a family member who has been with me and my husband since my early writing career, but today passed away. I am fine with it, so please you don't have to offer condolences, but I wanted to dedicate this blog post to Jasper.
When we moved house in in 1992 to a village setting within sight of the countryside, we decided that we wanted to share it with a cat and began looking round for a likely candidate. We have a rescue shelter just up the road, so we went for a look to see what they had.
We had initially thought of obtaining a kitten (as many do), but the shelter had none at the time, but a large population of cats. There was a magnificent marmalade tabby called Garfield whom we rather liked, but then another one caught my eye. He was a tabby too, but with darker markings. If his colours were confectionary, then he was bitter chocolate, pale fudge and caramel toffee, with a discreet little white bib on his chest. What made us choose him above Garfield, who was looking very disgruntled, and some of the others lurking at the backs of their pens, was Jasper's utter friendliness. He was rubbing against the bars of his cage, vibrating from the strength of his purr, and his tail straight up in the air like a poker. When brought out for a looksee, the friendliness expanded and blossomed. He went to everyone, expecting the best from them, and giving of his own. The staff told us he was approximately two years old. He had been picked up as a stray, living off the scraps outside a fish and chip shop. Most of his life he was still very partial to chips - and curry sauce!
So that was that. Decision made. Jasper came to join us in the summer of 1992. He leaves us in the late winter of 2010, and there is a hole where he has dwelt, but one lined with joyful memories.
His favourite trick as young cat full of beans, was to go down the avenue to the next turning and hide behind a large plane tree at the junction. There he would lie in wait for passers by on their daily business and then spring out on them with a triumphant 'worra worra worra!' like Tigger in Winnie the Poo. He would bat their ankles (claws sheathed) and then gallop off with his tail on high and canted to one side. Another of his favourite wheezes was to go in people's houses if they left a door open - which could be dangerous. Like the time he strolled into a house where an Alsation dog lived. Fortunately the dog was out on its walk with the neighbour's husband. When the lady of the house emerged from the kitchen, she was highly surprised to see Jasper walking down her stairs after giving himself a thorough tour of her rooms! Another time, he was discovered asleep in someone's airing cupboard! He had to be kept in whenever we had deliveries because he would be off clambering into the vans to investigate. He nearly got driven away by the French polisher man when we had an Edwardian table restored! Down the long years of his life, he had a couple of brushes with death. He was knocked over about a year after we had him. We didn't see the accident, just found him unconscious by the side of the road when we went looking after he didn't return at meal-time (something he never missed). Astonishingly he recovered completely from that one. After a week of staggering around with concussion and what must have been the mother of all headaches, he was as right as rain. Aged 14, he ate a blue-tit and contracted salmonella poisoning that put him in vet hospital for several days while he was re-hydrated and pumped with antibiotics. But he pulled through and it was back to business as usual.
Jasper coped beautifully with the introduction of another cat into the house when he was six. He was the kind of animal who loved everyone at first sight, even curling up to sleep with the neighbour's moggy on sunny afternoons in the garden. Dottie, our second cat was sadly not as amenable to affection and preferred to hiss and spit at Jasper rather than be a companion as we'd hoped, but he still tried to wash her and be friends. The dog he coped with too, barely turning a hair at the introduction of a boisterous puppy into his world. They got on well - within their parameters.
We lost Dottie in the autumn of 2009 - she was only 13, but she had never been robust like Jasper. He continued on, but we had noticed him becoming increasingly frail, and this last couple of weeks, he had suddenly developed severe fluid retention, was barely eating and although still alert, life was obviously becoming a struggle. The mind was still willing, but the body was no longer responding.
I am deeply sad that Jasper has gone. When I was writing, he would sleep in the basket behind my chair, or doze in the garden on a sunny day while I checked notes. Before his arthritis got too bad, he would sometimes accompany me and the dog on an evening stroll round the block. He was a real character with a kind, fun-loving personality (unless you happened to be a blue-tit!) A real gentleman even to the end.
Hale and farewell, my beautiful cat. Jasper: Circa 1990 - Feb 8 2010