1. Millions of people have shared the story of Duke Roberts’ last day on earth, which first appeared on Texan photographer Robyn Arouty’s blog.
But what was Duke’s story? In some ways, it’s even more touching than what happened on that final day.
2. Dog trainer Crystal Dunn of Leaps N’Hounds has written a blog describing the rest of his story, which Robyn has posted on her website.
She begins by writing: “Duke fell into the most unlucky group of homeless dogs out there. Big, black, and senior; statistically he was known as ‘least likely to survive’ in the shelter world. This is because there are more large, black, mature dogs killed in shelters every year than any other type of dog.”
3. She says that dogs like Duke are often overlooked by families who choose to adopt adorable puppies, whereupon they struggle to control their behaviour.
She writes: “Duke was beyond all that pesky puppy stuff. A calm and mannerly gentleman, he would never chew couches or jump on people. He didn’t need a kennel, he always eliminated outside, and he wouldn’t even think of stealing your underwear. He was the ideal dog for a family with children and other dogs, and the epitome of why dogs like him deserve a chance at life. He hadn’t done anything wrong. His first family divorced and abandoned him. He was cast out of the only family he had ever known.”
4. Jordan, Duke’s owner, is Crystal’s friend. She wrote to her after she’d broken down in tears watching Duke’s adoption video. “It was meant to be,” she said.
But things didn’t go too smoothly upon Duke’s arrival. Jordan already owned Brinks, “a Min Pin who harbored a serious Napoleon complex. No offense to Brinks, but he had gotten quite used to his life of luxury with their subservient Italian Greyhound, Nuni, as his faithful minion.” Issues began to emerge, with Brinks and Duke fighting over food.
As Crystal writes: “Add to that Jordan’s soon-to-arrive daughter, Elliott, and there was plenty of reasons to proceed with caution […] Duke warned Brinks by grabbing him with his mouth a few times, which scared the daylights out of everyone. Then Duke started guarding Jordan. He was very protective of the pregnant human that had shown him so much kindness. His bark was big, his size was intimidating, and no doubt he could destroy Brinks in one chomp if he wanted.”
5. Crystal was concerned that Jordan would have to get rid of Duke.
“Many people assume that a dog’s behavior dictates who they are, permanently. ‘They must be a bad egg. Gotta get rid of them.’ They fail to realize that people often facilitate aggressive situations in their homes without realising it.”
6. But she didn’t. Duke got another chance at life.
She writes: “Despite a baby soon to arrive, Duke’s intimidating size, and the lack of time they had to work on these issues, the Roberts family stuck by their commitment to give both dogs a happy home and settled into the idea of making some changes. Getting these two very different dogs past their issues was a tall order and potentially risky if they didn’t follow the training protocol. I live three hours away, so I could only be present occasionally.
“Most of their training assistance happened via emails that started with sentences like, ‘this is a long one. Get your coffee.’ […] If the family was going to make it through this, they would have themselves to thank in the end. I could tell them how to get there, but only they could make it happen.”
7. The dogs mended their relationship. But then the family found out that Duke had cancer.
“After learning that he would need an amputation and chemo, they were crushed. The incredible amount of debt they would experience while trying to give him more time, albeit with no guarantees, was mind numbing.”
8. And that’s when Duke got yet another chance at life. Because an unknown benefactor paid for his treatment.
She writes: “Three-legged and a little worse for the wear, Duke mended thanks to this kind person who asked for nothing in return. No one knew how long he had been in pain. Forever the gentleman, he just wasn’t the type to complain. However, it was clear as day when the pain subsided. His temperament improved, and he joyfully got around on three legs like he never needed the fourth to start with.”
9. “Nurse Nuni helped Duke mend after his surgery in the best way she knew how: cuddles.”
“Duke’s story really is wonderful – not just in death, but in life as well. He overcame staggering odds again and again. He got a second chance at life when he was rescued, a third chance when his family didn’t give up on him, and a fourth chance when he survived cancer. With so many lives, we wonder if Duke may have been part cat.
“In return he proved to be a pretty magical dog. The kind of dog that would let a toddler brush his teeth. The kind of dog that his groomer loved so much, she actually took him out on dog ‘dates.’
“His family’s love for him, pictured so clearly on his last day, helps us cope with the loss of our own beloved pets. Duke’s life can teach us how to be better people for our dogs. Because a dog deserves a kind and dignified death, just as much as they deserve every chance at life that we can give them. Only this way can we even begin to be worthy of such canine loyalty, devotion, and love.
Farewell and thanks, sweet Dukey. You are dearly missed.”