CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 6. . . . November 15, 2002
Today we are celebrating Jasper's Day. It was my idea. Mom and Dad are staying home from work. I'm staying home from school. Everything we do will be in honor of Jasper - sort of like a birthday. But it isn't Jasper's birthday, and I tell myself not to think about what day it really is.
Riley's golden retriever, Jasper, is very ill with cancer. Riley understands that they cannot let Jasper suffer any longer, but letting go of his companion will be the hardest thing that Riley has ever done in his life.
Riley's family celebrates Jasper's last day. In the morning, their beloved pooch gets his very own serving of his favourite breakfast - scrambled eggs with cheese, and bacon. Riley remembers to bring the camera as he and his family take Jasper out for a ride in the van. The family drives to Jasper's favourite stream where he used to swim and fetch sticks when he was more agile. Jasper's sight and hearing are also failing, and his arthritis makes it difficult for him to move about. After the stream, Riley and his parents stop at The Big Scoop for a treat. Riley's father orders the "usual" for Jasper and himself - butterscotch ripple. Riley's father tells the ice-cream shop owner about Jasper, and the man comes out to the van to say good-bye to one of his loyal customers. After the ice cream, the family stops at Riley's Grandma's house, and she and her dog, Nikki, bid farewell to Jasper. Along the journey, Riley has taken several photographs of Jasper.
The family returns home, but only Riley and his mother get out of the van. It is time to say good-bye. Riley whispers in Jasper's ear, "You're the best dog in the whole world." Jasper licks Riley's cheek, and then he and Riley's father depart. Even though Riley knows that the veterinarian will give Jasper a shot and death will be quick and gentle for Jasper, it is terribly difficult to say good-bye to his beloved dog.
Riley's father returns home with Jasper's body wrapped in an arrowhead blanket, and the family buries him in the backyard. They include Jasper's old chew toy, a stick, his water dish and a picture of the family in his grave. The family laughs and cries as they remember Jasper and say their final good-byes.
As Riley lies in bed that night, his chest aches - he knows that he is going to miss Jasper so very much. When Riley looks at the photograph of himself and Jasper on his nightstand, he gets the idea to make a memory book of Jasper's life. He will never forget his friend.
Marjorie Blain Parker's tender and unsentimental treatment of a child's dealing with the death of a pet will no doubt resonant with readers of all ages. Although the narrative is heartrending, Parker incorporates levity in the story with examples of humour, warmth and cheerfulness. The gentle and honest story speaks of lessons about love, acceptance, and remembrance. Wilson's artwork is rendered in chalk pastels on coloured paper. The beautiful illustrations are soft and expressive and complement and extend the text completely. The copyright and title page, as well as the last double-page spread of the book, contain photographs of Jasper at varying points in his life.
Sylvia Pantaleo is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Victoria in Victoria, BC.
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