Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Animal Farm

Towering over me, with arms as big as a normal person's torso and wearing a vest that showed off tattoos from his shoulders to finger tips, Tom struck an imposing figure. As he opened the front door to let me in, I could hear barking from somewhere else in the house. 

"Is that dog locked away?" 

"Are you kidding me? He won't do you no harm! He's only a little thing."

"Yeah, the last person to say that to me then suddenly had to apologise and explain that Ooh, he's never done that before!"

"OK," Tom said, a mischievous grin crossing his face, "I'll go get him and lock him in the garden. Mum's in the back room with him, so you can follow me." Tom led the way, making sure to grab the dog as he went. "This is what makes you nervous? And I don't?" Every word dripped with sarcasm, and he had a point. The dog was probably no bigger than a child's football, and looked even smaller in the arms of his giant owner.

"Yes, and no. I can read people, they don't often bite, and I can usually run faster than they do. Dogs on the other hand, I can't read, often bite, and have four legs that are quicker and better than my two." 

Tom was still laughing at me when the crew arrived to take his mum to the hospital, but he did shake my hand and thank me for my help. He took great pleasure in telling the crew, Jill and Rachel, of my nerves, and they joined in the laughter at my expense, Rachel even going as far as asking him to get the dog so they can meet it. 

One-nil to the crew, but revenge is a dish best served cold.

An hour later and another call. This time the only noise I can hear at the front door is the wheeze coming from the lounge. A girl of mid to late teens opens the door. She looks frightened and worried, and practically drags me through the door to see her eight year old brother who's sitting on the couch struggling for breath. I kneel down next to him to start reassuring him and begin his treatment.

"He's got really bad asthma, and his inhalers aren't working. Mum and Dad let me babysit him for the first time tonight, and I didn't know what else to do." 

"You've done just fine, you did absolutely the right thing, so don't worry." Sometimes part of the treatment is treating the family too. "We'll have him sorted in no time at all, but you'll have to go with him to the hospital in the ambulance. Just give your mum a call and let her know what's happening." 

Mum instantly asks to speak to me, and I did all I could to calm her down. I apologised for disturbing their evening out and tried to ascertain a few more details.

"Does he have any allergies?" 

"Well, not to any medicines, but he's allergic to furry animals. You know, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, that sort of thing." I was relieved by that bit. "That's why we eventually let him get a snake." 

"A what?" 

"A snake. It's still quite small, only about five feet long, and he normally leaves it in the tank under the couch." 

Slowly, I lower my head and peek under the couch. There, staring at me from a glass fronted box, is the snake. It makes me jump a little, which probably had more of a therapeutic effect on the little man than any medicine I was throwing at him, making him laugh at my fright. 

"Don't you like snakes?" 

"Don't mind them too much, just didn't expect to be sitting next to one for so long without realising it." 

The room lights up in flashing blue as the ambulance pulls up outside, and two familiar voices are shown into the house.

"Aha! So we meet again." 

"No dogs for you to be afraid of this time then?"

"Well, as it happens, there is. He's terrified of me this time, and won't come out from under the couch. Maybe he knows I don't like animals much." 

They both crumbled at the thought of another tiny dog worrying me, so both knelt down to see if they could entice him out. I gave the brother and sister a quick signal to keep quiet. In an instant, there was a scream in stereo. Jill and Rachel both glared at me as I served up my revenge. 

One-one. And the dish wasn't even cold yet. 

As dawn approached, Jill, Rachel and I met on our third call of the night. We both arrived at the same time, and still just about had the energy to tease each other. 

"I'll tell you what," I said, "we'll make a deal. I'll make sure there are no snakes, if you take care of any dogs." 

"Deal," they replied in unison, as we walked up to the front door. 

A mother introduces us to the patient, her six month old baby, and immediately apologises. She talks in hushed tones, explaining that two other children are sleeping upstairs.

"You'd think I'd know better by now, after three kids, but I think I panicked a bit. She just coughed up a bit of her feed, and couldn't catch her breath for a few seconds. I'm sure she's fine." 

As Rachel checks the baby, Jill and I spot a huge fish tank, an aquarium that was more part of the wall, separating between two rooms. Dozens of beautiful fish swam around, adding colour and calm to the room. 

"Finally," says Jill, "an animal we can all agree not to be nervous of!"

"Well," I said, and Jill looked gleefully forward to me admitting another irrational fear, "I don't mind them if they're swimming, as long as I don't have to eat them!" 

"You don't eat fish?" 

"Can't stand the stuff. Can't eat it, smell it, look at it, or be within a mile radius of the stuff without feeling ill." 

"But you're not actually scared of them then?" 

"No. Not scared. It's just that I'd rather meet a live shark than a fillet of salmon or tuna steak."

At shift's end, I pack up and head for the animal-free sanctuary that is home. No dogs, cats, snakes, fish, or other creatures. Just as I was about to go to bed there's a yell from downstairs.

"Are you asleep yet?"


"Good. Get up. My dad's had a fall in the high street and is a bit of mess. Can you go get him and see if he needs hospital?"

A grump, stomp and re-clothing later, I was back downstairs and ready to go out.

"Where is he?"

"He was helped up by some people but he didn't want an ambulance, so they helped him into some shop."

"Which shop?"

"The one next to the bank."

"There are two. One each side. Which. One?"

"Um, your favourite."

"My favourite? What's my favourite?"

"Umm, the fishmongers."

At least Jill and Rachel wouldn't find out.


Robin said...


Anonymous said...

Love it, brilliant post.
Thankyou so much for the laugh.
(reminded me of Doc Martin, where the receptionist was taking the mick about his blood phobia, then prompty passed out when he wanted to inject her - he waited till she hit the floor, then calmly said "that'll do"
and gave it to her, priceless)
best wishes

BouncyMedic said...

There's a medic on my station with the same fish thing. Can't even bring tuna sandwiches in when I work with her.
Then one day it happened; a resus behind a supermarket fish counter!

Josh Minor said...

I love dogs but, like you, I wouldn't want to enter a strangers house in the middle of night without making sure the dog was away either.