Oh, McGruff! We loved you despite your flaws.
When I saw you crash-tackle that grim-jawed TV thief on prime-time television, I blanked out, lost track of my conversation momentarily. Just for a second; long enough to see your victory repaid with a flick of the coat and a smarmy smarting remark to the would-be burglar lying stunned on the ground.
I saw you as other than you were. Like a giggling slouching hipster I’d slide up to friends and tell them how I knew you best, better than those moribund consuming slackwits picking propaganda and greying chunks of chicken from their teeth. We shared a good dynamic, even if you knew nothing of our partnership: you the most convincing, I the unconvinced. Your anthropomorphic barks and dogged insinuations were merely affectations. I saw your lolling tongue for the rough-faced lie it was, and it grated me like sandpaper.
There was that episode one night, not on your hot hit show but on a short-lived spin-off that didn’t see out the month. What was it called? Lay on, McGruff or Nose for Crime or some other unremembered pun, coined by sallow-skinned television interns starved of human contact in the station’s dusty back-rooms and forgotten meeting halls. Fed on sawdust and a thin stream of unlikely prospects, their sense of humor atrophying into those moronic wisecracks a station cannot help but cultivate.
That episode changed something in me. Isn’t that ironic? The episode of a dying show that almost no-one saw, its slot already shunted to the dead-time TV doldrums when viewership falls off not so much for lack of interest but of vigor. It was not even day-time television. It could only dream of the four a.m. slot, but I saw it. And you, McGruff. I saw you.
A speaker to an empty room, you’d turned up in your best, never minding that your audience was absent and the microphone was off. You were magnificent! Your coat a long and flowing lustrous silk gown; your tail (neatly clipped) wagged in tight, brief arcs; your darkly-shining nose swept the scene imperiously like a magister’s arm in judgement or command. And most of all, I remember your eyes, McGruff — those iron-grey pools of murky intent. A hero and a villain wrapped in one — proud successor to Sam Spade’s cruel cross-hatched investigator!
Well. You showed yourself, McGruff. You showed yourself to be every bit as proud and preening as I’d suspected, behind that bluff veneer of respectable authority. How strange that you’d betray yourself in that moment, risk your reputation for a moment of pure poochly indulgence. I suppose you thought it didn’t matter, that your brief spurt of fame was waning as compulsive viewer distraction set in.
Whatever the case, I haven’t forgotten you, McGruff. Despite your flaws and despite it all, your princely untouchable swagger lives on in my memory, at least. I still love despite.
Image credit Doriamos on DeviantArt