It was the middle of of May, 1998, and my Christine- that once in a life time dog had just passed away, when I found out about a older (at least 8 years old) male needing a home. His Mommie and Daddy wanted to travel and they were going to put him down, but the night before the dreaded deed was to happen the Mommie called Airedale Rescue. After he stayed at Foster Mommies for about 10 days, me and Allie (another 11th hour rescue from back in '95) went to meet the Duke at a small roadside park with a lake and small picnic rest area. The two of them met each other like long lost buddies and so after we decided that they liked each other I opened the door to the van, in jumped Allie to the other seat and then with a little trouble up jumped the Duke, he was old and he was a little overweight, but not too bad. I took off his collar so Rescue could have it back, and I had Christine's neon pink collar along, but decided that probably wasn't really a Duke color, so Allie got Christine's collar and Duke got Allies black one, and that way he had a name and number to call in case he did happen to get out- even they would wonder about a boy named Allie. And off we went to home. Now the Duke had always been a house dog and only allowed outside on a leash, although for the past week and half had run with lots of other Airedales at foster farm, he was in for a big surprise when he got to our house. 4 acres of fenced in area and lots of building and neato places to explorer and catch the varmints from. It didn't take him long to slim down a bit and after a few months he was even way more loose and mobile as he trotted around doing what dogs do best. He still liked to be in the house, but whenever I went out he would always go with, but might go back in when he felt like it. Which was a really funny thing in the beginning- the year before I had made Allie go outside one summer day and she got mad, so rather than open the wooden screen door like she usually did, as I had latched it- she just raised a paw and ripped the screen on the bottom- one instant doggie door- which by the way still exist to this day, never have fixed it, but sure do cuss Allie out when the flies come in summer. When the dogs wanted out if the inner door was closed they would impatiently wait for me to open the door, then Allie would zoom out thru her doggie door and the Duke, well he just stood there and when I opened the door he would still just stand there until I told him it was okay for him to go outside. Then he started getting brave and coming IN the doggie door but it was some time before he went out the doggie door on his own, but it wasn't long and the Duke was going in and out whenever he pleased. He had a 'nest' which he had in the center of the path way in the main room of the house, his blanket on his bed and his bones, and few other treasures. Now he did major rearranging of his nest several times a day, and it did take me several weeks to convince him it was okay to have, but it needed to slightly out of the way of the rest of us who tromped thru there. As he became more at home, he added a few things to his treasure pile, dirty socks, t-shirts, pillows off my bed, just about whatever pleased him. It was funny to watch him steal a pillow- he always carried the pillow so it was between me and him- like I couldn't figure out how that pillow was walking across my house :) When I got down to none on my bed I would go steal them back and we started all over. A couple times he stole the blanket off my bed, but I think that turned out to be lots of trouble so he didn't do it to many times.
He wasn't a beggar, but he sure was a first class moocher. When you sat down to eat he was just in back of your elbow patiently waiting for something to drop, or be ready to do the dishes afterwards. And there wasn't much he wouldn't eat. He knew how to make the rounds when visiting to find out who had a 'treat' for him, although he never was pushy or begged- he just kinda looked to see if you offered him something, and if not he moved on, but he remembered who was a feeder and made sure to make several passes around them.
His trust and devotion was absolute. We could go out in the shop and he would lay on the floor and dream, and I could drill, saw, sand, do almost anything and he never flinched.- he might raise an eye to see if he was in the way if I was moving things, and always did get out of the way. The one thing that would make him jump and run was when I disconnected the 50 foot air hose, and that noise makes even me jump. He never asked for any thing, but was always so happy when he got anything. I kept a can of treats for him in the shop and he knew where they were, but unless I happened to go past it and remember and open it, he never made a move towards it.
Treats in the morning in the house were pretty funny here to. The dogs would go out for potty runs first thing and make the tour to make sure nothing disappeared or appeared during the darkness, then make a dash back in the house for a treat. Now in the beginning because he was new, and Allie wanted to be alphamutt, and the fact that he always sat first and sat still, he got the first treat. Some times he would turn and run off to the nest to eat his treat, and other times he would turn his head and offer that one to Allie and he took the next one. Once I saw the two of them laying down facing each other- foot to shoulder. Duke had a chewie in his paws which Allie was chomping on, and Allie had one in her paws that Duke was chomping on. I knew if I got up to look for a camera, they would look up and never go back, but it was definitely a sight to treasure. They shared everything, and never squabbled over anything- they shared plates when doing the dishes and pot and pans. When he first came I fed him in a separate bowl because I wanted him to eat the 'lean' dog food to trim a few pounds, but after a few weeks they were both eating out of both bowls- and most the time at the same time. So we finally went back to the ice cream bucket full of dry food and they could eat whenever the urge came.
He always had a wet droolly mouth- not to bad- but noticeable- and he loved to wipe it on my sisters bare legs when she came over- and she would scream and rant and he would keep it up- He rarely did it to anyone else- and he was definitely buddies with anyone who came- a few people were taken back from his size- he was built pretty solid and had a menacing bark. But he wasn't the one to worry about- Allie is the great protector of all in her domain.
And we can't forget to tell about his flock. I have some geese and at the beginning they were in their own pen, and Duke would always go with when I fed and watered them and usually stood outside the door while I did the chores. One day I got ready to leave and went out and no Duke, and I thought he had probably seen something and went off, but as I was latching the door, there inside the building was the feeder- and one side was 4 geese, a big black and tan furry thing and another 4 geese all with their heads down in the trough chomping away. I said come on Duke lets go, and he backed up and came out- but he did after that sample their food several times. Then I decided to turn the geese loose to eat the grass- and have less to mow. Now the geese hated Allie and one loved to have her walk past and then grab her tail and she would start running and the goose would start flapping that 6 foot wingspan and Allie would run faster and any one who saw the Airedale with the goose kite behind who laugh so hard. But they never bothered Duke, in fact many times when he was out one could would see Duke wondering around and the flock right behind him as he went around. The only problem we had was when the spring hatch came- and geese are very protective of babies, and Duke just didn't figure out why all the sudden them geese were all mean, and so for a couple weeks I watched him close, and as the goslings got bigger they all once again became his buddies.
Yup, here was the kindest, mellowest, most gentle dog I had ever meet, so well trained, and to think he was gonna be put down because Mommie and Daddy wanted to travel. Duke lived here for over two and half years, and I'm sure he greatly enjoyed ever minute of it (well except thunderstorms- he detested them). I know I sure had fun taking care of him and watching him adapt so well to the freedom of living on his own farm. The day he passed away I cried bucketfuls of tears. All he wanted was a place to live out his retirement years, and I shall always treasure each day he spent with us giving so much love and devotion and asking for nothing in return other than a place to sleep and bite to eat.
So always remember the Rescue for any breed and if your looking for a companion, don't be afraid to take in a older one, they might not be around as long, but their love and devotions is probably much greater and as you can tell from the Duke they can live and blossom so much in a short time. The time he was here might have only been 2 1/2 years, but he certainly gave a entire lifetime of memories to cherish for the rest of my life.
And we must give many Thanks to Becky and Minnesota Airedale Rescue for entrusting me with the care of this gallant elder gentleman. It was a pure pleasure to take care of him. He was surely the kindest, most gentle dog I have ever met.
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