Duke came into our lives a long time ago. We had just had a dog die – Nitro was a Great Dane mix who we rescued from an animal shelter. Nitro was loved as much as anyone could love a dog and he was what our family needed at the time.
Our friends at Lakeside Kennel called to see if we would like to come look at another dog. Someone had dropped Duke off and were going to have him euthanized if no one wanted him. Long story short, we fell in love with Duke immediately. Duke was even larger than Nitro – at least weight wise! Duke was a mastiff and at one time weighed as much as 175 lbs! Duke was about a year old when we brought him home. He was well-trained to both voice and hand commands – neither of which any of us knew or ever really learned, so I guess he was smarter than any of us the entire time he was with us!
Duke was the epitome of man’s best friend. He loved us with all he could love. He tolerated our friends when they came over because he knew that’s what he was supposed to do. He barked and acted fierce when the doorbell would ring or when a strange person would show up to do some work around the house. He played with our kids friends, even starred in a video or two for highschool honors classes! One summer Cyndi convinced him to swim in our pool – she was the only one who could! He would stand on the steps of our hot tub watching intently whomever was enjoying it at the time. He loved to face the wind and enjoy the thousands of scents it would bring his way. He enjoyed riding in the car and it really didn’t matter where you took him.
The last few years were tough on Duke. First Meghan left to go to college and there was a large gap in his life. Then I lost my job and was home during the day for a few months which really confused him. Then Ethan left to go to college and there was an even larger gap in his life. And to confuse him more, I quit my job and was at home each day again! This last year we traveled to Tallahassee each week. Sometimes Duke would travel with us and other times we made different arrangements for him. I’m sure the constant travel confused him but he didn’t seem to mind although he enthusiastically enjoyed our times at home together!
A few months ago Duke began favoring a front leg. The lameness became worse and although Duke would try to fight through it, we could tell he was not enjoying life as much as he once did. Duke never slept anywhere else in the house but by our bed – until one night a few weeks ago when he tried to stay outside because the pain was too much. I think that night we finally decided that it was too selfish of us to not do what needed to be done.
We asked our vet if he would euthanize Duke one day this week. While I know he didn’t want to do it, he agreed. We spent an hour of so just hanging with Duke before we picked him up and loaded him in our vehicle. We stayed with Duke while the staff did what needed to be done. It was comforting for us to know the last hour of Duke’s life was as near pain-free as could be. It was comforting for us to see his face relax! The vet couldn’t even talk to us as he entered the room this was bothering him so much. He shook as he tried to give Duke the last injection and was visibly emotional when it was done.
As Cyndi and I continue to reflect on life with Duke, we are amazed at how many people he impacted with his gentle giant self. People in nursing homes, people on the beach, strangers on the road or visitors to our home. Lots of people remember what an incredible pet he was!
I hope we all remember that we impact people every day in every part of our lives. We impact them positively or we impact them negatively. Our lives reflect Jesus or they don’t.
I want to reflect Jesus and just like Duke I want people to remember me in a positive way!