Saturday, February 20, 2010


Rae has recently moved to a house on the outskirts of town. Her dog, Jack, a black Springer spaniel crossed with something else, something intensely bright and loose and quick - a chimp? - lies planning something in his basket in the hallway. I can see him frowning at me as I peer through the letterbox and Rae fishes around for her key. As she opens the door, suddenly he’s up and running, turning crazy circuits of the place, a stunt dog on a motorbike riding a domestic Wall of Death.
‘Jack! Jack! Slow down mate!’
He shakes off his helmet, big ears slapping, sits for a biscuit.
‘Good boy! Good boy! Come on! Outside for a wee wee.’

Normally Rae’s shifts work out so either she or her husband Pete are around. But tonight Pete’s away for the kind of cricket meeting that won’t end until the pub is forced to close for maintenance, so Rae has to pop back through the night to say hello to Jack and let him out a couple of times.
‘Good boy Jack. Who’s a clever boy?’
Now he’s off rummaging around in the shadows at the back of the garden, building something.
‘Come on Jack. We’ve got to go.’
Putting a wheel on.

When finally we leave, he flumps down in the basket and licks his chops. Surrounded by stuff: chew toys, blanket, water, laptop. He watches us retreat, an expression of disappointed resignation, a school teacher who expected better.


A busy weekend night. There are plenty of ambulances working, but we hardly see each other. We run from job to job, passing over the city like shuttles on a loom, working out the pattern of the night: a teenager sprawled on a park bench; an elderly woman sprawled on a bathroom floor; a man clutching his stomach on a staircase; a man with his bloodied arm in the air on the steps of the Town Hall; a man shivering in the cab of a fire truck; a bloodied man in handcuffs – the material of the shift piling up and up on the board in the front of the cab.


‘Jack? Jack?’
He’s not in his basket.
We whisper on into the hallway.
I expect to feel the whack of a chew toy on the back of my neck, paws patting me down for the keys of the truck.
‘Where is he?’
Then we hear it. A sonorous rattle, like a tube train passing somewhere underneath.
Rae pushes open the sitting room door, and the light from the hallway spills through onto the sofa: Pete asleep where he landed, Jack curled up amongst the wreckage. He looks across at us. In the half-light, is that a nod? By which I think what he probably means is: I’ve got this one. You two crazy kids stand down.


lulu's missives said...

Hi Spence,
Fantastic metaphors throughout.
What did you do? Dream about it, wake up and write it?
I love the image of Jack, endless energy like a 3 year old.
Woohoo! Sunshine in North London!!!

Rach said...

Aw, that's lovely Spence and so very true of our beloved pets..thanks x

Mort's Mom said...

I have a dog like that. He leads a completely private life. Occasionaly he trots past a door and will glance in as if to say "Don't bother me. I am on urgent business for Her Majesty" before disappearing into the garden. He has made a way through to my elderly neighbours who adore and worship him. Sometimes I glimpse him in their car as they all set off for a picnic.If he doesn't call in to see them at least once a day I get a phone call asking if the dog is ill! Not me, the chemo patient I would point out, but the blooming dog.
He also does that wall of death thing, ears flapping wildly and tongue hanging out.
Dogs are weird. The day Ferris learns to open packets and tins, I feel he will certainly be issuing me with a Notice to Quit.

Anonymous said...

Sounds as if you have acquired another crew member. Therapy dog, that's Jack's role.

Spence Kennedy said...

Hi Jo
I did get up early to write that one this morning, so it was a bit like dreaming. Then I took the dogs out on a nice long walk over the woods - fantastic in the sunshine! Soon be Spring! x

Hey Rach
I think especially with dogs, you get a sense of them having been around humans for thousands of years (at least, as far as our dogs are concerned, lying around). x

Hi Mort's Mum
I'm in love with Ferris already. I've got a strong image of him leaning out of the car and whistling as he backs it expertly out of the drive for the neighbours. It won't be long before he's mastered those packets and tins, I'm sure. But he'll keep you on (it's difficult to type with paws). x

Hey KK
I'd love to take Jack out on the ambulance. He'd do the patients - and us - so much good. And I'm sure with a little training he could do a few obs (and look great with a steth draped around his neck). x

Ambulance Amateur said...

Hi Spence, perhaps having friendly dogs on an ambulance would be a good idea. The current way of calming patients, the crew cracking bad jokes off each other, is OK when the crew are the natural successors to Morecambe & Wise, but in other cases...

Spence Kennedy said...

Well, I think the various NHS trusts are taking the lead on this one. I think they're particularly interested in working like dogs, paying in biscuits... :/

uphilldowndale said...

Spud the dog, the wall of death, a daily occurrence. He was asleep on th esofa this evening, he fell off, still he slept.