Jasper is still sleeping when I wake up. He sleeps a lot these days. He’s sprawled out, taking up half the bed like he always does. I nudge him gently with my foot, but he keeps dozing. That’s okay. He can sleep in. Today is his day.
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 honour 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 family celebrates Jasper’s last day. In the morning, their beloved Golden Retriever 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 goodbye. 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 goodbye 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 gently place 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 goodbyes.
That night, the house is empty without Jasper. Riley’s chest aches as he tries to fall asleep. Mom and Dad got Jasper before he was even born; Jasper had always been in his life. Tomorrow will be Riley’s first day without Jasper.
Riley looks at the photograph of himself and Jasper on his nightstand and thinks of all the photographs he took today, 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 resonates with readers of all ages. The gentle and honest story speaks of lessons about love, acceptance, and remembrance. Janet Wilson’s soft and expressive illustrations are rendered in chalk pastels on coloured paper.
Jasper’s Day won the ASPCA Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award.
A Memory Book for Harry
Recently, a friend in our online community lost her Golden Retriever to an aggressive cancer. The story of Harry and the beautiful memory book that was created for him and his surviving sister Lucy appears on our sister site, Red Star Café. The story includes a YouTube version of the memory book, with a haunting rendition of Into the West by Annie Lennox (from Lord of the Rings). Read the story here.