About 30 km north of the disaster-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, an old shiba dog strains for breath in a temporary, prefabricated house in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture.

The dog's name is Chibi. On this spring morning, in a four-tatami mat room, her 18-year life appears to be nearing an end, cradled in the arms of her loving owner, Chikara Sakurada.

Sakurada, 64, has been using a wheelchair for about two decades, ever since he suffered a brain hemorrhage while he was a worker at the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant.