Characters: Mathurin LeBlanc, Louis the Chow-Chow
Warnings: vague injuries
Word Count: 1,991 (whew, cutting it close!)
Summary: Even vampires need fluffy friends to keep life interesting.
Disclaimer: Work is all from my own imagination. Any resemblance to other characters or situations is coincidental.
Notes: Original work, set in the same universe as The Best Parts of Existing, which I wrote for last year’s consci_fan_mo. You don’t have to have read that to follow this one, but it might help. The salient details are: Mat is a French-Canadian vampire and works as a pathologist at the local hospital. That’s really all you need to know to follow this one.
If you’d like to read more about him, you can check out this tag.
Also, here’s a picture of Louis.
In my 380 years on the planet, I have had the privilege of being owner and guardian to a great number of animals. Being on my own a lot is a side-effect of my lifestyle and one I don’t mind that much but having a good animal companion is important. Animals don’t particularly care if you don’t age, or aren’t really alive, or are very cold to the touch. If you feed them and love them and don’t hurt them, they love you.
Right now I have Louis, my grumpy Chow-Chow, who is three years old. He’s not the cuddliest fellow, but he enjoys being companionable at a dignified distance and takes his job of guarding our home seriously, spending most of his day on my bed, his paws on the window sill above it, pressing his nose to the glass so he can make sure nothing is amiss. It’s the only place in my basement apartment that he can see out of, and I always find him there when I come home from work, having nudged the curtain open to get a clear view.
I’ve had Louis since he was a puppy, adopting him from a shelter after his previous owners gave him up for being ‘uncontrollable’. They clearly hadn’t done their research on chows, and I doubt he came from a professional breeder. I was looking for a new companion and Louis, with his teddy bear face and fluffy cinnamon fur that makes him look like a pet de nonne won me over. There’s nothing uncontrollable about him at all. He’s just strong-willed, as all Chows are, and the family didn’t want to have to put the work in to socialize him. After a few weeks of firm but kind reminders that it wasn’t polite to growl or nip at anything that moved, taking him around to parks to teach him to be pleasant with other people and animals, and learning his boundaries of when he wanted to be petted and when he was perfectly fine over here on his own, thank you very much, he settled in to be a somewhat aloof, but entertaining and loyal roommate.
I’ve had dogs who liked to be on top of me all day long and follow me from room to room, dogs who liked to chase frisbees and learn tricks and do agility, dogs who were smarter than most people I know, and dogs that, bless them, couldn’t find their way out of a wet paper bag. Each animal has a distinct personality and that is a great delight in knowing them, getting to see each quirk as it starts to show itself.
Louis is sort of a fluffy lion philosopher. He prefers quiet, but he does like good music and will lie by the speakers when I have anything playing, his head on his paws and his eyes closed to better appreciate the sound. He’ll come and sit by me if I’m playing guitar, vaguely critical of my technique. He’ll chase a thrown object only at a sedate pace and has yet to bring it back to me. He likes to chew on a bone if I’m reading and isn’t fond when the television gets too noisy with explosions or action sequences, but seems interested in documentaries and costume dramas.
Another wonderful thing about animals is that they will follow your schedule, no matter how out of the ordinary it is. I work permanent nights, and Louis has never minded our reverse cycle of being active once dusk falls and staying quiet during the day. I have tenants who live above me, sharing the upper part of the townhouse I own, and they make sure Louis gets out before bedtime and has what he needs for the night, and then when I get home in the morning, he greets me at the door and takes me to his breakfast bowl, goes out, and settles in for the day, knowing we aren’t going to do much else until the sun sets and it’s time for a walk. Some dogs aren’t good on their own for long periods of time, but Louis has never shown any signs of unhappiness while I’m away. No destruction, no accidents, no reports of howling or crying when I leave. I imagine he goes ‘well, thank God, some time for myself’ and gets up on the sofa and ponders the meaning of life and how to improve the world at large.
On my nights off, however, we’re together the whole day, not that it makes much of a difference to his routine. He’s been on the L-end of the sofa or on the bed for most of the day.
Until now. Now, he sits at my feet to raise his concern about something.
“Qu’est-ce que se passe?” I inquire.
Getting in the habit of speaking to one’s pets makes for a habit of them speaking back, which can be both endearing and annoying, depending on circumstances. I realize, after a few questions that receive no response and then one that makes him wag his tail, that it’s a walk he wants. And fair enough, it’s just after midnight, and we haven’t been yet. I’ve been too lost in my knitting to notice the time pass. I ask if he minds waiting until I’ve finished this row. I’m on the decreases and I need to focus.
Once my sweater is safely put aside, we head out into the calm, cold night for a stroll. Louis, like myself, is a winter lover. All that fur makes summers hot for him, but keeps him nice and toasty even in the far Northern Ontario weather Sterling has to offer. He pads through the freshly fallen snow, leaving little paws next to my big bootprints on the sidewalk.
I live in a nice little nook of townhouses, not far from the hospital where I work. It’s a neighbourhood of shift-workers, and no one has ever thought it odd to see me and my dog out at all hours of the night. The most I get is a wave from a fellow night-shifter on their way home. There’s little to be concerned about with all the comings and goings, not a place a mugger or thief would do business, and I’ve never encountered trouble before, so it’s to my great surprise--greater than it might otherwise have been--to turn the corner and spot someone lying at the end of their driveway.
I break into a run, Louis getting a sharp tug on his leash but moving along at my pace with a loud snort of disapproval. It’s a man in his mid-twenties, and I recognize him as someone I’ve chatted with on nights out with Louis. A hotel clerk who is often coming or going when I walk by. He rents a basement apartment similar to mine. What’s his name? Julian?
I hope it’s Julian because that’s what I call when I kneel down to examine him. There’s no response. I give his earlobe a pinch, but there’s still no response. I check his airway. He’s breathing, a bit shallow but steady. His pulse is rapid. There’s a twitch to his fingers, but not like a seizure. Could just be his body’s adrenaline response to whatever’s happening.
“Louis, laisse-le,” I order, as he tries to nudge Julian.
I can’t tell what’s wrong from just a visual examination, but obviously 911 is in order, so I start dialling as I look around for any other clues. He doesn’t look to have been attacked. He may have slipped, or he could be diabetic or drunk or high or a combination. I can’t smell spirits, and I can usually smell high and low blood sugar thanks to my enhanced senses. But only if there’s blood, and there doesn’t seem to be. It’s not a medically sound practice to bite someone just to check their blood sugar, so I’ll have to leave it to someone with a glucometer.
“Laisse-le,” I order Louis again, who is now licking gently at Julian’s cheek with his blue-black tongue. I push him back.
The recovery position isn’t a good idea in case there’s a spinal injury, so I hold the phone to my shoulder with my head and do a jaw thrust to keep his airway open without moving his neck.
The 911 operator comes on, and we converse about the situation. She sends an ambulance and tells me to do what I’ve already done. I may be a dead people doctor, but my First Aid certificates are all up-to-date. I take off my coat, which is more a formality than anything I need to fight the cold, and cover his legs. His own coat should be keeping his trunk warm enough.
“Louis, couche,” I say, in hopes he might lie down and leave Julian alone.
The operator asks if I’d prefer to speak in French, and I assure her I’m fine in English as Louis finally does what I ask. He lies down right next to Julian, pushing up against his side and placing his chin on his arm. The look on his face tells me he isn’t going to move.
So I let it lie, literally. He’s not doing any harm, and I suspect his fluffy fur and large body will help keep Julian warm until the ambulance arrives. Because my heart doesn’t beat and I can’t sweat, I have no physical fight or flight during intense situations, only a mental sense of ‘yes, this is an intense situation’. Thus, both Louis and I sit calmly with our patient as we wait for further help.
It doesn’t take long, as close as we are to the hospital. I have to pull Louis back by his collar to let the paramedics work. It’s not hard for me to do, even though Louis is quite strong, but it is awkward to give report while doubled over and grasping at a Chow-Chow on a mission.
The commotion has brought out neighbours to gawk, including Julian’s (I was right about his name) landlord, who thanks me for helping and promises to notify a family member. The ambulance speeds off, and Louis gives a little whine of concern. I assure him Julian will be fine, even though I have no idea if that’s true. I’m pretty confident that he won’t be on my table anytime soon, at least. I’ll call round at his home in a day or two for news. Is that a thing people still do now? Should I check on Facebook instead? Send a Snapchat?
The crowd starts to disperse after a few minutes of chatter. It’s too cold to gossip in one’s pajamas for long. Louis and I finish up our walk, Louis not out of sorts by our adventure at all. He carries on as though stopping to help an injured man is just part of our daily lives. Back home, he gets up on the sofa and curls up to watch me knit, giving me a glare when I try to pet him and tell him what a good boy he is.
“What, you’ll lie with a person you don’t even know and won’t let me, your best friend, give you a pat on the head?” I ask.
He snorts and turns his face away from me. Perhaps he’s embarrassed by his heroics. I respect his choice to be aloof, but he can’t fool me. He might be a grumpy little philosopher, but on the inside, he has a heart of gold. It’s a delight to find out new things about a creature--a soul, really--that you’ve known for years.
And, when, a half hour later, he wiggles over a little on the sofa to put his nose near my thigh, I don’t acknowledge it.
I wouldn’t want to embarrass him.
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