Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Eulogy for Jasper

Jasper was part of the Capriola family for 16 years. He died on Sunday. Diane Capriola, who owns Little Shop of Stories, our children's independent bookstore in Decatur, Georgia, asked me if Comfort Snowberger might write a Life Notice for Jasper in the way she writes her Life Notices in EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS. I was honored to be asked, and so was Comfort. Here is Jasper's Life Notice on Thanksgiving Day, shared with permission from Diane. The family will hold a memorial service today. Comfort would be proud. I send my love. Here's to all good dogs, everywhere.

We Come to Celebrate Jasper Capriola:
A Life Well Lived, A Dog Well Loved

Life Notice by Comfort Snowberger:
Explorer, Recipe Tester, and Funeral Reporter

November 22, 2007

It’s Thanksgiving Day, the day that we give thanks for all our blessings. But, as Uncle Edisto tells us, you can’t have blessings without sorrows, as that is the way of life. This Thanksgiving there is sorrow mixed in with the blessings – just imagine the sadness all over Decatur, Georgia this week as the Capriola family said goodbye to their beloved dog Jasper, a beautiful, white, furry mutt from the Atlanta Humane Society who, as a puppy less than eight weeks old, wagged his tale and blinked his big brown eyes and inspired Diane to say, “That’s the puppy that’s going home with us today!”

So Diane and Rich brought Jasper home with them in 1991. He was so little, he scrunched himself under the driver’s seat all the way home, and who could blame him? He was a tiny puppy who had charmed his new owners but now what? Would they be the right owners for him? He cried all night long at Diane and Rich’s house because he wasn’t sure, because he was scared, and because he was still a baby. Diane kept saying, “It’s OK, Jasper. I’m right here.” And that’s all it took. That and the pasta. Jasper loved pasta. Sauce or no sauce, it didn’t matter. Jasper loved pasta.

I asked Diane about Jasper, as I am an expert on dogs, having had the most wonderful dog of all time, Dismay, Funeral Dog Extraordinaire, for seven of my ten years on the planet. Here’s what Diane told me.

When Jasper first came home, there were no kids at the house – this was before Nick, Will, and Jennifer were born. Nick, Will, and Jennifer did not come from the Atlanta Humane Society, but they were just like real brothers and a sister to Jasper, it’s just that Jasper was the oldest. When he came home from the Humane Society, he was so small he fit inside a men’s size ten shoe. Nick, Will and Jennifer were never that small. Can you imagine a baby fitting into a man’s shoe? Jasper did.

But he grew fast. And when Nick, Will, and Jennifer came along, Jasper was overjoyed. Siblings! Kids who dropped food on the floor! Suddenly there were lots of people to protect and lots of feet to lick. Lots of loving to do. Jasper loved his family so much that he would practically bend in half when they came home at the end of the day. He was so glad to see them that he wiggled himself into noodles of happiness. Have you ever seen a dog do this? It’s the most comical, endearing thing. To think that we, human beings, could make dogs so happy.

Jasper loved to go to the park, to eat raw chicken with his dog friends, to "beat up" innocent unsuspecting puppies, to run on the beach, and to play with his best friend Buddy, a golden-lab mix who left this world a few years back. Jasper was an all-around Good Dog, a noble dog, a wonder dog, a silly dog, like all good dogs are. He even had a special talent: he could catch ice cubes that Rich spit to him. Ha!

A few years back Jasper was diagnosed with a cancer of a nasty sort- the tumor was growing on his rear end and was apparently inoperable. He smelled bad. Very bad. Almost all the time. But the Capriolas didn’t care (love is like that). They wanted Jasper to live forever and they took him to Dr. Mike Smith of Emory Animal Hospital in Decatur, Georgia – the most wonderful vet in the whole wide world. Dr. Mike suggested to Diane and Rich that he try to remove the tumor anyway. Diane and Rich said yes, and that decision gave them almost one more year with Jasper. He battled ferociously to live and for a while he was “The Dog Who Lived.” Last Sunday he died at the old dog age of 16, surrounded by his family.

But he will always live in the hearts of those who loved him. That’s the way it is with dogs and people, you know? I had to learn this the hard way when I lost my dog, Dismay. All I have to do is think of his bravery, his loyalty, his smiling puppy face (even when he got older he had that face), and he lives again, just like Jasper lives on. And now Jasper no longer suffers. Or smells. Poor Jasper. But what a hero he was. Is. And heroic is the Capriola family for taking such good care of such a good dog and for loving him back as much as he loved them.

Isn’t love a wonderful thing? Aren’t dogs the most faithful and loving creatures? Aren’t we lucky to know them? And aren’t we lucky to have families and friends to surround us in sad times and happy times… at all times. Thank goodness for families. For friends. For each other. Let’s all hug one another now and tell Good Dog stories.