Paying Tribute to a Friend

duke

I wish pets lived longer. They’re part of the family. When they are no longer around, it feels as though something is missing, askew. The routines you are used to change. A definite imbalance in a world that already feels fragile and delicate, at times.

We had to say goodbye to our dog Duke, yesterday. Yes, on National Dog Day. The irony of that isn’t lost on me. He was scheduled for surgery, to remove a massive growth from his lower jaw. It was cancerous, and it had spread beyond anything manageable, especially for a soon-to-be 14 year old dog. We went in knowing there could be risks, knowing this could be a possibility. That doesn’t lessen the blow, though. It’s still sad, and it still hurts, more than I imagined it would.

Duke wasn’t “my dog”. I adopted him when my husband moved to Nebraska with him in tow, over 7 years ago. There was always the mindset that even though I’d walk Duke, feed him, brush him and clean off his paws whenever he’d come in from a rainy, muddy day, that he wasn’t really “my dog”. He was my husband’s.

Duke with the little guy, circa 2011
Duke with the little guy, circa 2011

Of course, none of that is true. He became my dog, too. It was hard not to love Duke. Even when he’d come in all muddy, or pull on the leash so hard you’d nearly trip and fall over your own feet (he was never really good on a leash). He’d beg for food a lot of the time and was very unapologetic about it. Those qualities and many more made Duke, Duke.

He was the most gentle dog I’ve ever met. Anyone who knew Duke, would always comment on how sweet and low-key he was. He didn’t jump all over the place. There was a quiet, patient disposition to him. The boys climbed all over him and the only times he ever growled a bit was when they’d grip hard onto his lower back, an area on him that got sore in his later years. A warning growl, never opening his mouth or snapping. Even when Chance entered the picture and drove Duke up the wall, he never opened his mouth or tried to nip Chance. He was a GOOD DOG. Plain and simple.

duke2

The best dog. It was hard to let him go. How do you say goodbye to such a great contribution to the world? Well, you do what you have to do. That meant not allowing Duke to suffer. We didn’t want him to live the rest of his years in pain. He was such a good boy, we knew we had to do right by him, because he deserved it.

It was strange, waking up this morning. Usually I have two pets greeting me. Chance followed Duke around a lot of the time, the pack mentality. When we let Duke out in the morning, Chance is right there, waiting for him, even trilling to let us know when Duke is ready to come back inside. This morning, Chance sat by the sliding door and didn’t make a peep.

duke4

It sucks. For lack of a better phrase. It just completely, utterly sucks.

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