Duke’s story can be seen from the before and after pictures. Before, newly arrived at the shelter after being confiscated from his owner because of abuse charges, the defeat and loneliness shows in his eyes. There was no joy or happiness in Duke’s life. But in Duke’s (admittedly goofy) after picture, he wears his stilly cowboy hat with aplomb, and his eyes have a light that shines from within. He’s ready for the next journey in his life: to find a loving family.
This month, on February 25th, Duke and the staff at Hernando County Animal Services in Florida are celebrating Duke’s release from custody because of a cruelty investigation. Because Duke was in custody, he was kept at the shelter for almost a year. During that time, he was not allowed out on walks, he was not allowed to go into the play yards.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of that was that to Duke, being behind bars in the county shelter was like going on a five-star vacation. His “family” kept him outside on a chain, which at this time is still legal in most parts of Florida. So to be confiscated as a cruelty case, Duke’s living conditions were not the simple cruelty of leaving a dog, a social animal, on a chain day and night. Not only did Duke live on the end of a chain throughout the hot Florida summer and during the chilly winter, he slept in the dirt. He had no home and when it rained, Duke slept in the cold mud. He slept with fleas who feasted on his body. No one cleaned up the excrement that piled up inside the circle of his short chain. No one made sure that Duke had fresh water or was fed daily.
Because of the fleas, Duke’s coat became thin and missing in patches. He had a yeast infection and bacterial infections in both ears. At the shelter he was treated for fleas and given medication for his infections. They gave him medicated baths. He was not allowed outside because until the completion of the investigation, Duke was not the “property” of the State of Florida. The shelter couldn’t take a chance that he might somehow get free because then the criminal case against his owners would be thrown out for lack of evidence.
That doesn’t mean that Duke suffered. First of all, he loved getting just the basics — a clean kennel, food, fresh water. But the staff did more than that. They also let Duke spend time with them in the morning before the shelter opened, they gave him affection, he had toys and blankets, and they got to know this sweet dog.
To know Duke is to love him. In spite of years and years of misery and neglect at the end of a chain, Duke loves people. He can be goofy and he loves to walk around squeaking his toys. He’s very careful not to destroy them — perhaps he worries that he might not get any more.
Duke is a medium energy dog. The shelter staff say:
He’s usually calm but when he’s been out playing he can get quite jazzy!! He loves rolling in the grass; he’s very fond of ALL treats especially when they have a bit of peanut butter on them, and he loves wearing clothes/outfits (as you can see by his silly photo). He would walk around all day with that silly pumpkin costume on (which is the only one that fits since he’s put on some weight.”
The staff is thrilled that finally Duke can be adopted, but they worry that no one will look twice at this old, battered dog with a few warts and some skin tags. He’s lived a horrible life, but he has enough love to share to make up for years when he wasn’t allowed to love anyone.
The staff’s wish list: “We would really like to see him live his golden years with someone that treats him like family, a home where he’s included. He needs a yard, a space where he can stretch his legs, roll in the grass and sleep in the sun, and then of course being from Florida, a nice air conditioned room when it’s too warm out. He needs to be spoiled, he needs to experience things like trips to PetSmart for a new toy, a day at the dog beach to play in the water, an ice cream cone on a hot day.”
In their plea for a home for Duke, the staff wrote a very touching plea from Duke’s point of view: ‘February 25th, 2016 will be my special day for the rest of my life. Today I played in the play yard for the first time. I got to chase the ball, explore and run like I have never run before. I am no longer just watching from my kennel all the other dogs getting to be played with and given attention. I am finally the one who is shining in the sun and boy does that sun sure feel good for an old boy like me. Now that I am finally free from the cruelty and neglect that I endured for so long I am hoping to be loved for the first time. I just want to go to a real home. A home where I can eat my food when I want and never wonder where my next meal will be, drink fresh water, get treats, have a nice big comfy bed and a family I can finally call my own. I want someone to tell me for the first time and before I go to bed each night, “We love you Duke and you will never be alone again.”’
Who will be the lucky family to show Duke what it’s like to be loved? Who will get to see the delight in his eyes when he gets his first trip to a pet store? His first soft bed? There will be a lot of “firsts” for this dog who lived a terribly cruel life for six years — but only if he gets adopted by a loving family.
There may be more information on his Facebook thread. The shelter staff feel that Duke would do best as an only dog. Duke is located at Hernando County Animal Services, 19450 Oliver St., Brooksville, Florida. Their phone number is (352) 796-5062. You can email Shannon Fitch for more information at SFinch@co.hernando.fl.us. The shelter is open Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and Saturday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. The shelter is closed Sunday, Monday and holidays.
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