Man-Dog — a short story for English reading and speaking

Introduction

Can people turn into animals?

Are there any stories or folk tales in your country where people become animals?

What are they?

If you could turn into any animal at will, what animal would you choose to become?

Man-Dog

It was an ordinary call.

And a Tuesday night. John knew this would not be one of those Saturday night situations.

He was a paramedic and weekends were the busiest.

All the drunks.

Men — and women — covered in cuts and open wounds. Covered in their own blood. In other people’s blood.

The weekends were always like this. The weekends were a war zone.

But on a Tuesday night? That would be a domestic dispute.

The ambulance had no traffic to deal with, no crowds of drunks spilling out all over the streets and getting in their way. They were at the house in no time.

They knocked on the door, and a woman opened it.

She held a hand to her face, her eyes wet with a combination of remorse and fear.

“I don’t think you should come in,” she said, holding them back.

“Let me take a look at you first,” said John. “Are you hurt?”

She took her hand away to reveal three clean, fresh cuts to her face. Three perfect lines. Blood oozed from the open wounds on her face.

“He’s upstairs,” she said. “I’m worried about him.”

John had met many people like this. Badly injured and in shock. No real regard for themselves, always thinking about the very person who had hurt them.

He had been called out to a traffic accident. A woman so badly hurt, her leg was hanging off her body by a thread, but all she could think about was getting home to make dinner for the family.

I’ve got her favourite for dinner tonight, she said, spaghetti hoops.

She was losing massive amounts of blood and she was more concerned about cooking tinned spaghetti for her daughter.

John got closer to the woman and examined her face.

“We’ll worry about him later,” said John. “First, let’s take a look at you.”

He gently took her by the hand and led her out of her house and towards the ambulance.

Just as they got to the gate, a howl came from the upstairs window.

John jolted in shock.

“Is there a dog in the house?” he asked the woman.

“We don’t have a dog,” she said.

She gave John a smile, blood smeared all across her cheek and under her eye.

“I wanted to get one, but he said it would be too much trouble. He likes dogs, but it’s just too much trouble.”

The woman continued mumbling about dogs and how much care they needed while John escorted her to the ambulance. From the window came a series of short growls and barks.

No way he was alone up there. He had to have a dog up there with him.

John had seen that too.

Domestic disputes where the family pet got caught in the crossfire. He hated to see that.

He was called out to a house where the husband had intentionally run over the dog. Its remains smeared all across the tarmac.

John could remember the smug look of victory the man wore on his face as his wife and children bawled their eyes out beside the road.

People were cruel. They could be extremely vindictive.

“Police are on their way,” said Mike, the other paramedic who worked the same shift as John.

He helped the woman into the back of the ambulance.

“They should be here right now,” said John. He stared back at the house. Saw a large shadow looming in the upstairs window.

The woman sat on the bench inside the ambulance and Mike helped her lie down, but she resisted.

“I can’t go to sleep now,” she said. “I’ve got things to do.”

She tried to get up, but Mike gently coaxed her back down again.

“Just stay here for a bit, my love,” he said. “We need to take a look at your face.”

Mike raised his eyebrows towards John.

They had a series of facial gestures and body language. Not part of the training, just something that came naturally to all the paramedics.

A secret code of communication, so they didn’t have to use words in front of the patient.

“I might go back inside and take a look,” said John.

Mike looked up, his hands busy with antiseptic wash and a bandage. “What for?”

John tilted his head to the upstairs window. “I think he might have a dog up there.”

Mike shook his head. “Leave it for the police. You have no idea what he’s carrying up there.”

By the look on the woman’s face, it could be a Stanley knife. Something had really opened her up.

Another sharp howl broke the night air.

Neighbours started to appear in their doorways and gradually mooched out onto the street.

All they needed now was the expertise of the general public to give their valued opinions about what was going on.

“I’m going in,” said John.

“John —” Mike called out, but John was already by the house gate.

He came to the front door and peered in. There was a terrible earthy smell in the place. Like it had not been cleaned in months.

He called upstairs. “Hello?”

There was a shuffling sound of feet on the floor above, then still.

“My name is John,” he said. “I’m a paramedic. I need to see if you’re okay.”

A short few growls and huffs came from above, followed by a heavy sniffing sound.

He definitely had a dog up there. Maybe holding the poor thing hostage.

“I’m coming up,” said John.

He went slowly up the stairs. The house was one of those old Victorian terraces, and every step had its own distinctive creak and groan.

The landing was empty apart from a clothes drying rack stuck in the middle. Whoever had raced past it had knocked it flying. It now lay in the corner, the edges of it all twisted and broken, resembling a crane that had crash-landed on the floor.

John approached the door that led to the room at the front of the house.

He tried the doorknob, and it turned easily.

“It’s only me,” he said. “Can I come in and take a look at you?”

He opened the door. The smell hit him first. That smell of clay and dirt and earth.

What was it?

John edged forward and peered in. A low growl came from the corner of the room.

By the wall, a mass of fur, streaked with blood. Large ears on either side of its head. A great pointed snout and below that a row of sharp, brilliant white teeth.

From its mouth, a low growl.

And its eyes. The eyes were almost human.

They were human.

Reading Comprehension Questions

Who is the main character in the story?

Who are the other two characters in the story?

Where does the story take place?

What day is it? What time of day is it?

What is John’s profession, and why does he mention that weekends are the busiest for him?

Why did the woman open the door for John?

Describe the woman’s physical condition when John first encounters her.

What prompts John to ask if there is a dog in the house?

Why does the woman have cuts on her face, and how does she react to John’s concern for her well-being?

What does the woman reveal about her desire to have a dog, and what was her husband’s response to this idea?

What memories does John have about a previous incident involving a family pet in a domestic dispute?

When John hears a howl from upstairs, what does he initially assume is the source of the sound?

What does the woman say about her immediate concerns after being injured, and how does John respond?

What makes John suspect that there might be a dog upstairs with the man?

How does Mike react to John’s intention to go back inside the house, and why?

What do John and Mike communicate to each other through facial gestures and body language?

What sound breaks the silence and attracts the attention of the neighbours?

Why does John decide to go inside the house against Mike’s advice?

What does John notice about the smell inside the house, and how does he describe it?

What does John hear when he calls out upstairs, and how does he interpret this sound?

What is the condition of the room when John enters, and what catches his attention?

How does John describe the creature in the room, and what stands out about its eyes?

What realization does John come to about the creature in the room as he examines it?

Essential Vocabulary

This is B2/Upper Intermediate level vocabulary.

 

combination

police

terraces

cover

upstairs

distinctive

war zone

ambulance

creak

intentionally

groan

groan

smeared

distinctive

Victorian

coaxed

groans

distinctive

paramedics

devastating

growl

communication

shuffling

streaked

paramedic

hostage

brilliant

gradually

disturbing

 

 

Exercise

Write down all the words and phrases in your vocabulary notebook. Look in your dictionary and find the meaning of each word. Write the definition next to each word.

Then make up your own sentences using each word or phrase.

For example:

 

CombinationMixture or Blend.

Definition: A mix or blend of different elements, components, or things.

 

PoliceLaw Enforcement Officers.

Definition: Members of a government agency responsible for maintaining public order, preventing and investigating crimes, and enforcing laws.

 

Then write a sentence of your own that uses the new word or phrase correctly.

 

The chef created a delicious dish using a unique combination of spices and ingredients.

 

The police arrived at the scene of the accident to manage traffic and conduct an investigation.

 

Do this with all the vocabulary and, over time, this will help improve all your English skills — reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Discussion Questions

What do you think about John’s decision to enter the house alone to check on the man upstairs? Would you have done the same?

In your opinion, why did the woman try to downplay the severity of her injuries when John first arrived?

How would you feel if you were in John’s position, knowing there might be a dangerous situation with a person and a possible dog involved?

Do you think it’s common for people in abusive relationships to prioritize the well-being of their partner over their own safety? Why or why not?

If you were a paramedic, how would you approach a situation where someone is injured but insists on taking care of tasks at home before seeking medical attention?

How do you interpret the woman’s decision to bring up the idea of getting a dog, despite the circumstances?

Do you think pets should be involved in domestic disputes? Why or why not?

If you heard a howl or growl from an unexpected source in a similar situation, what would your initial reaction be?

What are the potential dangers of trying to intervene in a domestic dispute without waiting for the police to arrive?

How do you think the presence of neighbours impacted the unfolding events? Would you prefer privacy in such situations, or do you think it’s helpful for others to be aware?

If you were Mike, the other paramedic, how would you have reacted to John’s decision to go inside the house?

How might cultural factors influence the way people respond to domestic disputes or violence in different societies?

In your opinion, should paramedics and emergency responders receive additional training on handling situations involving animals? Why or why not?

How do you think the use of non-verbal communication between John and Mike affected their ability to work together in the stressful situation?

If you were a neighbour witnessing the events, would you have called the police, intervened, or stayed inside and observed? Why?

Do you believe the man’s actions toward the dog were justified, considering the circumstances? Why or why not?

What do you think the earthy smell in the house symbolizes or represents in the story?

How would you have felt if you were the paramedic discovering the dog with human-like eyes in the upstairs room?

If you were a friend of the woman, what advice would you give her after the incident?

How might the story have unfolded differently if it were a weekend night instead of a Tuesday night?

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