September 9, 2009

Jasper the White Trash Dog

Our dog Jasper, was quite different from any dog I have ever met. I met Jasper, who was already 3 years old, when I started to hang out with Adam in high school. (Adam got Jasper as a puppy when he was 12 years old.) I would go to his house most every day and be greeted warmly by his beautiful German Shepherd/Husky mixed buddy. Jasper was built like a Shepherd, but had pure white fur with dark doe like eyes. Upon my entrance, his ears, which usually stood up straight and proud, would lay back while he wagged his tail violently and whined for my attention. After Adam and I broke up, we didn’t see each other for three years, but when I came for a visit, after all that time, Jasper still remembered me. I got out of my car and he barked at me with intimidating vigor. Still down by the road, I called out, “Hey Jasper!” Immediately his threatening bark turned to an excited whimper as he tugged on his chain trying desperately to get to me. Once inside, he never left my side. His head in my lap for hours, looking up at me and letting me know that three years was way too long. (I agreed.)

After Adam and I got a place of our own, I went to Adam’s mom’s house to pick Jasper up and take him to his new home. As we left I remember wondering why his mom seemed excited to be getting rid of the mild-mannered dog I loved so much.

It wasn’t long before I figured it out. Adam never told me Jasper suffered from separation anxiety. The first time we left the apartment, we came home to find a pane of glass broken out of the front door and Jasper gone. We still to this day don’t know how he fit through that tiny rectangular hole. Did he have collapsible rodent genes we weren’t award of? Anyway, after a couple days of fruitless searches and many tears, Jasper turned up on the front porch 3 days later famished and tired. Did I tell you he wasn’t neutered? These little disappearances occurred every spring. Every time we see a dog that looks like him we wonder if they are one of Jasper’s illegitimate offspring.

Another thing he used to do, to get back at us, was his spiteful pooping. He loved to defecate in the house when we’d leave. It didn’t even have to be a long trip. One time I walked outside to get the mail, and when I returned I found a fresh steamy pile waiting for me. I looked at him and he stared back dumbfounded as if to say, “Whoops. I thought you were leaving.” Don’t even ask about the time he dumped in the heater. All I’ll say is there is nothing like coming home to the aroma of a freshly baked poop-pie.

Now, making bowel movements on the floor and disappearing weren’t Jasper’s only talents. This calm and loving dog had an alter ego when we closed the front door. For such a sweet animal, he acquired super strength while we were away, and on one occasion he had to have gotten the ability to fly.

When we first moved to Pittsburgh, we rented a beautiful house. The back porch was awesome, but it stood about a story and a half above the ground. Jasper loved the back porch and seemed quite content to sit back there when we weren't home. This worked for a couple of weeks until we found him running around the yard upon coming home. The porch was fine so we concluded that he had either jumped over the very tall railing or activated his rodent like ability to collapse his body and squeeze through the rungs. How he withstood that fall without breaking a leg is beyond us.

After the leaping episode, we decided to tie him up outside by the basement door. He really preferred to be outside, plus the added bonus of no urine in the house. This too was short lived when we came home to find the door rammed down and him sitting proudly on top of it. We weren’t sure how the door came to be lying on the basement floor until I put him on the back porch one day to scrub the kitchen floor. A few minutes went by when I heard a violent pounding on the door. I peeked out the window see my sweet dog head butting the door over and over again, until the hinges started to give. I quickly let him in and he looked scared, obviously not knowing I was still home.

Since we couldn’t leave him alone in the house and we couldn’t put him outside without losing another door, we decided to buy a cage. We bought one that was made primarily of strong plastic. The only metal on the cage was the door and lock. We spent $180 (that we didn’t have) and brought it home feeling like our problems were coming to an end. Needless to say, Jasper didn’t like his cage. He barked and cried when we put him in and he was still barking and crying when we came home.

One night, after Adam and I got home from work, we walked into our dark house and Jasper greeted us at the door.

“Who let the dog out?” Adam asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe Clayte came home and let him out.” I told him, thinking my brother, who lived with us at the time, had probably come home, let him out, and forgot to put him back in.

We were wrong. Adam turned on the light and we both screamed. Jasper’s poor face was covered in blood that was rich in color due to his light fur.

“What happened?” I asked as tears came to my eyes.

“Holy crap!” I heard Adam exclaim from the kitchen. He walked back into the hallway holding the lock that used to be on Jasper’s cage. It was mangled with stray pieces of plastic around it. Adam looked at me in disbelief and awe. “He chewed the lock off.”

“He did what?!” I shouted. The tears in my eyes immediately dried up as my thoughts drifted to that $180 we had spent three days prior. Feeling like I would have been better off flushing that money down the toilet, I no longer felt sorry for him. I got up and walked into the kitchen to see the destroyed cage. It was amazing. He chewed through plastic and metal and only lost one tooth. Who does that?!

I wish I could say that was the end, but it wasn’t. After we moved to our current address, and after his evening of barking, dubbing me white trash, he went back to using the living room as a toilet. I was terrified to leave him outside, since I was trying to show my neighbor I wasn’t white trash. As if the bodily fluids on my carpet weren’t bad enough, Jasper decided to try something new.

It was a beautiful summer day, Adam and I decided we didn’t want to turn on the oven, so we took our two kids to Pizza Hut. We were enjoying our family time together when a police officer came into the restaurant. As he scanned the room I jokingly asked Adam, “Is he looking for you?” We shared a laugh, but the gaiety of the situation subsided as the officer approached our table. Adam and I exchanged confused glances.

“Excuse me folks. I don’t mean to interrupt your dinner, but are you Mr. Johnston?” the policeman asked.

“Yes.” Adam replied feeling even more confused.

“Um….We have a situation. Your dog is on your roof.”

“He’s what?!” we both yelled.

“The fire department tried to get him down, but he keeps barking at them and we don’t want anyone to get bit.” the man explained.

I looked at Adam and mouthed, “The fire department?”

“I’ll be right there.” Adam told him.

I stayed at Pizza Hut with the kids while he ran up the street to deal with our little situation. When Adam returned he seemed slightly irritated. He sighed and began an account of what had happened.

As Adam pulled up the hill he saw police cars and fire trucks parked in front of our house with bystanders filling the streets watching Jasper, who had broken out the screen of our boys’ open bedroom window, and had then begun to prance on our porch roof like some sort of cocky reindeer. Adam went inside and up to the bedroom. He called Jasper in, and to his extreme embarrassment the crowd cheered and applauded as our imposter Rudolph made his way back inside.

Lesson 9: Dog on roof requiring the assistance of the police and fire departments= white trash

This became Jasper’s punishment of choice for us over the next few weeks. If there was even the slightest crack in a window he was making his way out on the roof. It got so bad we came home one day to a note from the police department that read, “Please stop putting your dog on the roof or we’ll have to press charges.” I laughed. Yes, that is how it went down. “Jasper, we’re leaving, get on the roof now!”

After that, Jasper went to live with my parents for a while. They lived in the middle of no where and we thought that would be good for him. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good for my parents. After filling the sliding glass door track with feces, a run in with a porcupine, and night after night of incessant barking, my parents had had enough. We brought him home.

By this time Jasper was just shy of 12 years old. His whole life he had been as playful as a puppy if you wanted him to be, but after his return something wasn't right. He no longer wanted to go outside, not even to use the bathroom. He started going to the basement to do his business, even when we were home. He lay around all day, hardly noticing any of us.

About a month later a very large lump protruded from under his fur on the back of his right leg. We took him to the vet who found he had cancer. We took him home and cried as we realized what had to be done. He wasn’t going to get better and we couldn’t stand to see him in this state. As much as it broke our hearts, we had Jasper put down.

So, here’s to you Jasper, on the 5 year anniversary of your death, we still have never found anyone to take your place. You may have been slightly crazy, but you fit our family like no one else ever will. I hope as you look down on us, while prancing on your giant rooftop in the sky, I hope you know we still miss you, think of you, and love you very much.

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