A Rescue Success from Beginning to End

It was September in 2004 when I first heard about him.  Duke was in Calgary when I got the call that this oversized boy needed a last chance foster placement or he would be euthanized.  He had been with his second family who had adopted him through the SPCA.  They had no history other than knowing he was about 4 years old and then one day shortly after being adopted he had snapped at one of the kids.  The family felt they couldn’t keep him because of their children but felt it wasn’t Duke’s fault and he needed a last chance.  After having him assessed in Calgary, it was determined that this boy could be saved but he needed a special place where he would be trained and have lots of one on one time.  I jumped up and down and sent an email asking for him to be sent to me in Ottawa.

Sending an Airedale, let alone an oversized Airedale, on a plane is not something AireCanada ever does but this was a one shot deal.  This had to work or Duke was going to be put down.  Joanne Helm in Calgary took care of getting a crate and making flight arrangements while our treasurer Jim Scott tried to find the dollars to make this work.  One quick email out to all the Airedale lovers we knew and all the sudden funds for Duke were pouring in from across the globe.  We had enough money to fly this big guy and money to spare to deal with his sensitive medical needs.  Duke was hypothyroid and showed all signs of being a Plechner dog (http://www.drplechner.com/home.php) so we knew that he would use these funds quickly but that they would make a difference in making him adoptable.

Upon arriving in Ottawa  I was stunned to see this Airedale who was massive and looked like he was part hippo.  Little did I know that this boy was going to steal our hearts and teach me more than any other foster I have ever had.

This is Duke with Groovy.  Groovy is a standard Airedale female weighing 55lbs

After visiting with our vet and starting Duke on the proper thyroid medication, our next task was obedience classes because he was a puller and was not sure about other dogs.  He passed with flying colours and learned not to dive through my legs and toss me head over heels.  He was so tall and I am a mere 5′ 2″  so that when he went through my legs he picked me up off my feet and I would half stumble and half ride him to regain my footing!

At that time I had 3 of my own dogs, a 15 year old Airedale mix, a 12 year old senior rescue (Bowfsie who was sooooo grumpy) and a young 2 year old Airedale female.  The young one, Groovy LOVED Duke.  They played and cuddled and chased day and night.  Bowfsie and Duke hated each other and we quickly learned that if Duke didn’t like something he made a point of letting everyone know about it.  After a major conflict between Duke and Bowfsie, poor Duke was relegated to living in a muzzle when loose with all the other dogs. 

He had so much against him.  Who was going to adopt a big goofy boy with thyroid and hip issues who couldn’t be around children, probably could never live with another dog and who did what he wanted when he wanted.  Let me tell you, when a 120 dog decided to lay down in front of the fridge and not move, he doesn’t move!

 Duke had his own room with a crate.  He chose to sleep on the couch! 

Well after 6 months of re-training and medical issues being dealt with, I got an email from Barbara Curtiss of NEAR (New England Airedale Rescue) with the perfect family for Duke.  She was so right!!  Dawn and Richard from Vermont drove to Ottawa to meet Dukey.  It was love at first sight.  They sat down on my couch and Duke climbed right up and laid across Dawn’s lap.  He picked them.   In March 2005 Duke moved to his new home and finally got to be the dog he was meant to be.   Boy did he live the life, I just about packed my bags and joined him.

Duke’s cruisin’ car

 Duke’s work truck

 Duke’s Cows

Duke’s chair and favorite sleeping spot

What amazes me to this day is that Duke traveled from Calgary to Ottawa to Vermont but his story traveled the globe as Airedale friends helped make his journey possible.  But now the tale comes to a conclusion.

It is with great sadness that today I received a call letting me know that the King has gone to the rainbow bridge.  His family helped him cross when he was no longer able to live a pain free life due to his hips and mobility issues.  We speculate that Duke was about eleven and a half.  He lived the best Airedale life.  He worked on the farm, he slept in his chair, he cruised around town and three years ago he began a new adventure raising an Airedale sister, Ruby who was his very best friend.  And most importantly he knew the love of a family who cared for him deeply.

My heart goes out to Richard, Dawn and family who gave Dukey so much love and care over the past 6 years. I can only hope that the joy he brought you over
your time together will live in your hearts and minds forever. My heartfelt thanks also goes out to all the friends who helped Duke on this incredible journey.

Thank you for touching so many of our lives Dukey.  You will stay in our hearts  always.

About Steph MacNeil - Ontario

I have been involved with AireCanada Airedale Rescue as a coordinator for the province of Ontario since 2003. I currently have two of my own Airedales, both females, Groovy 6 and Maggie 5. Along with my two furkids we often have foster 'dales come and spend some time with us while they are waiting for their forever homes.

18 thoughts on “A Rescue Success from Beginning to End

  1. So sorry to hear that Duke has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

    He had a good last half of his life due to your love and care.

    Now he can be with Sir Miles and the other Plechner’s Syndrome kids that we have helped over the years.

    Sorry for your loss but they just don’t live long enough and the big ones like Duke and Miles steal your heart…

  2. Richard and Dawn,
    Duke had an amazing story thanks to the both of you and Steph. The pictures make it pretty clear how you could only love that dog! Thank you for giving him the life all dogs deserve.
    I am sure your hearts are heavy but time and good memories will heal your sadness.

  3. “Long Live the Duke”, I recall saying that when I first saw his photo! I loved him from the minute I laid eyes on him from the photos Steph shared. I’d never seen such a BIG boy! We sent in a few dollars to help him get the love and care he needed. We were thrilled and envious of his going to live on a dairy farm!! Thank you Steph for caring, training and placing The Duke! We send heartfelt sympathy to his family and thank them for loving Duke until the very end.
    What a life he had! He’ll be sharing his great story with all at the Rainbow Bridge! A very bright he will be in the sky tonight.

  4. Steph. I am so sorry to hear of the Duke’s passing. The pain of losing one so special and who has been such a presence in our lives is truly hard to bear.

    The only consolation is that last six years were spent with a family who obviously adored him and he is now pain free and gambolling over the heavens with all the other ‘dales that have gone before him.

  5. When I picked up Duke from the SPCA I had never ever seen such a huge airedale. He was very sweet. I groomed him before he began his journey and it was a bit scary being in a building by myself with Duke in the table used for Great Danes. I had to hold the wrinkles on his neck to clip him. He was a gentleman. My husband Jon got to take Duke and his new crate to the airport and they refused him and said we needed a larger crate. He went back to the kennel, a new crate was purchased in huge size and the next day my husband had to drive 40 minutes from our house to the kennels and 1 hour to the airport to help Duke to his new life. I am so very happy that his rough starts ended so well for him. God Speed Duke we see you in the sky

  6. Steph, my heart breaks and soars at the same time. My goodness what a story. What a dog. Bless you, Joanne, Duke’s forever family and everyone else who crossed paths with Duke. If you all hadn’t had the courage and will to make sure he got the chance he deserved, the love he had to share would have been gone before it was discovered.

    Thanks for all you do, and all those who care,


  7. Dawn & Richard, I remember Duke’s story and I am so glad that you were able to give him a wonderful life on the farm for the remainder of his years. Great big hugs to you both. Deanna, Roxy, & Jack in N. Idaho

  8. Despite its bittersweet ending, this is such a happy account. So many people made Duke’s story the success that it became and not the least were his adopters — Richard and Dawn. While you both will miss him enormously (as is fitting for such a big boy), you should also be so very proud that you gave him a wonderful home!

  9. Oh Duke. How well we remember those early days with Steph, Bowfsie and Groovy, as you made your way into our hearts right around the world. What joy we knew when Richard and Dawn fell in love with you, as we had all done, and brought you the love, the security, the happiness and the fulfillment of your life as it was meant to be.

    And Steph, our eternal gratitude for never giving up on him, sharing him with us, and letting us help in his journey to the most perfect life he could have wished. May your own heart be eased knowing that you gave him that chance.
    Go safely, Duke … travel well, dear boy. We’ll see your huge star tonight. And we’ll hear the Airespirits calling you as you cross the Bridge …”Here comes Duke!”

  10. What a beautiful story for a giant ‘dale! It brought tears to my eyes of both joy and sadness. Kudos and many blessings be to all who helped Duke to reform and find that wonderful forever home in Vermont…it’s clear his family there gave him a life filled with lots of love and great care.

  11. I am sorry to hear about Duke. He was truly a success story. Many thanks to Steph who took the time to train him and his forever Mom & Dad for loving him.
    I will look for his BIG BRIGHT STAR.

  12. I remember when Duke arrived in Ottawa, Steph had many entertaining stories to tell us about this big boy. I think we all were more than over joyed when he not only found his forever home, but one that seemed like the best Airedale home ever. Thank you for loving Duke.

  13. we will light a candle for Duke and look for his shining star in the sky tonight …

  14. Duke is a great dog. After reading this story, I feel sad becasue he was gone and his life was not smoothly. I also feel happy becasue Duke was so luck and met the author and his new parents. I want to say thanks for you. You saved him and give him last happy 6 years. I want to be a forester home if you need,please contact with me,thanks a lot.

  15. These dogs get under your skin. We might as well just give up and turn our lives over to them, they know how to be happy. I have learned everything joyful in life from my dogs.

  16. Dawn & Richard, what arescue. As a Airedale owner and lover, do we believe that Duke was a champ after reading his story.
    Thank you, from us, Africa, Namibia

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