Just as the rainbow trout
bites the worm and dances
on his line and flops
on the deck, a Cocker
Spaniel puppy jumps
behind the bushes
and lands on the trout.

There’s no one else around
so he rushes the yowling puppy
to the vet with a hook
embedded in its jaw.
Female about three months.
No collar, no chip
under her skin. No takers
when he places an ad
in the lost and found.

Well, the kids are grown,
I could use the company,
she says. I thought we
were going to travel
now we’re retired, he says.
Tiki would love traveling,
she says as they both watch
the spaniel sitting in the back
seat enjoying the scenery.

For sixteen years, Tiki
follows them everywhere
until one day they find
her stiff and cold lying
on the floor in the kitchen.
The vet makes a house call,
Her heart just stopped.

He says he will bury the dog
under the Pine tree in back.
She takes to her bed. So he calls
the taxidermist who preserved
the head and antlers of his first
buck who hangs on the wall in the den.

Sorry can’t help you but I’ll give
you the name of a guy who freeze
dries dead pets. Put the dog
in the freezer until you can
drive your pet there yourself.
When the freeze dry expert
removes the dog’s eyes and organs,
they marvel, Tiki looks the same.

We do a doubletake as Tiki
Sits still unmoving
cocking her head as they
carry her from room to room.
It’s comforting, she says.
But Tiki doesn’t breathe,
bark or run anymore, I whisper
out of earshot of the grandkids.

Doggy bite, says the two-
year-old hanging onto my leg.
The five-year-old strokes
the soft blonde fur and examines
the cocker’s feet and toenails
while the soft brown eyes stare.
That’s obviously just a stuffed
animal, says the eight-year-old.
Where’s Tiki? she asks.