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It’s no surprise to anyone that the Cloud Nine family has dogs of our own. About two weeks ago, we had to say our goodbyes to Duke, our rottie mix.
Almost 7 years ago, having always been an animal lover but never having had a dog, I walked into the local SPCA in my home of Williamsport, PA with no intention of adopting one. I was actually there with a friend who was looking to adopt a rabbit. “Well, might as well look at the dogs while I’m here…”
There he was, this big and beautiful rottie mix. He was different than the others; he spoke to me. He was clearly energetic, yet attentive and oh so eager to please. Duke was only a year old, but had been in the shelter for 6 months after being surrendered by his human. They didn’t give a reason why he was surrendered, but my guess was that his first human didn’t expect the energy this wonderful dog had. After interacting with him for a bit, I walked out of there with this 75 lb dog (who quickly grew to over 100 lbs once eating a regular diet) and not a clue what to do with him. I had never had a dog before, and had minimal interaction with them growing up, so I was thoroughly unprepared and unequipped.
Duke was a perfect first dog for me. Being so happy and eager to please, he taught me how to teach him what to do. He was always loving and attentive. I remember when I first brought him home, he had definite separation anxiety issues. He seemed afraid that I would leave and never come back – I’m sure spending half his life in the shelter left him uncertain about humans who would temporarily come and go in his life. Millions of dogs in shelters have this same feeling, but never get to know the joy of a loving home.
It was Duke who ultimately was responsible for my getting into animal rescue and founding Cloud Nine. After adopting him, I started volunteering at the same SPCA where I adopted him. Then I learned about how bad the animal overpopulation epidemic in this country is, the role that transport plays in eliminating that epidemic, and wanted to make a difference in a big way. Duke patiently spent many weekends with dog sitters while I was off around the continent rescuing homeless pets. To date, almost 2,000 homeless pets have been saved by Cloud Nine thanks to Duke’s inspiration.
If any dog is a model for rescue dogs, it’s Duke. He was a dog who was loved by virtually all, and was regarded as a great judge of character – if he didn’t like you, there was a good reason for it. There were very few people who he didn’t like, though. He loved virtually all, and his tail was wagging constantly. Our dogs will always be rescues, and Duke is a big part of why. We will never forget Duke, and we miss him. Terribly so.
If Duke would have had a last wish, it would have been for affection, treats, and to save others homeless dogs. It was always obvious to me that he knew where he came from, and how great of a life he had. All dogs deserve a loving home, and it is with that mission that Cloud Nine continues to fly to save homeless pets around the continent. We will continue to fly in Duke’s memory, saving homeless pets so that they may have the sort of wonderful life that Duke had, and so that others may know the love that I have known from my dog.