Nearly all of my life my family had kept a pet dog. Now I was married and had my own home in Pangbourne. One of the first things I did was to acquire a dog of my own. It was a black Labrador dog and cost exactly one pound (this was in fact, merely just a token payment). It was bought from friends of Mick Clements, my Berks and Reading fireman friend.
The dog was bought as a puppy, and grew up into a fine and handsome dog. It was a people dog and would wander the village to meet its people friends (despite local bye laws to the contrary) albeit to cadge titbits from his friends. We kept him for fourteen years, and in the last two years, watched him decline in health. His beautiful glossy coat became grey, and started to fall out in places. He became too infirm to wander the village any more, and used then to sit peacefully dozing in the garden, or in front of the fire. I used to worry about him, but he was enjoying life still, and so it passed out of my mind.
One morning, I came home from night duties to be told by my wife that Whiskey, for that was his name, could not get up from his bed. I lifted him up from the bed and took him for a short stagger around the garden. Without doubt, he had suffered a stroke in the night, and I knew in my heart that his day had come. The quality of his life from now on would be such that, if it was me personally affected, I would ask the same. I took him to the vets, his head resting on my lap, across the bench seat of the car.
The vet examined him and confirmed my fears--he had indeed had a stroke during the night. Again, as I feared, he told me the kindest thing would be to put Whiskey to sleep. As the hypodermic needle went into the thick skin at the scruff of his neck, the vet commented on the condition of his big, white, still gleaming teeth. Beautiful teeth for a dog of his age, he said, that did it for me, tears welled into my eyes. His teeth had always been one of his good points, we still had the marks where he had cut them on the dining room table. It took two full hypodermic needles to put him down, and it broke my heart. He had been a damned good dog and given us fourteen years of pleasure and companionship.
Some three months after Whiskey had gone, Hamersmiths pump escape and pump were thundering down Chiswick High road, in answer to a make pumps four, from D25 Chiswick. When we arrived at the address, which was a social club in the Chiswick High road, all had gone well for the Chiswick firemen. The fire on the ground floor of the club had very quickly succumbed to a three-quarters-of-an-inch jet of water. There was, in fact, very little for us to do. I was standing by the door to the club talking to one of the Chiswick firemen. All persons had been accounted for in the premises and a breathing apparatus crew were checking for fire spread, up on the first floor.
As I was talking to the fireman, I could hear the breathing apparatus crew making their way back down the stairs. With my years of experience, I could tell from the sounds they were making that they had found and were carrying something. I checked with the Chiswick fireman, "are we sure that all persons have been accounted for?" He assured me that the Chiswick station officer had talked to the steward of the club. There were only two people in the club when the fire started, himself and his wife. Knowing most of the Chiswick firemen well, I joked that perhaps they were rescuing a barrel of beer then, for carrying something, they most definitely were.
The BA crew emerged from the building, into the small car park in the front of the club. The two BA men were carrying a black object between them, which they then deposited onto the ground. Whilst they removed their goggles and mouthpieces, I walked over to them, and saw that the black object was a beautiful black Labrador dog. It was a young dog, around two years old, with a black shiny coat, just like Whiskey's used to be. I bent down to the dog and listened--there was no sound of breathing. I tried to find a pulse, but did not know where the pulse was strongest in a dog, and so could find none. A fireman had cracked an oxygen cylinder partly open, and was holding it by his muzzle. That would do no good, if the dog was not breathing. What a shame, I thought to myself, he looks a good handsome dog, and the BA men's effort all for nothing.
Dammit why not, I thought to myself! I looked at the firemen around me, and saw one that I knew liked dogs (he bred great Danes as a hobby). "'H,'" I said, for that was the mans nickname, "I'm going to try to resuscitate him, you take his chest, I'll take the mouth." How do you breath into a dog's mouth? It stretches down both sides of his long jaws. With babies or very young children, you breath into the nose, so I will give that a try. I clamped his jaws together, and put my mouth to his nose, it was still cold and wet. I breathed down his nose, 'H' gave a surprised shout, "It worked, his chest just went up and down." So for around five minutes I breathed into the dog's nose, and 'H' gave the dog heart massage. We stopped to check, but the dog did not resume breathing spontaneously. We gave the dog another five minutes for luck, but still he did not resume breathing. So we called it a day, and put the dog out of the owners sight, over by the dustbins. We had done our best. We had at least tried.
A few days later, whilst on another fire call on A29 North Kensingtons ground, I was approached by a fireman that I knew, who said to me, "Here, guvnor, what's this I hear about you going around, kneeling down on the pavement, and blowing up dead dogs' noses?" Such is fire brigade humour!
"Dave Wilson is the author of several fire service books, and this story is one of the stories he likes most.
Dave Wilson served 27 years in the London fire brigade, serving for the last seventeen years at one station with the rank of Station Officer. You can e-mail Dave at Dave. Copyright 2001 by Dave Wilson. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission of the author.