The Halloween Bandit: Remembering McDuff

Oct 26, 2013 | 2013 Articles, Pets

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.

Judy McFadden, author of Life with McDuff: Lessons Learned from a Therapy Dog, resides in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Her short stories appear in Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can’t Believe My Dog Did That! and Dogs and the Women Who Love Them. Life with McDuff is a Dog Writers Association of America Special Award Nominee. Judy speaks to audiences about the benefits of animal assisted therapy and reading programs like Therapy Dogs International and Reading with Rover. Visit her website for more information about Judy and McDuff.


  1. Judy, once again, conveys that McDuff was far more “treat” than “trick.” When we look at ourselves, and those we love, we can readily identify with the cute and all too “devilish” aspects that make that special someone endearing. Isn’t this also the case with our lovable pets which continue to astonish us with their “human-like” personalities?

    So, to all those parents out there who will be monitoring their children’s Halloween candy this year and, perhaps, sneaking a few of your favorites for yourself (you know who you are), may you be titillated in knowing that you are, indeed, carrying on the “spirit” of the lovable, mischievous and enchanting McDuff!

  2. Judy – It’s hard to believe McDuff has been gone 10years. I’ll bet he’s enjoying himself today and every day in the spirit world.
    Thank you for sharing your stories about him with us.

  3. A loving tribute to your Scottie scamp. After reading about this and many other escapades of McDuff, I’m certain he is wagging his tail in Judy’s heart.

  4. AI found myself chucking out loud as I read this. As sad as it is that McDuff is no longer here physically, his spirit will never die for those who knew and loved him, just as it is for people we knew and loved. Judy’s excellent memory and picture writing storytelling style convinces me I can see him doing all these things. Thanks, Judy.

  5. Judy, thank you for this wonderful story about our beloved McDuff. For anyone who may not know, my son Steven was McDuff’s library friend for “Reading with Rover” – McDuff helped Steven to become a fluent reader, and I will be forever grateful to him. Steven will be graduating college with a BFA in Game Design soon! Many thanks to you Judy, and to McDuff, for being such a positive influence in our lives.

  6. I can envision McDuff sneaking around behind our Lord and stealing anything not nailed down. Not to worry. If McDuff was a tad mischievous and forgiven in this life (for all his good works), I’m sure he’s forgiven by his Creator in the next one. However, if there were any advise I’d give in prayer to our God, I would suggest first, scratch McDuff’s ears for trust, second, breathe the Holy Breath of Eternity across his black fur and third, hide all the cherry suckers, or our Lord will surely be out of luck.


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