Intruder

A stranger had broken into her new home, taking beloved family heirlooms and leaving her feeling violated. Would she ever feel safe there again?

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- Posted on May 15, 2015

A foreboding image of an intruder in a dark house miracle dog

I opened the door to our house tentatively, as had become my habit. As if some barrier were keeping me from crossing the threshold. My eight-week-old German shepherd puppy, Sascha, trotted inside ahead of me, his nails clicking on the tiles.

“Jeremy?” No answer.

Empty. I dropped my keys in my purse and checked the hallway. Hung up my coat. Checked out the kitchen. I crept up the stairs to the darkened landing and stopped, listening. What was that creak? A footstep? Or just the house settling? My heart sped up.

I pushed open the door to the bedroom. The curtains cast long black shadows across the floor. What was I so scared of in my own home? It was frustrating that I had to live this way!

Something brushed my leg and made me jump. Only Sascha, wagging his tail. “Good boy,” I said. “You’re a great guard dog.” Well, guard puppy. I went downstairs, turning on lights as I went. I sat at the kitchen table, Sascha at my feet. The two of us waited for my husband, Jeremy, to get home from work.

READ MORE: OUR GUARD DOG

“You okay?” he asked when he got in, an hour later.

“Sure,” I said. How could I tell him the truth—our dream home had become a nightmare?

For most of our marriage, Jeremy and I were apartment-dwellers. But the Cape-style house with white pine cabinets in the kitchen and marble tile in the bathroom was exactly what we’d been saving for. The yard was beautiful. We were excited to move in. Our first few days there, I’d just walked from room to room, barely able to believe all this was ours. It felt as much a miracle as a house.

Two weeks after we’d moved in, on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, everything changed. I was at a friend’s house when Jeremy called. “Come home quick,” he said. “We’ve been robbed.”

The police were waiting when I got there. Together we searched the place. Jeremy pointed to a shelf of DVDs. They were falling over, turned every which way. I pictured the thief rifling through them, picking out his favorites, and shuddered.

On the kitchen counter was a half-empty can of soda. He just helped himself! Jeremy opened the fridge. “All the soda’s gone,” he said.

I flushed with anger and revulsion. I didn’t care about stolen soda, but the idea of someone going through the fridge, touching everything, making himself at home, in my home...

I was shaking by the time we headed up to the bedroom. I opened the dresser drawers. “Oh no.”

All my delicates had been rifled through. It made my skin crawl. Then I saw the open space in the middle. My jewelry box—gone.

Numbly, I told the police what was inside it: My great-grandmother’s locket. A pair of amethyst earrings Jeremy had given me for Valentine’s Day. A silver bird pendant from my mother. The ring I wore on my wedding day for “something blue,” with an unusual topaz stone.

Some of the pieces were worth money, like my mother’s diamond ring—the one she gave me when I graduated from college—but even the costume jewelry held sentimental value. As the only granddaughter I’d inherited things passed down for generations. Now they were all in the hands of some awful stranger. Some...intruder.

READ MORE: A SAFE PLACE FOR HOPE

The officers weren’t optimistic about solving the crime. “It’d help if you had some idea who might have done it,” one said. “Sometimes jobs like this are local. Someone who knows the house can watch to see when it’s empty.” I glanced nervously at the window. Was someone watching now? Planning another invasion?

“We’ve only lived here a few weeks,” Jeremy said. “We have no idea who’d do something like this.”

The cops said they would do their best, that something like this could happen anywhere. I knew we’d never find the perpetrator.

From then on I compulsively checked for security risks. Neighbors seemed sinister. I dreaded being home alone but also dreaded leaving, knowing anyone could bust in while I was out. I lay in bed at night thinking of confronting strangers in the hallway or defending myself in the kitchen. Would I ever trust again?

We changed the locks. I wanted to install an expensive state-of-the-art security system. But Jeremy had other ideas. “Let’s get a dog. You don’t like being alone here. Dogs bark.”

I’d never had a dog. I was a little nervous around them. But I agreed to give it a try. A puppy wasn’t exactly what I’d had in mind, though. Someday, maybe, Sascha might grow up to be intimidating. It was hard to imagine now; he was such a cuddly comfort dog. Not that I didn’t need that. He was a sweetheart. In a few days he’d converted me to a true dog lover. One afternoon, I came home with Sascha in the car. He bounded out and darted for the sidewalk. I chased after him.

“You got a puppy!” someone squealed. The daughter of one of our neighbors came running up. “He’s so cute. Can I pet him?”

Sascha wagged his tail furiously as the girl buried her fingers in his fur. I saw something sparkle. A ring. My ring, the diamond ring my mother gave me. I was so shocked, I didn’t know what to do. Not until Jeremy got home. We called the police.

A few hours later, two officers were at our front door with the girl, still wearing my ring. “My brother gave it to me,” she said, sniffling. “He said he found it on the street, I swear!”

Her teenage brother soon confessed. An older man had enticed him to watch nearby houses and steal jewelry when their owners were out. The older man had a record so didn’t want to risk getting caught himself. But he was going back to jail now. Hopefully the teenage boy would make better choices. He got off with probation.

As for me, my dream home feels like a dream again—an even better one, thanks to Sascha. Jeremy and I have since adopted two more German shepherds—not for protection, but because we love them. What I got back was more than just some stolen jewelry. I got back my sense of trust, and my home.

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