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In Memoriam…remembering Duke

IMG_3754We are very sorry to say that Duke Kirschner passed away due to complications from bloat.  Duke was an eight year old GSP who had severe separation anxiety. His previous owner loved him tremendously, and it showed. Their circumstances were such that they had to give him up. Unfortunately, we had Duke for only 3 months before he died. We have rescued and owned many dogs over the years, but for some reason Duke’s passing was the hardest we have ever experienced. But it was worth it.

We first saw Duke at a rescue outreach in Ventura Harbor. By chance we were there for the first time. Duke was sitting with the volunteers and we fell in love with him immediately. A few months later we were approved and drove to Beaumont from our home in San Luis Obispo to get Duke. He fit into our home immediately and just wanted to be a good dog, just wanted to do the right thing. We asked him to leave our cats alone and he did, for example. For a few days his separation anxiety was a problem, but we solved that by never being separated from him! I was lucky enough to be able to have him with me just about every single day, all day. I work as a stonemason and gather my own rock, so Duke and I spent a lot of time out in the hills together. I was also doing a lot of work on our ranch, and Duke was always with me developing springs, building a pond, and hiking. He was never on a leash, could always run free – what he liked to do is run a few hundred yards away, always keep me in sight, then come back to check on me. When we worked at night I could hear his footsteps on the dry oak leaves in the darkness and he always stayed close. I remember one evening when it was just dusk, the sky was an orange pink, and the coyotes started howling, and Duke cocked his ears and listened and looked back at me. I knew that it struck some primordial cord deep in his soul.

The second day we got Duke we asked my son to watch him for a little while. He lives about 3 miles away across town. He somehow got out of the fence and was gone for 2 hours – we had friends and the police looking for him – finally my wife found him a few hundred yards away from our house, heading towards it. Somehow he knew how to get back to our house without ever having even been in our town!

Once we left him alone in our house for about an hour and he did about $800 worth of damage to the window blinds trying to get out. That was all right, we could use some new ones anyhow- he couldn’t help it – he just wanted to be with us. After that, if we had to leave him, we just left him in my van. He was fine with that.

Some of the best things about Dukie were his intelligence, his loyalty, his enormous joy and enthusiasm for being alive, and how he could run. Duke ran like a racehorse. He loved to go to the beach and just turn on the speed! He would run about 50 yards away, then turn back and charge right at us, missing us by inches. He had these great enormous paws like a bear and to see him run and trot with his held head high was an inspiring thing to see indeed. Often strangers would approach us and just say what a wonderful dog he was. He got to really enjoy the praise and petting of all kinds of people, young and old. When I would take him to different stores he would just put his paws on the counter and wait for a doggy treat and to be petted. Another thing he loved to do was to go to Petsmart and just shop for toys – he would actually put his head into each bin and check them out, when he found one he liked he would pull it out and show us.

We treated Duke like royalty. He was thin skinned and underweight (but still enormously strong). We got him a nice fleece coat which he proudly wore on chilly days and at night. Our bed was crowded because he was a good-sized dog, and so he slept in a dog bed right beside us. Once he got settled in I would cover him with a heavy down coat with just his nose sticking our and he would sleep that way all night. We took Duke camping at El Capitan beach in Santa Barbara twice during the summer, and he really enjoyed that.

Looking back, I know that Duke knew he was loved and part of a family that cherished him. Almost every day was a new adventure for him. He really enjoyed food and so I constantly fed him table scraps and treats to try and put some weight on him (I now know that feeding a dog table scraps reduces the risk of bloat) . Dukie died a happy dog, and he is buried with great honor near the creek he loved to play in, underneath a sycamore and bay laurel tree. Our time together was far too short, and we had many more adventures together that we just took for granted we would share. Maybe this is one of the gifts that Dukie has left us with – that life is short and to take nothing for granted. Be present in each passing moment. Spend as much time with your family and children and pets as you can. If you have the choice of leaving your dog or taking him and her, by all means take them! If you can spend time with your children or do your own thing, by all means spend time with your children!

Laura and I want to thank all the dedicated and selfless volunteers at the California German Shorthaired Pointer Rescue for bringing this wonderful animal and friend into our lives. We will never forget Duke. And in time we will be ready to bring another rescue dog into our lives.

Kind Regards, Tom and Laura Kirschner,San Luis Obispo

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