98: The Shoplifter

98: The Shoplifter

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

The Shoplifter

The odds of going to the store for a loaf of bread and coming out with only a loaf of bread are three billion to one.

~Erma Bombeck

I was the fourth generation to live on an isolated ten-acre tract of woods, fields, and lawns that had once been a working farm. Through the generations, my family watched a city spring up all around us. Gradually, neighboring families sold their properties, which were replaced with housing developments and commercial properties. On the western side of our small tract of land was a public library; on the eastern side was a funeral parlor.

When I was a senior in college, a shopping center was built directly behind us. While it was now convenient to do our grocery shopping, we also had to get accustomed to the new activity. We often heard loud noises at night from delivery trucks.

One morning, having finished my exams for the last semester, my mother and I walked the property while talking about my future plans. Meghan, our three-year-old, free-spirited Irish Setter, had disappeared into the woods. Before long Meghan reappeared, carrying a loaf of bread in her mouth. My mother had always prided herself on instilling good values in her children. It was clear by the look on her face that she had the same expectations of the dog.

“Deborah, you don’t think Meghan is stealing the bread from the store do you?”

It was clear that she didn’t want an answer. She looked horrified at the possibility that her dog could be a criminal and dismissed the thought. Maybe somebody had thrown it into the trash and Meghan had simply picked it up.

Mom kept a watchful eye on her to make sure that it did not happen again. For a while things seemed good. Every time Meghan would leave the property, Mom would call her back. One Saturday afternoon my mother sent me to the store to get some last-minute items. While at the checkout counter I heard the store clerk say, “Oh here comes that Irish Setter again.” Sure enough it was Meghan. I watched, paralyzed, as everyone laughed. She had figured out how to work the automatic door. Nonchalantly, she headed to the bread aisle near the front of the store. She took a loaf of bread and walked out, followed by a store clerk shooing her. I was horrified. All I could think to do was to offer to pay for the bread.

When I got outside, the dog was nowhere in sight. I found her at home with the loaf of bread, and told Mom what I had just witnessed. My mother took the bread from the dog and shook her head in disbelief. She could not believe she had raised a shoplifter. She looked at me and said, “She didn’t even get the right brand.”

Meghan was on home confinement after that.

~Deborah Henderson Roberts

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