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Gavin was one of those good people who fixes up broken highchairs, broken families, and broken dogs. Semi-retired, all round handyman, a little gruff as men that age often are but sweet inside. He was one of Maria’s Mir St. neighbours, along with his two dogs that he was tough on but adored; the perfect dog owner.

“Would you come with me to the pound, Gavin?” asked Maria one morning as she walked past his house. “I have seen a dog there that I am interested in but I need a second opinion. If you say no then I won’t get him.” As they walked into the pound, Maria added casually, “By the way, he won’t let anyone touch him.”

Gavin frowned. He had a duty of care to give appropriate advice, “What breed of dog?”

“German shepherd,” said Maria keeping up the casual style.

“An aggressive German shepherd?” said Gavin as if he wasn’t going to waste his time by going any further.

“Please, at least, look at him. They won’t keep him any longer.” They both stood outside the cage. The dog certainly knew that they were there but he would not do them the honour of looking at either of them. He was matted and dirty because he wouldn’t let the groomer touch him.

“He’s way too big for you,” said Gavin. “He will hurt you. Have a look at the other dogs. There are lots here that need a good home.” He would be a fine dog if he would stop fighting life, thought Gavin. “His spirit isn’t broken but his trust is,” said Gavin.

After Gavin left, Maria sat by the dog’s door waiting for him to show some interest in her. Gavin didn’t exactly say no, thought Maria. “Come on, boy. I’m your only chance. Take it. I’m on your side but I won’t force you. It is your choice for life or not. You will have to let me put the lead on if you are going to get out of this place alive.”

The dog listened intently but suspiciously. Maria had been sitting on the floor waiting for so long that she started daydreaming. She was surprised by a nose in her hand. He had come. Thank God. As Maria was slowly clipping the lead to his collar, he suddenly bit her arm. A German shepherd bite is no little scratch. They can kill if they want to.

One of the pound keepers approached, “Is everything alright?”

Maria quickly pulled her jumper over her arm, “All good, thanks.” This time, the dog let Maria attach his lead and they walked to the office. She knew it was a great risk to take a dog that could attack. What if he attacked someone else? Yet, she also knew he wasn’t bad, just broken.

Maria named him, Gortaithe. It means injured in Irish. Sensing the risk she took to save him, he never challenged her again. He quickly gained a reason, other than self-preservation, to live. When we love someone, we make it our business to protect them.

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