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It Takes a Thief

It’s mid July and 6am is warm but not unbearable outside my French doors. The dogs and I amble to the barn. McGyver, our old shepherd is the slowest and I check my speed to match his trembling haunches. I have a hard time watching this brave, determined soul. His mind is bright, his heart is willing, but his body has shifted into that gait that leads to the end. He has been part of our family for 13 years. I take a few minutes to let him rest, stroke his head and remember the moments we’ve shared.

I wanted a large dog to discourage in house break-in, Bob traveled a great deal. I went to the local shelter and picked a long, lanky puppy. He leaped against the bars of his cage and the staff seemed surprised, but happy, when I picked the hyper shepherd mix. He was mine the moment I saw him. I’ve always been a sucker for a long, lanky fellow. The shelter employees knew more about him than I did. I named him McGyver, after the main character in the old series “It Takes a Thief”.

He was ours for one day; we’d gotten him at four months old, when he ran under a horse. The horse stepped on the pup’s toe and when he wrenched away, McGyver broke his hip. He threw up in the car on the way to the vet. He threw up on the way home after surgery. A sensitive dog, his demeanor told us he was embarrassed. He disliked car trips after that and his world has pretty much been the parameters of Misty Hill. I wondered what I’d gotten myself into.

McGyver spent 2 months confined to a small space with the broken hip. Puppy bones are like butter and it was important that he not run or jump. We went on short walks so he could relieve himself twice a day. That was it. Never did he complain, never did he have an accident in the house. The wild child seemed to realize he had to behave.

Once he was released from confinement, McGyver morphed into a farm dog. He had a deep respect for the horses, rolled in manure, and tumbled after squirrels. At that time, we were having the house remodeled and workmen were in and out. The uncoordinated pup became their friend. They shared their lunch with him, and threatened to take him home after work. I began to worry that this dog I’d bought for security would turn into one who would hold the door open for crooks. He was certainly not the ideal protector I’d envisioned.

I shouldn’t have worried. Once he matured, his bark became fierce when a stranger approaches. Though his hips tremble, he scrambles up right, and still presses against me, making sure he is the barrier between visitors and myself. Once I tell him it’s okay, he becomes the welcoming host

McGyver chases tennis balls for the grandkids. On this visit, the balls were more dropped than thrown, but both children and dog still loved the game. He’s never eaten off a plate, even those right under his nose, or begged for food. He stays off the furniture and thrives on pleasing. A gentle no is the only correction he has ever needed. We are his whole world. He was always, even during the silly puppy days, and still is, the perfect dog.

In the next few days, weeks, who knows, I’m sure he will tell us when, it will be Goodbye day. I will do as I have for those who came before him, give him all the things he loves; our undivided attention, quiet time sitting on the cool earth watching him doze, gentle words of praise, one last tennis ball. We will feed him beef and chicken, each bite cut small and tell him how perfect he is. We will stay on the farm, go nowhere. I’m glad he will have no pain and doesn’t have to travel by car to ease out of this world.

As we do these things I will think about how I did not realize, so many years ago when I spied the pup no one wanted that I had not acquired a dog that would protect me from those who stole, but one who would rob me. For this I know. McGyver will steal a piece of our hearts to take with him over the bridge.

Sometimes, it takes a thief for one to realize what is valuable. Enjoy the moments, all.