Duke is the first pet that I can remember. He was a beautiful liver and white English Springer Spaniel. He was the family pet. Duke was no show dog…he hunted for a living. In fact, if he flushed birds three times and you didn’t bring one down…that’s it he was done for the day. He would meet you back at the truck.
And as I became aware of my surroundings there was Duke. My first memories revolve around Duke and my baby brother. (Okay…so I was only 14 months older than my brother – who’s telling this story!) In fact, Duke saved my life one day.
At our first home, my grandparents lived on the hill above us. And the backyard was surrounded by a fence. One day, the gate didn’t latch, and me being a rambunctious toddler, must have decided I wanted to visit my grandparents. There was a small creek that ran behind the house with a little bridge. Apparently, I fell into the water face down. My mother heard Duke barking and then saw him with my cloth diaper in his mouth pulling me out of the water. (Try to do that with a disposable diaper today!). Duke ate steak for a week, and my dad got a tongue-lashing from both his mother and wife for not fixing the gate properly.
I never got a chance to go hunting with Duke. By the time, I was old enough to hunt, he couldn’t roam the fields anymore. So, the two of us would roam the back yard of the new house which in those days were over grown (remember the goats?). To a six-year-old the backyard was the wilds of Africa. Duke and I would climb this ginormous rock in the backyard and pretend to be pirates on the vast sea. Or riding an elephant just like it was shown on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Or keep rustlers from stealing our herd of rocks.
Then one day, I think was 12 or 13, Duke didn’t come home for his dinner. Because it was dark already, my dad wouldn’t let us go look for him. I think he knew what happened, but the next day there was no stopping my brother and I looking for him that whole day, and the next day after school, and the next day before school and for days afterward. We looked everywhere.
A few years later, the goats had cleared back all the brush around that big boulder. The wild backyard was tamed. We were putting up fencing for the goats, when I found him. Curled up under a mountain laurel bush. He had crawled off that long ago night to die. Until that day, my brother and I could pretend that Duke was just lost. That he was with a new family. That he found kids who weren’t too busy with chores and homework and just growing up.
Did I call him the Duke of Jordan? He was a prince by letting us keep one last dream until we were ready to handle the truth that every life ends at some point. I look out the backdoor of our house today and see the tamed stream that used to be the start of our wild frontier…to see all the brush gone…the boulders cleared…to see through the woods. But I still remember the two of us…on top that big rock…in the backyard…yelling at the world to bring it on….
Peaceful Meadows Virtual Memorial Park is dedicated to those animals that touched our heart no matter how briefly. To give you the chance to share your special bond with your unforgettable pet with other like-minded individuals. The ones who don’t bat an eyelash at cat hair in the coffee, or dog slobber on your shoes, or get kicked by a mule because you were the ass.