Saying Goodbye to the McGuffin

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Published on: Jan. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 20, 2010

I called him McGuffin. I stole the name from Alfred Hitchcock. The suspense movie director always had a gimmick, the thing that everyone was after, and he called that "the McGuffin."

McGuffin du Calembour was a French Brittany and between the moment I met him on an airline loading dock at St. Louis Lambert airport until I laid him in a rocky grave on the hill across the lake, he was my best friend.

It was a dozen years-plus. McGuffin didn't recognize the advances of age. Age was for old dogs; Guff was the eternal puppy. Every day was the best day he ever had. He yawped against the kennel fence every time anyone opened the house door, sure it meant a trip to some bird field.

Guff was an eternal optimist. He could be cold and wet, covered with snow, pelted by sleet, even struck down by heat exhaustion, but those were minor inconveniences, all part of being there. And being there was life.

Something poisoned Guff. One day he was healthy, the next he was ill and the third day I was burying him, sobbing disconsolately. I still can't visit the grave without breaking down. Maybe never will.

I took him to the far slope, across the lake, where the afternoon sun slants through the oak trees and lights the forest floor.

Nearby is an old log, covered with moss, that I found one day years ago. It looked like a good place to sit and think. I've gone to this log often. Sometimes I'm pretending to squirrel hunt; other times it's turkeys or deer, but mostly it's just thinking...or sometimes not even that, just soaking in the feel and smell of the earth and the sky.

It's a sweet place and I took McGuffin there knowing it made no difference to him whether the sun warmed his grave or not. It just makes a difference to me. I wanted him to be where I have felt content.

There's a new puppy, but he will not be McGuffin. The puppy is only a successor, not a replacement. He will carve his initials on my heart just as Guff did.

He and I will share times of glory and times of ignominy through the years, just as Guff and I did. Probably I'll grow to cherish him as much as I cherished Guff. I know that...but I miss my old friend so much.

Animal rights advocates and I seldom agree,

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