A Haiku and its Background Story

Neighbor’s dog runs free
I always call her Street Pup
Just found her body

Yes, this little haiku is a true story.

For months a cute little dog has been running around, never confined in her fenced yard. My partner asked a neighbor where she lived, found the house, and returned her there a few times, carefully closing the gate. Later the same day, the gate would be open and the pup would be out roaming.

Because we didn’t know her name, I began to call her Street Pup, and soon she responded to the name.

Street Pup would wait outside my door in the morning, impatient, wanting to tag along and play with my dog as I walked her. Chloe tolerated the pup, wrestled her, and was able to have fun although she was on a long leash.

Street Pup drank from my birdbath and stole food off the table when I ate outside. She was never late for a cookout.

Then a few weeks ago she stopped coming around. My heart sank a bit. I walked past her house in hopes she was in the yard, but no. No Street Pup.

Today I was walking Chloe through the desert near my home. There was a skeleton. Right size. Rounded muzzle. I knew.

To be sure, I walked closer and looked at the face and head. There was still fur there, and it was her, all right.

I was so very, very angry. Part of me wanted to come back, slide her remains onto a plastic bag and deliver them to the doorstep of her “owners.” But I knew they would not care, it would not matter.

I’m glad I knew Street Pup. I tried to find a home for her – she’d have been easy to pupnap. She came running when I called, let me hold her, leash her, walk her. I could easily have hustled her into my car and delivered her to a loving family, but sadly, I was unable to find a home for her. And no, I did not need another dog.

Street Pup. Gone but not forgotten.

Street Pup. ¡Presente!

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Surprise in the Mesquite

She rose from the mesquite bushes as I approached the highway just north of the Mexican border. Short, dark-skinned, wearing a black skirt and sweater, thick socks and sandals. She was wrapped in a rebozo, a shawl, of black and purple. And tucked into that rebozo was a small child.

She held out her hand to me, a gesture of request. A plea.

I stopped. This was not a woman from the neighborhood out for a morning stroll.

In the more Castillian Spanish of southern Mexico, she asked for food. For her child. She’d been walking for days, she said, carrying the child, and hadn’t eaten. The only food she’d found she’d given to her daughter.

Though I knew she’d crossed the border illegally, what could I do? A young woman with a baby, in the desert. Asking for food.

I gave her the lunch I’d packed just a few minutes earlier, a few energy bars I kept in the car, and a bottle of water I had along. Then I handed her all my money less what I’d need to buy lunch at work that day. Buena suerte, I said to her as I eased away. Good luck.

This was nearly twenty years ago, and I still can’t get her out of my mind.