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The One That Matters
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      Page Three

Dave reassured her. "He'll shape up. They always look a little crunched
at first."

"Good. Now pick him up with some stimulation." Morton told her from the
corner of his eye while he watched and helped Bonnie deliver the second
puppy's head. He used a pair of blunted scissors to tear open its tougher
than normal birth sac. Brown green rectal meconium poured out. A sign of a
difficult birth. "This one's stressed and apneic, too. Les, you get this one.
You're closer to me."  The second puppy's nails, skin and cord were stained
a sickly yellow.

"Think rolling bread dough." coached Dave at Dixie, holding her shoulders
while she scrubbed and rubbed the small still pup with the folds of her towel.
He watched his partner get the second pup into his own nested towel.
Then Dave showed the very jumpy nurse how to safely hang the puppy's
head down low to drain him out even more. "And drying off one of the kids.
There, just like that. Put a finger on either side of his shoulders like a
whip cream can so he won't fall."

"I don't have any kids.." Dixie said softly. "And this is nothing like that at
all, Mr. Gordon." she said even louder in her fear.

"Okay, picture drying off your own head after a shampoo. It's the same
motion." soothed the calm officer. "That's right.  See how he's not getting any
paler around the mouth and gums? That's you, acting as his heart and lungs
until he figures things out on his own." Dave told her. "Now, keep it up.
If you get tired, we'll have one of the fire boys take over. I hear them
pulling into the garage."

"Oh, thank goodness. A paramedic when you absolutely want one." Dixie

Les Taylor's eyes went up as he worked on his own limp newborn. "Give yourself
credit, Dixie, you're doing a wonderful job. You can't screw up. That one's either
gone already or he'll come back real soon. Just give him time. " Then he cried
in discovery. "Mine's a girl! Hey, sweetheart! Come back to me and mama..!"
he chuckled.

Dixie ignored Les's amused candor. She was all analytic. "Mike, is Bonnie in
danger from all that waste material inside the birth canal?"

"No. Dogs are different than people. At the very most, she'll catch a urinary
tract infection that'll clear up on its own in a couple of days." Morton said, pulling
out the third puppy for Dave and he opened up its placenta like a podded specimen
with his delivery scissors. "This one's lively. Dave..." he prompted, holding out the
last pup as it squirmed  and opened its tiny mouth mutely in his glove. "Come take
her. And yes, I checked proper for gender this time."

Gordon left Dixie's side to gather up his own towel and Morton concentrated
on making sure Bonnie didn't bleed out by massaging her abdomen firmly
while she lay under the oversized pediatric oxygen mask.

"Is she breathing okay?" Dixie asked Dave about the third puppy.

"Yes, she's trying. I just have to get out some of this fluid so she can talk a little."

A few seconds later and a loud peeping protest erupted from the healthy girl
pup. It acted like a jolt in Bonnie, who shot bolt upright onto trembling legs.

"Easy girl.." Morton told her. "You're not going anywhere until you've finished
the job." Then he used the fact that Bonnie had heard one of her new pups
and tested out a teat. It generated ample colostrum and a little milk. "We'll
give them back to you. Don't worry. We're all friends here..." he said distractedly.
Then he looked up. "Well, her mother's milk is good enough. Dave, give me
your puppy when you're sure she's cleared out. There's nothing like a mother
dog's tongue to do a proper job of drying out dog hair."

Dave gave baby three to the doctor who set the pup to one of Bonnie's nipples
and offered her a squirt after he showed the pup where to find it.

Bonnie immediately was all mother and she finally tolerated the human doctor
fussing down below, checking to see if she had torn herself with the birthing
effort. The newborn puppy started suckling hungrily with strength right away.

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Dr. Morton got busy assembling all the parts of the puppies' afterbirth onto
Bonnie's burn sheet.  "Well, for a first time mother, she's thorough. Everything's
here." he announced. "And I'll have no stitching up to do."

Les and Dave sighed in relief but Dixie didn't know what to think, still curled
quietly around her lifeless puppy on Roy's bed, rubbing desperately all along
its wet sides and face.

Les's puppy sprang into weak voice that stereoed the last puppy's cries
still fresh in their memories and she, too, was put to a breast to calm
under Bonnie's attentions.

That left Dixie's puppy, still lying limp and nonresponsive despite vigorous

Mike Morton heard the garage door rumble shut. "Gage! DeSoto! Bring the drug
box.. double time!"

Soon, the whole suddenly panicked bunch of firefighters, minus Roy, who had
beelined for the nearest shower, appeared behind Johnny, skidding on the
tiles with the asked for equipment. "She crashing?!" Gage minced.

" no.." Morton said, putting him at ease. "It's the first pup, the one
that was stuck. Nothing's bringing it around fast enough for me. Grab out a spent
epi from your sharp's bin."

"What?" Johnny gasped. "Can we do that?"

"Sure, why not? I heard you used some on that teenager to boost his breathing
en route to Joe a few minutes ago. Your captain was kind enough to leave
the scanner on for us to listen to so I know you have that syringe handy. So
crack open that bin and get it out. Time's wasting!"

For a moment, Gage jumbled with its lid and almost reached inside the
disposal chamber when Cap smacked his shoulder and handed Johnny his
own forceps from his utility holster. "Use these.." snapped Cap. "Clever, doc.
This way Brackett's form happy minions won't ever catch on that we used
epi from our stores in an unauthorized way."

Morton's head nodded.. "Umm hmm. There's more than enough left
in this syringe to turn this little guy around." he said, fitting a new needle into
the injection hub.

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Gage's face flushed with embarrassment that he hadn't thought of that
way to protect himself from a contaminated needle stick. "Well, what
about the I.V. we're using on Bonnie?" he said a little sharply. "Don't
we have to account for that?"

"Got a plan for that, too." said Morton.  "The I.V. fluid
we can account for. Don't be so clumsy next time,
Johnny, you stepped on the bag here without watching,
and broke it earlier on one of this morning's rescues. I'll file
that incident report myself for the supplies people."

Johnny started sniggering. "Who says you're not the devious type,
doc. You're a sheer genius when it comes right down to it."

"Anytime. Now.. Dix, let me see the little fellow, but don't stop
what you're doing.." Dr. Morton ordered.

The gang crowded around Dixie's towel and tiny charge.

Morton opened the limp puppy's mouth, grasped its tongue
and shot some drops of epinephrine from the recovered syringe
deep into the lingual tissue there.

The reaction was instantaneous. The puppy coughed, wretched,
then pinked up and started breathing weakly after dumping out
a gush of meconium from under his twitching tail.

"Got you!" crowed Les Taylor.

"Ah, I knew he was a fighter from the start." Dave murmured softly,
admiring the markings on Bonnie's first born son.

Johnny snatched away Bonnie's no longer needed O2 and held
it over the pup's face on blow by. "What liter flow?"

"Four will do. Watch him though." Morton ordered, pointing to
the injected pup. "When he sucks on your finger, Dix,, stop
the rubbing and put him with the other two to nurse. It'll keep Bonnie
from bleeding out any more. Keep all of them warm. Except Bonnie. She
needs to cool down or her milk'll fail. I'm going to go wash up.." said
Morton, peeling off his obstetrical gloves.

Johnny adjusted the mask's flow and handed it off to an eager Kelly,
who took over his place next to Dixie when Gage rose up. "Uh, doc. Roy's
in the shower.. he got a little messy after a run in with some irate fans."

"Is he hurt?"

"No. Just a little ice cream spill over."

Morton's face looked as if he was going to ask a few more details on
that one but he finally chalked it up as another story of the weird and
said. "A sink'll do. I showered before I left work. I'll stick around
long enough to discontinue Bonnie's I.V. But then I got to split.
I've got a hot date tonight.." celebrated Morton.

That made just about everyone do a double take in disbelief
and amazement.

"Dix, you showering after Roy?" Johnny asked finally, after clearing
his throat to get by the stunning announcement.

"Are you kidding? I'm married to the little guy here until I'M sure he's
all right. I'll sleep in my clothes on the couch if I have to." she

Cap's eyebrows went up. No nurse had ever stayed overnight at
the station before. And for that, he knew he had to make some changes.
"Chet, go rig a tarp in front of the rookie's bunk down there.
And do the same for the spare locker and extra sit down toilet."

"Captain Stanley. You don't have to go through the trouble..." Dixie

"No trouble Miss McCall. You did us all a favor by bringing him." he
said jerking a thumb at Morton's back as he grabbed a few leftover
clean towels to bathe with. " the least we can do is feed ya and
offer you a place to sleep tonight if it comes down to that... or is Bonnie
and her puppies relocating to the V-E-T-S before then?" he asked Les
and Dave.

Les picked up the phone next to the bedside radio station
that reached an outside line. "I don't know. Let's find out. It's way after
three p.m. The doc's in now."

All of them gathered around Dixie and her furry brand new patient
and around Bonnie to satisfy their worry that all was now truly well.

Dave soon gave Sandy, the shelter receptionist, the good news
and was on the line to the man he most wanted to talk to right then.
"Heya, doc. It's done. Three live pups with no complications on
the mother. The human M.D. did a fine job and only needed fractional epi
on one of them. Do you want to see the whole bunch now?"

Doc Coolidge chuckled. ##Nah, why bug them? We'd just be disturbing the
mother/puppy bonding stages. A whole firehouse crew, a nurse and
two paramedics are plenty to monitor and succor to them. Tell me
the play by play when you get back here after supper..##


##Yeah, sure.. Use some of your animal rescue clout and make those boys
over there to feed ya real good. After all, this emergency squad call of yours
will be free of charge. My gift to the men in tan for a job well done. Tell
them they can get a free check up for her and her pups from me in
a couple of days.##  

"I'll tell them, doc. And I'll have my report on your desk by sun up."
Then Dave hung up and addressed all the firemen and the seated nurse.
"Doc says a checkup's not necessary right away since things went
just fine all things considering. He's offering to check them out for
nothing in forty eight hours. All you have to do is swing on by."

"Wow, that's terrific." said Hank. "Can we offer you boys some
barbecue? It's Stoker's night for KP and he's already started grilling.
Dixie, same offer extends to you. Marco, go see if Dr. Morton's got
time to chow before he heads out. I don't know of one hospital resident
who can't pack away more than one meal when given the chance. They
all just plain work too hard not to be able to do it."

Marco headed off to ask him.


Lopez peeked his head into the bathroom where Morton was
lathered up like a surgical scrub down. "Doc, what time's your date

"Ten p.m. We're going to the late show." replied Mike.

"The dinner table's open. Ribs. Are you game before you leave?"

"You have to ask? And I'll bring my raging appetite, too.
Thanks Marco."

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Marco nodded and turned to leave. "Hey Roy!" he shouted over
the rush of steaming water in the shower stall.

"What's the matter? Is it Bonnie? I'll be right there."

"Relax, pal. She's fine. She delivered two girls and a boy who came
back with only a little puppy CPR and leftover epinephrine from the trash."

"Glad to hear it. Bonnie's a real trooper. I wasn't worried at all."

::Sure you weren't.:: Marco thought privately. ::You would've stayed
sticky with chocolate malt in defiance of Cap for the next run if he
hadn't've put his foot down to get presentable, in order to be there for her
delivering.:: "I'll go set the table. Our four guests are staying to eat."

"Ok. I'll grab out more soda from the cooler in the yard when I'm done
changing..." bubbled DeSoto under the hot water.

Subject: A Home For Each...

It was two hours later in the depths of early evening.

"Come on fellas. You've stopped stuffing your faces so drink up some
of this soda. The case Roy brought in's already starting to get warm.
What's the matter? You got a sudden aversion to carbonated prune
juice or something? Hmmm, this is yummy.."

No one even looked at her from where they sat burping or reading
or playing checkers. So Dixie improvised, trying to get some bodies
as thirsty as she was."Drink Dr. Pepper,..BE-eeee a pepper... " croon
sang Dixie, to the others while sipping on hers. "Well, maybe not you.
You're still on just the soft stuff." she babytalked to the snoring scruffy
coated puppy nestled in her arms inside the shock blanket.
"I think I'll call you, Max. You're definitely gonna be mine after all I
went through trying to save you." she murmured.

The guys didn't protest. Gage smiled as he turned off Max's
wafting oxygen source. He had just finished drifting
over for the fifteenth time to monitor his hind leg pulse.

Dixie smiled. "Hey, check this out. Little Max thinks I'm Bonnie
or something and he's looking for some insta-dinner. Isn't that
the cutest thing you ever saw?"

He was just barely visible in between all of Dixie's curves.

Johnny's grip on the regulator valve slipped and the tank key
clanged loudly against metal on its chain when he dropped it
as Gage contained his shock and surprise at the casually
mentioned observation.

Every male in the room ( except Morton ) suddenly found themselves
studying the walls, the ceiling, the floor, anywhere....but towards the
couch.  ( Nothing humanly body functional...ever surprised a doctor. )

Johnny started in awkwardly, thick with embarrassment,
when Dixie finally decided to shift Max to her shoulder for a
cuddle. "So u-uhhh.. *cough* What are we gonna name the other
two? I mean, Dixie's got dibs on him. Uhh, congratulations to you." he
said deadpan. He looked everywhere but at Dixie as he spoke.

"Why thank you, Johnny..." McCall demurred. "He's definitely the best
of the bunch."

Chet piped up, the first fireman to sound somewhat normal in several
seconds. "I dunno, Johnny. Whatever names we decide on, I guess.
Maybe we should make em the epitamy of cuteness so that they'll be
sure to adopt out when it comes time to give em away or sell them."

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"You got a dog allergy like Mama Lopez or something there, Kelly?
That's why Marco can't take one. His mother'd only get sick." Cap
asked."Why don't you take one of the girl pups for yourself? All I
know is that I can't myself. My wife would kill me."

"Mine, too." piped up Roy.

"Oh, no..." Kelly evaded."You guys aren't gonna stick me with doing
this. My cat Bruno will eat that tiny ball of fuzz for lunch. He doesn't
tolerate having other animals around. At all."

Gage laughed lightly. "Nor any of his dates either.." he joked, letting
the others in on a little secret.

"Very funny, Gage. But uh,, speaking of the subject, you're a bachelor.
Why don't YOU take one of Bonnie's puppies home?"

Johnny became uncomfortable, now that the tables were turned.
"A puppy'd only get lonely for sure at my house. I'd be outside minding
the ranch all the time and besides....I'd .. probably'd never
remember to feed her on time. I'm just too dog-goned busy
with my horses for that kind of thing."

The guys didn't relent in their disbelieving stares. Chet shrugged
"Is that a pun, Johnny? If so, it wasn't a very good one."

Gage went on babbling and pretending that he never even heard
Kelly's jab. "I swear I only go inside the house to sleep."

"Among other activities.." Chet implied with innuendo. "You're
not always alone, Johnny." said Kelly, revealing a little secret of
his own.

Johnny stabbed Chet with a glare to silence him but Dixie caught onto
Chet's implied observation and laughed richly.

Gage was stung.

Dave Gordon raised his hand. "I'll take the third born. I kinda feel like
she's half mine already. My heart strings are already getting pulled
too hard to ignore." he admitted. "She's definitely woven
her spell on me, the little witch. I think I'll call her Sabrina."

"Glad you joined my adopt a puppy club.." Dixie said, raising her pop
can into the air.

"Anytime.." Dave replied, lifting his own in a toast to match.

"That leaves one puppy left." Kelly tallied. "Uh..."

"The last's a girl, Chet. Wanna check again?" Gordon said,
moving Bonnie and her basket of babies a little closer to
them on the kitchen table.

Marco spoke up. "You know I can't take her. Like Cap said,
my mama's deathly allergic. How about we check to see if there's a
still a fire station around who doesn't have a mascot yet? A puppy'd
be the perfect thing for any crew to have to baby to death to burn off
excess stress on the job."

"I don't think there is one." Hank said. "Boot's done a lot making
everybody want a dog just by his visiting their stations. So that's
what they all went out and did. They each got a dog.  And as I recall,
the chief brags constantly at meetings that there isn't a single solitary
firehouse in the whole county that Boot hasn't yet influenced in that way.
McConnike swears up and down that we were his absolute last stop
when he arrived for that cliff top rescue two years ago."

Gage stared at the garage in utter amazement. "Why that sneaking
little ball of fur..."

"Not so little.." Roy intoned.

Johnny ignored him. "If I had known two years ago that I'd be forking
out thirty dollars a year in dog food expenses, I never would've even
started scratching those flea bitten ears of his.  And now there's this
fatherhood thing he has with Bonnie. I wonder if he even knows he
HAS any puppies."

Roy smiled. "I'm sure he does, Johnny. He does get around. Who knows
how many Boots are running wild through the streets of L.A. by now. I'm
surprised that none of us even guessed what he was up to."

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"How do you mean?" Johnny asked Roy.

"What better way to guarantee his own survival than to train us firemen to take
in station mascots for him to play with. Especially if they're females ones."
DeSoto grinned.

Morton started laughing. "And I thought I held the market for possessing
a high grade of cleverness. Boot definitely had all of us fooled. Right from
day one, I hear?" he teased the firecrew.

They pointedly ignored him.

Morton was nonplussed.
"I still can't believe you fellows didn't even realize that Bonnie was pregnant."

"Did she look pregnant to you?" Johnny and Roy asked the Rampart folks

"Yes." replied both Dixie and Morton.

Dixie chortled. "And you two call yourselves paramedics... How could
you miss her belly settling? She was practically dragging the floor with
it when she walked." McCall said, returning Max to his anxiously
waiting furry mother. He already wore a ribbon in his hair, like Bonnie's.
Only it was blue.

Morton grew serious faced. "Uh, boys. I wouldn't let Brackett find out
for all the world about your little slip up. He just might sic Craig Brice on
the both of you for some retraining in the paramedic skills canine lab."

Roy and Johnny paled.

Mike Morton let them off the hook by bursting into a huge toothy
smile with a guffaw bellowed out at the top of his lungs. "I'm
joking, guys. Got ya, good."

The others fell into a giggle fit.

Morton went on. "And before you ask. Pets aren't allowed
where I live."

"Same here." said Les Taylor, the blond headed animal
control officer.

Chet wiped tears of mirth out of his eyes. "That leaves one left
to speak up.  Mike.. what's your excuse for not taking the last pup?"

All eyes turned to Mike Stoker.

The soft spoken fire engineer didn't move in his chair. His answer
slammed them all into complete silence. "I don't like dogs.."
came his reply. Even as he petted the snoozing Bonnie's head.

"Why ever not?" Gage asked incredulously. "Dogs are great.."

Hank said. "Stoker, you've absolutely stunned us flat with that kind
of remark. Care to reiterate?"

Mike Stoker lifted suddenly sad eyes and said..

Subject: A Call For Help...

"Whenever I've gotten a dog in the past, something
bad always happened to me. I guess.. I ...sort of ...built
up a negative association with dogs that's now become
impossible to ignore. I know this sounds stupid and even
a bit crazy. I've tried to get over it, but I find that I can't."
he replied. "Not even for a moment.."

Cap was matter of fact, "A defensive mechanism?"

"Maybe.." agreed Roy, analyzing.

"And Mike is the shyest of the shy at times. It makes
sense." Hank angled in.

"A man of few words.." murmured Chet.

"But big on heart." Morton added.

"Mike why didn't you share this with us before?"
asked Marco. "That's what friends are for. We never would
have agreed to keep Bonnie, or Henry or even Boot for
his few weeks of visiting for that matter for one single minute,
if it meant that you'd feel any pain by having them near you."

"Amen to that.." snapped Cap wholeheartedly.

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Mike Stoker studied the floor, but one hand strayed to
Max, to keep tactile tabs on his shallow napping breaths.
"Forget I even said anything. Guys, I ..don't know what to
tell you about it."

"You don't have to." said Dixie with sudden conviction.
Her tone was all friend and not even a hint of nurse colored it.
"Sometimes, there are things people have to keep to themselves
in spite of everything else."

That made Stoker stand up, unusually uncomfortable.
"Ok. I'll take her home with me."

"Are you sure?" Cap asked, angling his head. "Wasn't
that rather sudden?"

"No, it wasn't. And yes, I'm sure. Maybe she'll get me over
this negativism I have once I grow to love her like I do all
my hutch rabbits."

"You have hutch rabbits?" Chet chortled with a laugh.

Gage smacked him.

Stoker ducked his head shyly but then he grinned.
"I do. They're the best pets in the world, Chet, I'll have you
know. And they'll never ever claw you to death like your cat
does to you whenever you p*ss him off with the garden hose
when you shoot it at his window." Stoker said with a smile.

"I do not!"

"You do, too. I see you do it whenever you have me over
and you think I'm still just sleeping in the hammock."

He made a graceful exit to the armchair that Cap had vacated
and retreated behind the entertainment section of the newspaper.

"Why that shy little snitch..." Chet grinned. "I had no idea he
was watching me."

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"Have you ever heard of a fireman engineer who stopped watching
a fellow firefighter?" quipped Cap.

"No.." Kelly answered.

"There you go. Stop looking so surprised then." Roy said with
a smile. "So now you know that Mike Stoker never stops watching
anyone he cares about. Something we all learned about years

"Yeah, all except you, apparently.." Gage mocked at Chet
with a predator's smile.

Chet made a face at his still gathered tormentors.


On the wall, the outside line payphone, started ringing.

Dixie sprang up off the couch and scooped up Max joyfully
in a short dance of happiness. "I'll get it..." She positively floated
to the phone, giddy with the idea of having adopted a shaggy
mini version of a Boot/Bonnie combination. "Los Angeles County
Fire Department. This is Nurse Dixie McCall. How may I help you?"
she asked shifting the whimpering Max to a shoulder to soothe him.
The smile on her face instantly wiped away and disappeared into
a haunted, barely contained mask of shock. "Honey.. honey, can
you still hear me? Please, whatever you do, ..don't hang up.. I'm
not going anywhere, ok?"

That attracted everyone's attention instantly and they all started
speaking at once, asking questions. Dixie silenced them desperately
and mouthed two totally silent words, "Suicide attempt.."

Cap dashed out of the kitchen, "I'll let the phone company know."

"Get Detective Crockett, too, Cap." Gage urged in a whisper. "He's
got our district on shift tonight."

"I know! He's gonna know second. Now shhHHH!" he hissed back. "Give
Dixie your pocket pad and pen so she can take notes!" he ordered.

Johnny stayed with Dixie, crouching cautiously near the receiver in
her ear so he could make out their conversation as it happened.
He handed over a green pen and pointed to his back so Dixie
could start writing, using him as a desktop. Max, he put into
her shirt pocket, having no better place to put him where
he wouldn't cry out for Dixie's body warmth.

The guys split up. And Roy went to the phone in the bunks room with
Morton so that they could eavesdrop in on the conversation to see how
far the caller had actually gone into harming himself or herself by listening
to how they sounded.

Marco went to the communications alcove and put the station out
of service for an off site still alarm suicide attempt via phone call.
Something that headquarters might be able to trace on their end.

Chet got a chair for Dixie and set it down for her to sit on. Then he
freed Johnny up by carrying over an end table after setting its lamp
onto the floor. Dixie immediately started scribbling, using its new
conveniently horizontal surface as a desk.

In a sudden thought, Kelly ran out into the garage and opened the night
doors so police negotiators and Detective Crockett could enter without
ringing the visitor's doorbell.

Johnny read what was on Dixie's paper.

..Female. Younger than fifteen by the quality of her voice.
Maybe fourteen. No other sounds except windchimes and a
bird of some kind...

"A bird?" Johnny mouthed.

Dixie nodded. "A nice sounding one. A nightingale or a mockingbird
or something expensive.." she whispered, then aloud she shouted.
"I'm listening honey. What's your name?"

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The One That Matters
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