It's nearly 9.00pm but the sky is a smooth sweep of summer blue and according to the digital clock outside the pharmacy, the temperature is still 32 degrees (it was 42 earlier.)
I'm walking Biff late in the evening - past fields of beatific sunflowers and beets that are taller than me - because, as I recently discovered to my cost, the fierce Poitevin sun is no friend to a little black dog.
Only last week, he gave me quite a scare. Out walking him mid-evening, he emerged from a wood where he had been chasing a hare, and collapsed on the grass, his little heart working harder than the engine of a TGV.
I didn't worry at first, as Biff is young and super-fit and I figured he had just over-exerted himself. But when he didn't get up after five minutes, I started to worry. I scooped my exhausted little dog up into my arms and carried him the half kilometre back to the car, furious with myself for not having any water with me (which I nearly always do.)
I drove home at speed - partly in panic and partly to get some air in the car which was as hot as a pizza oven - but his condition did not improve. He gulped down some water and lay in the court yard, panting heavily, his heart working overtime and visibly stressed. A quick internet search of 'heat exhaustion' revealed alarming results, namely that it could prove fatal for a dog, leading to all kinds of organ failure within hours.
Really panicking now, I wrapped Biff in wet tea towels - as advised by the website - and called the vet, who told me to come to the clinic immediately.
It was not Mme Beaupain (of the supermodel looks and largely male clientele) but Monsieur Dubois, who is in his early thirties and also looks like he stepped out of a YSL ad campaign. Usually, M. Dubois deals with livestock and large animals rather than domestic pets, but it's been my good fortune twice to encounter him on emergency duty.
Biff, bless him, made no attempt to resist as the handsome vet lifted him onto the examination table and expertly checked his heart, before administering an adrenalin shot. I'd done the right thing, said M. Dubois, in wrapping him in wet cloths and in bringing him to the clinic. (It was a relief to hear it as the last time I brought Biff in to see M. Dubois as a late-night emergency, he staged an embarrassing eleventh hour recovery as I pulled up in the clinic car park.)
M. Dubois then gave me some rehydration sachets and told me to put Biff in a cool place when I got him home.
'It's not necessary to put him in the fridge,' he said, with the hint of a smile. 'But maybe the cellar. And don't give him any dinner.'
Poor old Biff. I certainly wasn't going to put him in the fridge or the cellar. I paid the vet and carried my little black dog, still covered in a wet tea cloth, out of the clinic, thinking that after a late night encounter with the handsome vet, a fair few of the pet owners could probably do with an adrenalin shot too.