Shiba in the Sun

Written October 17, 2001, after losing our chow-sheltie mix Shiba, a part of the family for 14 years.


Ragged bundle of

orange fur

Frighteningly still and silent.



I check for breathing.

Peer over the heap, watch for rise and fall.

One eye opens.

Through the dull covering of

cataractic coat,

the bright brown gleams

and the small puppy winks.

Tail flops once.


“I’m okay. Thanks for asking.”



Stiffly stumbles down the stairs.

Standing hopefully, ears high,

under the table,

hoping for just one Cheerio.

Some sour milk.

Anything but kibbles and bits.


Sharp rebuke …

the ears go flat,

the head falls and eyes

plead silently.

She turns slowly



and flops down,

brown muzzle between

dainty orange paws

and waits.



Doorbell rings. I wait for

click of nails

on hard wood floor,

frantic pace as she

races to protect what’s hers.

Raging barks ¾



destined to inspire terror;

louder and more fierce

as she approaches the intruder,

nothing between

but the fragile wood

of a thick oak door.

I wait …

And hear a soft

fragile “Woof.”

And dim thump of the tail.

“Call me if you need me,”

she seems to say.

“But only if it’s a real



I remember a small fuzzball,

all orange fur and black tongue,

sharp nose the only gift

from a Sheltie mother.

Small when she sat in my hand.

Wild puppy days that lasted too many years.

“Will you ever calm down?”

we cried in despair.

Chewed shoes, shredded dolls,

leapt fences.

We wish for those wild puppy days again.


And yet,

some days,

when the sun shines high and warm,

the sky is blue and cloudless,

after a particularly vivid dream

that has her legs racing,

she jumps up.

Her ears are high, her black tongue ¾

fading and dull (like her eyes) ¾

drips excitement on the deck.

“Where’s the kitty?” I yell.

Her favorite game.

She looks here.     There.

“Where? Where?”

She pounces on the unsuspecting

puddle of black

that is our grumpy feline,

and gets scratched on the nose

for her trouble.

Shaking head,

wounded eyes.

It’s all too much.

She collapses,

and becomes, yet again,

a ragged bundle of orange fur,

frighteningly still and silent.