"I bet I look a right sight!" Ada looks up from her precarious seat on the floor to see two 6-foot plus green aliens in her lounge. The look is almost child-like, a stare upwards that slowly keeps going until reaching the top of the view.
"He's been looking after me like this for years, ever since the arthritis has stopped me getting around easily," Ada whispers, "but I know he can't go on like this. We're both getting too old. We've been looking into moving into a home together. It's not as simple as it sounds." In the time we've taken to bandage her head and stop it leaking, Derek has returned. Ada stops talking, perhaps not wanting to upset him.
"Right," says Derek, pointing out each of the medications in the box, "this is the one for blood pressure, this one for her heart, this one for the pain from her arthritis, and the big box is full of calcium tablets."
"Thank you, Derek." In the background, the sound of paws clawing away at a door are a constant reminder of the caged animal.
"What dog have you got?" I ask. My knowledge of dogs is limited. I know they have tails, four legs, and bark. And I know that I don't like them particularly. Owners' assurances that "Oh, he's the friendliest dog in the world, you don't need to worry about him," are often followed by a nip on the hand and a now apologetic owner sheepishly mumbling "Well, he's never done that before!" I'd rather not take the risk.
"He's a beautiful Labrador. Wouldn't hurt a fly." At least I know what a Labrador is.
"And who walks him?"
"Mostly I do," Derek answers, a little insulted I fear. "Sometimes, when our son's in town, he'll come and do it for us. But normally I take him to the shops once a day, you know, when I get the paper and a few odds and ends, and he's happy with that." Knowing the area, I realise that the shops are a good quarter of a mile away. "Helps keep me fit, too!"
In the meantime, we've given Ada some pain relief and prepared to move her onto our chair and out to the ambulance. I'd have preferred to keep her laying flat and not moving her hip, but it was an impossible idea, the tiny corridor and curved walls not allowing for a stretcher of any kind. The morphine would hopefully work its magic and prevent her from feeling any more pain.
"She'll want her dressing gown, if that's all right with you? I'll just go get it from upstairs."
"Why don't you give me directions, and I'll go for you. Don't need you running up and down for no reason."
"Right. Well it's up the stairs, first door, right in front of you. It's the light blue one, hanging on the back of the door. The dark blue one's mine, so don't bring that one, or I'll never hear the end of it. But just so you know, it's the room where I put the dog."
Just for once, I decide to be brave. "Don't worry, Derek. I'm sure he won't bite me just for taking a dressing gown. It's probably not his colour anyway!"
"Fine, then. I'll just make sure everything's locked up and switched off downstairs, then I'll join you in the ambulance."
We wheel Ada out wrapped in the ambulance-standard red blanket to keep her warm as well as safe. "Matches my hair now, doesn't it," she muses as she looks down at the crimson cover. Once she's safely on board and as comfortable as possible, I go back into the house, and up the stairs to retrieve the dressing gown. Not before a plea from Ada.
"Make sure you help Derek out when you come back, won't you? He's not so good outside without the dog."
"Of course I will. Don't you worry about anything. That's what we're here for." She relaxes back on the trolley and allows my crew mate to check her blood pressure again.
As I open the bedroom door, the dog is lying on the floor and looks up at me with what seem to be almost contemptuous eyes. "Sorry," I mumble, "we have to look after Ada first." I can't quite believe I'm apologising to a dog. I take the dressing gown, fold it in half over my arm and leave the room with the door slightly ajar. Hopefully if I show the dog a small sign of trust, he'll understand my intentions are only good ones.
"You sure it's the light blue one, aren't you?" His question confuses me.
His hand holds onto the crook of my arm, and we walk out together, leaving the dog to watch from the top of the stairs.