Shimmerdogs is the story of young Lester B. Hopkins — Mike to almost everyone except his mother, Master Corporal Alice Mackelwain. He is just a boy trying to make sense of his life, which is becoming more complicated by the world of his absent soldiering mother. Mike is very worried about his mother’s safety while she is in Bosnia. He, like his sister, gets caught up in his mother’s tragic stories of children living in Bosnia, whose daily lives include nightmares of the violence and terror of the war. Mike wonders how to make sense of it all, how to step outside the fears he harbours and the unanswered questions he has.
Stumbling upon a book he finds in the library that describes the ancient belief that dogs guard the doorways to death, he begins to shape an understanding of his troubles. Wasn’t he brought back to life by a shimmering white dog with “jewellery eyes” who saved him from drowning? The connections become more apparent when Mike’s dog, Merit, disappears, and he reasons she is on some kind of peacekeeping mission, like his mother. Then he meets Jozef Lapinski, an elderly neighbour who has his own miraculous dog story from World War II. The pieces of his puzzling life are taking shape and he knows something but he cannot name it.