Clean up after your dog
As a responsible dog owner, I always clean up after my dog. There are plenty of dog-poo bins in areas where dog-walking is popular, so no excuse to leave anything unhygienic around. It may not be one of the best things about owning a dog, but it just has to be done. Sadly, in many parts of London, there is little evidence that the dog owners of that city follow suit. This story is as much about the bystander involved, as the victim. It is not a pleasant tale, but then many aspects of life and death are far from pleasant.
One morning, we were called to a main road nearby. The job was given as, ‘man fallen, not moving.’ At the end of the rush hour, Holland Park Avenue in west London is still a busy thoroughfare. You will encounter heavy traffic, late commuters still hurrying to the underground station, and morning shoppers waiting for shops to open. When we arrived on scene, we were met by a middle-aged lady. In that area, eccentric people are common, so her appearance was not that unusual. She was dressed in a style that you might describe as ‘retro-sixties’, except that her hippy clothing was almost certainly original. She was short, and overweight, and despite the cold morning, large hairy toes protruded from the sandals she wore. She carried a substantial handbag, and I could see the head of a cat sticking out from one end. The zip was fastened sufficiently far along to prevent the feline escaping, though it was obvious from its wriggling, that this was just what the unfortunate animal was attempting to do. In looks, she resembled the genetically-engineered outcome of a cross between Catweazle, and Miriam Margolyes. (See links)
She told us that she had been waiting for the nearby grocery shop to open, so that she could buy some milk. A well-dressed man had been walking towards her, heading in the direction of the underground station. She related how he had suddenly stopped still, and had then fallen straight down, with no attempt to break his fall. She said that it was, “as if an unseen cable had suddenly pulled him forwards, into the pavement.” I thought this was a very good description of someone collapsing after they were already dead; possibly from a brain haemorrhage, or something similar, giving them no time to contemplate their demise. My colleague walked over to the prone figure of a tall man. His head was covered by a plastic carrier bag, draped across the rear of his neck. The lady offered an explanation. “I did that, it’s not very nice under there, poor man.” My partner recoiled as he removed the bag. All around the dead man’s face was a foul substance, giving off a terrible smell. The lady nodded. “I told you, it’s dog shit,” she loudly exclaimed.
We got the man into the vehicle. He appeared to be in his sixties, and was dressed in smart business clothes. We tried as best as we could to carry out our normal resuscitation procedures. This meant cleaning the excrement from his mouth and nose, before using suction to remove what we could not get out from the inside of those orifices. He was obviously ‘well-dead’, a phrase we used often; but as he was in a public place, and the incident was not that old, we were naturally compelled to try as hard as possible to revive him. Continuing with all of our usual protocols, we took him off to the nearby casualty department, alerting them of our arrival. Despite the presence of the dog muck all over his head, hospital staff continued the attempt at resuscitation for some time, but could get no output. Without the benefit of knowing the results of a post-mortem, we could only conclude that something had killed him instantly, as he walked briskly to the station. He had been doubly unfortunate, as he had fallen face first into a very large pile of dog poo, left on that street by an inconsiderate dog owner. We threw away much of the equipment used, in case of any infection, and had to spend ages deep-cleaning the larger items, before returning to disinfect the whole vehicle on the inside. Dog waste can carry a disease called Toxocariasis, and this can cause blindness, particularly in children.
I often think of this poor man. Not only did he die in public, he died with a lack of dignity, caused by a thoughtless individual, who could have cleaned this up in a moment. At least the strange lady tried to spare him some of that.