We call him Duke, “The Wonder Dog.” Not because he can fly, although he is fleet of feet, but because that is what our Vet called him after surviving a battle with “kennel cough” that very nearly took his life. He is pictured here in the early stages of treatment with the Vet that saved his life, Dr.Tom Flack and his wife, Janice, a very caring lady who works with her husband in his Scottsdale, Arizona Veterinary Clinic.  Had it not been for them this story would have had a very sad ending. Sign on shelter runThis was the sign posted on the door of a kennel in the animal shelter where I met my new buddy, Duke. As you can see he is a three-year old male chocolate lab that was brought in with several other dogs due to neglect. He was extremely underweight with protruding ribs, dehydrated and could not keep any food down. He had a hacking cough and must have felt terrible but that didn’t stop him from putting on the act of his life, rolling over on his back and smothering me with kisses. Something in me connected with that dog at that moment and not just because of his attentiveness.

He had a look in his eye that told me I was his last chance even though at the time I had no idea about the fate of the other dogs brought in with him (they had to be put down) nor did I have any idea how really sick this dog was. Other than his weight and the cough, I thought he looked and acted pretty healthy and I was assured that with the proper care his “kennel cough” would clear up. My Mom with her dog Spirit just before her death at age 81 My Mother (pictured here with her dog Spirit) had just passed away after a long battle with lung cancer and I was visiting the shelter having felt the need for some animal companionship and comfort. Dogs and cats have this uncanny ability to detect and offer consolation to depressed or sad humans even when they are the ones we should be feeling sorry for, locked up with no place to call home and no one to love them but the shelter volunteers.  You can say what you want about how hard it is to visit a shelter without leaving with a new pet but I had no intention of adopting an animal and I had made several previous visits and gone away sad for them all but without a new companion.

I had just recently refused to take a dog (black lab) that needed a good home and this offer came from a friend who had gotten him as a puppy. Besides, even though it’s a great thing to do to adopt a homeless dog or cat, you are rolling the dice as to it’s health. Without knowing the history of any animal beyond what the shelter can tell you or the things it may be exposed to once there – it’s a risky proposition at best. Of course all of these factors were tossed out the window when I looked into those big brown eyes. Before you start thinking that I am advocating that we stop adopting animals from shelters let me assure you that I am not. Shelters and rescues are some of the best places to find a good pet, certainly a heck of a lot better than a mall pet shop or puppy  mill and I admire greatly the people who dedicate themselves to doing what I can’t. But as any vet will tell you, be very careful if and when you decide to adopt and try to find out the history of the animal as best you can with regard to how they may have been cared for, what inoculations they might have already gotten (if any), etc. This particular shelter is in a small town in NE Arizona, about one hour from Scottsdale and if I had the means and the land I would have adopted all the animals in it and had the thing torn down.

It is one poor excuse for a shelter (due to lack of funds) and I have vowed that when I win the lottery all that will change. As it was I donated a hundred bucks in my Mom’s name, paid the $40. adoption fee and took the Dukester home. The first day of Duke’s new lifeHe was so happy to be out of there that I think he forgot just how sick he was and looking at him here you would not be able to tell, he was scampering around having a good ole time. It wasn’t until the next morning that all hell broke loose. I had driven back home in the afternoon, too late to take him to a Vet for a checkup but I had made an appointment for the following morning. He spent the first night in his new home snuggled in a lambskin doggy bed but woke us up several times with his hacking cough. Although tearing at our hearts to hear it there wasn’t much to be done until his 10:00 appointment with the Vet.

My wife and I are fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood with a nice park nearby and there are several people we know that walk their dogs there in the mornings, my wife’s sister’s dog Herbie (a Yorkie Poo) is one of them. It was her that I asked for a recommendation for a Vet and she told me about Dr. Tom Flack, a neighbor who walked his dog in the same park and who took care of most of the neighbors dogs. I don’t mind telling you that waking up that first morning and seeing what had happened during the night scared the heck out of me. Duke had started bleeding through the nose sometime during the night and sneezing had caused blood spatter right out of a Michael Connelly murder mystery. (Any Harry Bosch fans out there?) Will he make it?To make a long story short I immediately called Dr. Tom (as he is affectionately referred to) and told him the situation. He advised me to get Duke into his office ASAP and he would meet me there. I made the ten minute drive to his clinic in about six minutes, Dr. Tom took one look at him and knew that we had a real sick pup on our hands. Not possessing any history of the dog he had to assume the worst and tested him for all sorts of ailments, Parvo Virus, which is fatal, Distemper, also fatal, Tick Fever, Valley Fever and a host of others (all negative) before finally at a diagnosis of Canine Flu.

He could not hold down any food so his stomach was bypassed with intravenous feeding, antibiotics were pumped into him and we began a 24 hour vigil. Since the shelter’s first act was to neuter him he was already weakened from that surgery and Dr. Tom was amazed that in his condition that he even came out of the anesthesia. It was two days before anyone dared hope that Duke was going to make it. Thanks to the hard work of Dr. Tom and his wife, my understanding wife (also a Janice) and the Duke himself this story has a happy ending. Duke the champion swimmerThis is my buddy today, enjoying his new life as a spoiled Scottsdale dog who thinks he is human. Being a lab he loves the water. For some reason he is a bit shy of other dogs and we are working on socializing him. He rarely leaves my side which is another thing we are working on but overall he is a great dog and worth every penny we spent on saving his life. I would do it again in a heartbeat. Here are a few interesting facts about Duke: He was brought to the shelter on the day my Mother died, I had told my wife when we were considering adopting my friends black lab that if we did adopt him I would rename him Duke.

I had just read an article in Newsweek about a college professor who spent nearly $12,000 to save his cat without any guarantees and I remember thinking to myself, what would I do in a situation like that. Most of Duke’s kennel mates had to be destroyed due to not having the same advantages as Duke, an article appeared in the paper saying that “kennel cough” was the reason when it was really canine flu that did them in. However, just the words alone can cause panic in pet owners and it was decided by the powers that be not to be attribute the deaths to that. Had I not come along when I did, there would be no happy dog in our life and we would never have known such happiness.

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