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A Dog Named Duke And His Family
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S L Berg
My earliest memory of life goes back to when I was a very young puppy living with my mother, three brothers and two sisters.
Those days were spent playing all day with periodic breaks for eating.
One day my three brothers left, they were taken away by a very nice lady who examined each one of us before she chose my brothers.
I was very sad that day; I missed my siblings and spent the next few days clinging to my mother and cuddling with my sisters.
A few days later a man came with a large box; he put me and my sisters into the box and left with us.
I never got to say goodbye to my mother and I never saw her again.
The box, with all of us in it, was put in the back of a station wagon, destination unknown.
After a trip that seemed to last forever, we arrived at a farm.
The man put the box with me and my two sisters in a barn.
It was almost dark when we arrived, but it was pitch black in the barn.
I heard noises and I wondered about them, but I was very tired, I couldn't stay awake.
The three of us slept in the box in a corner of the barn till morning.
It was already light outside when the man came in and put a bowl with food and water down for us.
Then he took us all out of the box so that we could eat and drink.
After we finished our food and drinks we began to explore our surroundings.
The barn door was slightly ajar and we were able to get out and look around.
We were on a very large farm and there were many different animals living there.
I saw several big dogs that made a sort of a moo sound; I later found out they were cows.
Soon after that I learned that the cows have friends that look like them, but they are called bulls, and that they are kept apart from the cows.
By the time I figured all that out somebody came along and took my sisters away.
That was the saddest day of my young life.
I slept in the barn myself that night, cold, lonely, and afraid.
When I awoke the next morning I noticed that the food and water were waiting for me.
I did what comes naturally and I ate and drank too much.
I then had my first bout of stomach sickness and I threw up and slept again.
When I awoke and opened my eyes, I realized that I wasn't alone.
There was a large animal standing near me and looking down at me.
I wasn't sure what his intentions were but he was much bigger than me so I did what I was sure was safe, nothing.
I just crouched as low as I could and stared wide eyed at this monster.
I soon found out that he was a she and she was a German Sheppard dog.
Her name was Polly and she had lived on the farm her whole life.
Polly made the first move; she came over to me and licked my head like only a mother could, that felt so good that I relaxed and fell asleep again.
When I awoke I went to look for Polly and I found her a long way off at the other end of the farm.
She was sitting by a fence and staring out beyond it.
I called "Polly, Polly," but she didn't respond.
As I got closer to her I gave out a loud puppy yelp, she turned around and came over to me.
She licked me again, "How are you doing little guy, are you feeling better?"
"Yeah, I am feeling much better thanks.
Polly, I have been calling you, how come you didn't answer me?"
"Well little guy, I don't hear very well anymore, I just didn't hear you that's why I didn't answer."
From that day on I became a Polly's baby.
She cared for me like my own mother did when I was with her.
In spite of all the changes that had already occurred in my young life I was
beginning to adjust to my new surroundings and I was very happy to be with my new mother.
One day I was walking with Polly when she stopped suddenly, I stopped too.
"What's the matter," I asked, "why we were stopping?"
"Look over there near those bushes, you see that animal sitting there, that's Mabel the cat, she catches all the mice and rats too, don't bother her she can be mean."
"Are cats good or bad and why should I stay away from her?"
"Well, dogs and cats don't get along very well, but she does her job and that's what counts. The farmer keeps her here to keep the mice and rats out of the barn, she does a good job."
We walked to the fence, sat down and looked out beyond it.
"Polly, what's out there beyond the fence and how come I don't have a name?
"Little guy, there is a whole big world out there with lots of people and lots of animals and you should have a name.
I think I will call you Duke, because you are going to be a special dog."
"What's a Duke and why is it special?"
"A Duke is part of royalty, and royalty is special, just like you."
"What's royalty and why is it special?"
"There you go again Duke asking lots of questions and tiring me out."
With that question and answer period over, Polly put her head down and nodded off.
I thought about my name, I liked the sound of Duke and I sure liked royalty because they're special.
Every day Polly taught Duke something new and every day he grew up a little.
He began to feel like a dog, he wasn't a puppy anymore.
Each day he noticed that the time he would spend with Polly was getting shorter. He wondered about that, but he didn't mention it.
He realized that Polly was sleeping much more and he wondered why.
"Polly are you sick, you are always sleeping?"
"No Duke, I'm just getting older and when you get older you need more sleep."
Duke didn't ask any more questions, but he knew something was wrong.
One day he was in the barn and he overheard the farmer and his wife talking,
"You know, I hate to think about it, but Polly has been sick for a long time, she is more than 15 years old she can't even stay awake anymore.
We may want to think about putting her down."
Duke didn't know what the farmer meant, but he knew it wasn't anything good.
He decided to look for Polly and tell her about what he heard.
He looked over by the fence where she usually sat but she wasn't there so he went looking in other places where she sometimes sat.
As he went to the last place, down by the little stream, he heard a loud noise.
He sat down, put his head down and closed his eyes.
He knew that for some reason he would never see Polly again.
That's when Duke made up his mind to run away from this horrible place and go out into the big world beyond that fence.
He got up and made his way to the fence and started to go through it.
He got slightly tangled in the barbed wire and it made a deep scratch in his coat. Duke remembered one of the things that Polly taught him about cuts and he began to lick the wound and he kept licking it to keep it clean.
He quickly made his way to the main road and remembered what Polly had taught him about being careful of traffic on the open road.
He crossed the main highway and started walking on another road, unaware of where he was going or how he would know when to stop.
After hours of walking he was tired and hungry, he saw a little house not too far away and decided to walk over there.
As soon as he got near the farmhouse he heard some barking and sure enough, there were two dogs on chains barking and showing their teeth.
He quickly decided not to go there; instead he continued on the road that he had been on.
When he was too tired and he was unable to go on he noticed a truck parked on the side of the road.
He quickly jumped on the back of the truck and found an empty spot in between some sacks of grain.
He lay down and was immediately asleep.
The starting of the motor woke him and he wanted to jump off the truck, but they were going too fast so he just sat and waited for the truck to stop.
The truck stopped in a small town in front of a bakery.
A man came out of the store and unloaded two sacks of grain from the truck. Nobody noticed Duke so he just stayed where he was.
That's when he realised how hungry and thirsty he was; he had to get off of the truck.
The truck came to a railroad crossing where they had to stop, he jumped off and went into a grassy area where he could rest and decide where to go.
He heard a noise in the distance and looked over to where the noise was coming from; the noise was getting louder.
Then he saw the train; it looked big and it kept getting bigger like a long ugly monster, he was terrified.
Suddenly the train slowed and it made a loud screeching sound and then came to a complete stop.
Duke crouched in the grass and didn't move.
He stared at the train and it was now making a hissing sound.
A man in a uniform came out, Duke thought he was a dog catcher and he started to run away.
"Hey dog, I have food for you."
Duke stopped and looked over his shoulder.
The uniformed man went back into the train and then came out with a big tin plate. He put the plate on the side of the road got back aboard and rang a bell.
The train started to move and then it was gone.
Duke cautiously approached the tin plate, he could smell the meat two feet away.
He gulped and quickly started to eat the food; it was delicious and he walked away stuffed.
He went into a grassy area, laid down and went to sleep.
When he awoke, he saw a bunch of big black birds eating what was left of the food on the plate.
He thought about chasing the birds from the food, but he changed his mind and
decided to follow in the direction that the train went.
Duke understood that he could follow the train by walking along the tracks. Maybe he could catch up to the train and find that nice man in the uniform.
After walking several miles he saw the train in the distance, it was standing still. As he got closer to the train, he heard a voice, "Hey Boy, I'll bet your hungry again, I've got some more food for you."
The uniformed guy was standing on a platform on the side of the train motioning to Duke; he hesitated and then went over to where the man was standing.
"Hey boy, you sure are a nice dog," he reached over to pet him.
Duke pulled his head back a little and then let the man pet him.
"Good dog, my name is Jim, I am the train conductor, what's your name?
Somehow you look majestic, like royalty; I think I'll call you Duke."
He knew his name and the word royalty, he licked Jim's hand; they bonded and quickly became friends.
That day Duke rode the train with Jim all day, he followed him faithfully ready to help if he could.
At the end of the day the train stopped in a small town and Jim got off with Duke right behind him.
Soon they came to a small house and they both went in.
It was nice and warm; there was a small stove in the middle of the room.
Jim put some logs into the stove and then he dropped down on a small bed and immediately fell asleep.
Duke fell asleep next to the bed; he awoke when he smelled smoke.
Duke began to try to wake Jim by pulling on his shirt sleeve and then he began to lick his face; Jim was cold.
The flames began to consume one wall and Duke ran out to see if he could find help. He ran back to the train and started to bark as loud as he could.
A man came out of the train to see what all the noise was about; he saw Duke and recognized him.
"What's the matter boy?"
Duke started to run towards the cabin and the man, seeing the smoke and flames was right behind him.
They got there in time to pull Jim out of the cabin and he was still breathing. Someone had called the fire department and a fire engine and ambulance arrived immediately.
Jim was taken to the hospital with a serious case of smoke inhalation.
For the next few days it was touch and go for Jim, Duke was by his side.
When Jim recovered enough to speak, he told everyone who would listen, "Duke saved my life."
Maggie, Jim's wife, who had arrived when Jim was admitted to the hospital began to pet Duke and kissed him often.
Duke loved her too, almost as much as he loved Jim.
In a few days the three of them left and went to the town where Jim and Maggie Beam lived.
It was a nice house, Duke looked for a pot belly stove, he was happy that there were none.
Duke examined the whole house looking for any signs of possible danger.
That night, and for the next few nights, Duke slept with one eye open.
After about a week everyone, including Duke, was able to relax and they began to enjoy each other as a family.
The three of them, Jim, Maggie and Duke were always together; they were known as the 'Beam Gang', and they were known and liked by everyone in their town and the surrounding area.
One day Jim decided to join the volunteer fire department and Duke automatically came along with him.
Soon Duke began to look forward to the meetings and he really enjoyed riding on the fire truck with the bell and sirens.
The day when Duke went to his first fire he was very unhappy; the smell of the burning wood and the smoke brought back some horrible memories.
However, he soon got used to the emergencies and he understood how important those rides on the fire truck were.
One day in July, when the heat of the summer peaked, Duke was sitting in the backyard in the shade of the old elm tree when he suddenly smelled smoke, but it came from far away.
Duke got up and ran to the fire station; using his paws and his head he pushed the doors open and set off the alarm.
Minutes later, when the volunteer firemen arrived, Duke was sitting on the seat next to the driver and barking as loud as he could.
By that time they could all smell the fire that was coming from the chemical plant where many of the town's people worked.
It took hours to completely extinguish the fire, but the plant and most of the finished and boxed chemicals were saved.
Everyone in town soon heard of how Duke helped to save the chemical plant.
The town council met a few days later and decided to honour Duke with a fireman's badge, which he wore proudly pinned to his collar.
He would never leave the house without his badge.
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