WASHINGTON, July 24, 2014 – Duke, you were such a good boy. But in the beginning, Duke was not Duke. He was Troy.
Born a beautiful Blue Merle Collie, his future was to be as a show dog. But fate changed that. At only a few weeks old, he was diagnosed as a carrier for collie eye anomaly. While he did not suffer from it, he could not be allowed to breed and pass the gene along.
Since a neutered dog cannot be a show dog, his future became that of a pet. But the breeder did not want an additional pet, so he put Troy up for sale.
My wife always wanted a Blue Merle Collie. I always wanted a German Shepherd. We were going to get a second dog to go along with our Labrador Retriever. In the best spirit of matrimonial bliss, we compromised.
We got both.
Troy came to us but we decided he needed a new name. Troy became Duke, named after John Wayne.
He had come from a house with no children and came to a house with children, including two boys under three. Duke became the boys’ protector, sleeping in their room at night. He would wander the house looking for the boys, making sure they were herded up.
One day, he was out in the front yard, playing with the children when a meter reader came into the yard. Duke immediately herded the children up, put himself between them and the meter reader and raised the alarm.
Duke was supposed to be my wife’s dog and the German shepherd was supposed to be mine. The funny thing is, the dogs had a different idea. The shepherd bonded with my wife and Duke bonded with me.
Duke had many good years with us, but time eventually catches up with all dogs. Two years ago, we noticed he was starting to have a little trouble walking. It wasn’t bad but it slowly got worse.
Duke had arthritis but he fought it. As this summer dawned on us, Duke began to have more trouble walking. We had to carry him up and down the stairs.
Then a couple of days ago, Duke collapsed. He had fought as long and as hard as he could, but now could fight no longer. We hoped for a miracle, but when Duke could no longer walk, we realized his time had come.
The skies had opened up and it was pouring rain as I carried Duke to the car for the final time. Duke never liked riding in the car and would try to keep from being put into a car. When he was about a year old, I had him in my Jeep Wrangler and took him to the pet store. It was summer so the top was down on my Jeep.
As I pulled into the parking lot, Duke decided he had enough and tried to jump out. Fortunately I had tied his leash to the seat. Duke hung over the edge of the door for a moment until I could rescue him.
I thought about that incident that we had laughed about over the years as I slid Duke into the car. That summer Duke’s future was measured in years.
Now it was measured in minutes.
He took his last trip to the vet’s office. We lay on the floor and he was given the shot. He looked so tired. He took a couple of breaths and was gone.
People who have had near death experiences say they have not only seen loved ones on the other side, but also beloved departed pets. I don’t know if that is true or not. Theology is far above my pay grade.
I find it hard to believe that God would have created a creature as magnificent as the dog and not allowed a future for them in the life to come.
Tonight my boys sleep in a room without Duke watching over them.
I’m still looking around, expecting to see Duke in some of his favorite places. He is gone but will always be loved.
“Mr. Duke, you were a very good boy.”