I never got to meet Jasper the dog, but I did get to talk with him on the phone. Well, sort of at least. Back in November of 2005, when I interviewed James Lileks for PJ Media in its very formative stages, I had unknowingly reached James during one of Minneapolis’s monthly tests of is hurricane warning sirens. I can’t find the interview online (Update: reprinted here), but here’s how it began:
James Lileks often seems to luxuriate in the past, but I was still rather surprised when I spoke with him on the phone, to catch him standing outside his South Minneapolis home seemingly reliving a scene from 1964’s Dr. Strangelove.
“Hold on a second — it appears we’re under nuclear attack” he tells me. “Hear that?” And indeed, even through the phone, I could hear sirens wailing.
“It’s actually the monthly test of the local emergency sirens. But for dogs, this must be like hearing God!”
Even on my end of the connection, Jasper the dog’s howling and moaning cut through the siren and static, in a contrapuntal harmony with the siren not unlike the Gregorian modes of medieval monks. Or maybe Grace Slick of the early Jefferson Airplane.
“That’s Jasper”, Lileks says. “It’s like a homing beacon for dogs. The Great Wolf In The Sky is calling, and they just love it! It’s an ancient ancestral thing, he’s got his snout proudly in the air, and he’s pining away!”
Last night at the gym, I was finishing up on the treadmill, when I decided to click over to the Bleat, expecting the usual Monday morning merriment from James; instead, as soon as I saw the headline — “Elegy,” — and the accompanying video tribute to Jasper, I knew what had happened. And I had to stop reading instantly. Because I wasn’t sure what would have been worse if I had continued on: walking out of a gym balling my eyes out, or having to actually explain to someone there that I was crying over a dog who I knew from the Internet who had died. But I guarantee you, especially if you’ve ever owned a pet, that you will too, reading Lileks’ moving tribute to the proud defender of Jasperwood.
Did I say RIP in my headline? I probably shouldn’t have — I suspect things are far too frenetic in Doggie Heaven for its residents to actually get much sleep.