by Judy McFadden
Judy shares with KRL this Halloween story about her therapy dog McDuff, along with a poem dedicated to his memory.
A pint-sized angel with shimmering, sheer wings and a crooked halo on her head stood among the motley crew of trick-or-treaters on my front porch. She couldn’t have been more than four years old, much shorter than the others and her small pumpkin container hung lower. As I handed out Halloween candy, I suddenly heard a loud wail. “Nooooo, stop it!” Tears streamed down the face of the little angel in distress; her mother hurriedly ran up onto the porch. I looked down wondering what on earth could be wrong. Then I saw it! My Scottish Terrier’s head was buried in her candy carrier frantically trying to grab a mouthful of candy before making his getaway. I assured the frantic mother that her angel hadn’t been bitten by the black furry head submerged in the pumpkin.
That wasn’t the first time my thieving canine stole something. Cough drops continued to disappear from my bedroom nightstand, paper wrappings decorated the floor with not a cough drop in sight. Why would I suspect McDuff? After all, dogs can’t unwrap cough drops! Wrong. After setting a trap, he was busted. I watched in amazement as he removed the wrappers and ate the cough drops. During his therapy dog work in later years, he performed that feat with Halloween candy to the amusement of spectators at hospitals and nursing homes. Everyone knew he was partial to red suckers.
Not only was McDuff a thief, but he was the slickest four-legged thief imaginable. He once swiped a pencil right out from under my nose while he sat on my lap. How he managed to do that, I don’t know. I only know that while I was looking around in the chair and on the floor for it, out of the corner of my eye I saw him slinking away. Whenever I saw the “walk,” I knew he had something stolen in his mouth although I couldn’t see it. “McDuff, drop it!” The pencil, crayon, candle or whatever tumbled out of his mouth onto the floor. His AKC registered name is Debcha’s Slick McDuff.
McDuff was a masterful thief, refused to learn tricks, take pills and loved rolling in “unsavory” substances. Anything dead that he could flop on was a special treat. Time after time he outsmarted me and his stubbornness often frustrated me to tears, but McDuff had another side. He was featured on Las Vegas Channel 3 TV News and front pages of local newspapers for his remarkable therapy dog work with five individuals described by the Las Vegas Review Journal as having the most severe mental and physical disabilities in the state of Nevada. The Paseo Verde Children’s Library in Henderson, Nevada, has a book dedicated to his memory for his work in the Reading with Rover Program. McDuff touched and changed many lives on our nine-year journey together and he didn’t stop, even in death.
Ten years ago on a heartbreaking October 31st morning, I lost my teacher, travel companion and friend to cancer. Every Halloween when the trick-or-treaters ring the doorbell, in my mind’s eye I see McDuff racing to the door on those short, stubby Scottie legs eager to greet them. Even though I miss him and shed tears to this day, I know that the joy he brought into my life and the lives of so many others far outweighs the pain of losing him.
Never again will I see those wise mystical eyes,
Eyes I loved so well burn into mine,
Eyes that created joy and comfort,
Healing and calmness, amusement and laughter,
And tears of frustration.
Never again will I witness your tender tongue
Convey love and unconditional acceptance;
The tongue that brought smiles to the faces
Of the sick and disabled.
Never again will you be there to lick the tears
Away from my face, if ever life beats me
Down to the ground again.
Never again will I feel the comfort and protection
Of your furry back against my leg
As we lie sleeping in bed.
Forever more will I hold in my heart
The life lessons you taught;
How to forgive, love unconditionally,
Look beyond outer appearances,
Enjoy life instead of fighting and resisting it,
And to help myself by being of service to others.
Farewell, my teacher, my friend, my companion;
The joy and blessing of having you in my life
Far outweighed the pain of losing you.
Farewell my McDuff, until we meet again,
And I gaze into those eyes once more.
Check out KRL’s review of Life with McDuff: Lessons Learned from a Therapy Dog by Judy McFadden. And you can find more pet related articles and stories in our Pets section.