Duke by Dennis McClenning / Dad

DUKE’S LAST DAY 04/01/2003

Today, Duke (my dog and best friend) spent our last day together. Today would be the day Duke would be going to Heaven. When Alisa and I made the decision to have Duke “put to sleep” because of an advanced terminal illness, I knew this day would be filled with many mixed emotions.

Just slightly after 8 am, Kelsey(my 4-yr-old) and I went out on the back deck and fed Duke four slices of ham. He gobbled them right up. Alisa (my spouse)came out a short time later, as Kelsey was saying her last goodbyes. She reached down and gently petted Duke before leaving to spend the day at Grandma’s(Alisa’s mom) farm. Alisa and I had decided it might be too much for Kelsey to watch Duke being injected with a needle and watch him “leave”.

After Alisa and Kelsey left for the day I finished paying some bills and then as Duke was sleeping, on the deck, I noticed neighbor Sam hanging up laundry, on his clothes line, and told him today was Duke’s last day on earth. He came over and petted Duke and said goodbye. He said he would miss Duke trying to attack his weedeater!

I then grabbed a shovel from the garage and began the duty of digging Duke’s grave, all the while he was watching. It hurt to have to do this while he was watching.

I then grabbed a lawn chair from the garage and sat up on the deck with Duke, gently petting and stroking him. His eyes looked so tired and I could tell he was ready to “leave”. I pushed his water bowl closer to him, and he slowly stood and drank some water. I then watched him slowly walk down the four steps, off the deck, and go into the yard. Afterwards he walked over to the north side of the house and laid down, in the shade. It was a very nice beautiful day. A fitting day for Duke’s last. I took my lawn chair off the deck and set it down next to Duke, and again gently petted and stroked him. I sat there with my heart breaking remembering the ten years Duke shared with us, and knowing in just about six hours he would be “leaving”.

After dinner I went back out to Duke and told him we were going for a ride out to the first place we ever lived. As I lifted him into the front seat of the truck, He stood up for a moment on the seat(like the old Duke) and acted slightly revived. But the whole time during the ride, he just laid on the seat. When we arrived at the old homestead Duke was just too tired to get out. I opened the truck door and let him look out. We then came back home and he managed to get himself out of the truck and he wandered to the back yard again and decided he was going to sleep underneath the deck……a favorite place where it was cool.

I left Duke, on his own for about two hours, and continued to check on him while he slept under the deck.

Finally, it was going on about 4pm and I called for Duke to come out. All he did was wag his tail. I knew he was getting weaker. He could not keep food down and finally I had to gently bring him out from under the deck. As I stood him up, he wanted to lay down right away, but I carried him into the house and we spent time on the living room floor. It was at this time I was able to really let my emotions go, and brace him. I kissed his face a zillion times and told him what a great dog he was and that we all loved him very much. As I held him I wanted it to be forever.

I then tried to get Duke to eat one last time, and as I tried to feed him a piece of bologna he grabbed it but didn’t eat. He just dropped it. I cried knowing he would be gone in another hour.

Duke then slowly got up about 4:45pm and wanted to go outside. We went out to the backyard and after relieving himself he again walked to the north side of the house and laid down to rest. I sat next to him, again gently petting and stroking him and I thanked him for everything, and that soon he would no have to suffer.

At approx 5pm Alisa and Taner(my son) came home in preparation of Dr. Ryan(vet) coming to relieve Duke of his suffering, at 5:30 pm.. I carried Duke into the house and he stood up and drank water for the last time, and then Alisa led him into the living room at approx 5:15pm, and spent some time holding Duke and showing her love for him. Taner was in the basement. I asked him to come up to talk with Duke. The three of us (Alisa, Taner and I) all huddled around Duke and kissed and hugged him and told him thank you for everything. I then heard a car pull into the driveway. I knew it was Dr. Ryan and his assistant Jill….right on time. It was time for Duke to be set free.

It all seemed so surreal. I didn’t want to let Duke go, but I knew he was ready to go. After Dr. Ryan explained the procedure we all hugged Duke again and told him we loved him and thanked him for being there for us all these years. I then went and sat up on the arm of the couch so I could get one last long look at Duke’s face. As he was looking at me, I smiled and gently waved at him and told him I loved him, and thanked him once again. As Dr. Ryan injected the medicine Duke eyes met mine and he looked at me as if he knew what was going on, and looked as though he was thanking me also, and saying goodbye. In just that moment he laid on his side and went to be with Jesus. I was the last face he saw and I will never forget how peaceful he went, He was ready to go…..no after effects, no muscle spasms….just quick and painless. As his pain left, my pain intensified.

Dr. Ryan and Jill wrapped Duke up in his sheepskin rug and helped to place his body in his grave. I then placed two of his favorite toys with him, as I took one last look at him. As Dr. Ryan and Jill left, I looked over at Taner and he reached out to give me a hug. I told him I loved him and thanked him for being there for Duke. He helped to cover up Duke’s grave and I then put Duke’s doghouse on top of his grave. Letting go of Duke was one of the hardest and most painful decisions ever.

When Taner left I went into the basement and grieved for Duke. Alisa came down and hugged me. As I looked on the computer screen I noticed Taner left the words “I love you, guys!!!”, on the screen saver.

After Alisa went to pick up Kelsey at Grandma’s I took the time to thank The Lord ,for Duke, and He left the impression on my heart that Duke’s passing is going to bring our family closer together. I felt His peace and though I was hurting I really enjoyed the rest of the night with Kelsey and Alisa. Kelsey brought home some flowers for Duke along with a sunflower pinwheel(from Grandma) that she put on Duke’s grave. We are going to plant roses on Duke’s grave and a memorial marker.

After everyone went to bed I went out to the garage and looked out the back garage door window and smiled when I noticed two rabbits playing in the backyard. When Duke ruled that yard, no creature dared to cross his pass…especially a rabbit. Somehow those rabbits knew it was safe once again. A fitting way to end this day. As I went to bed I thought of Duke and hoped to hear his bark again, but all was quiet. I put his collar on the upper shelf of the computer desk and it has his smell and I sniffed and cried wishing I could hug and hold him again.

So as this day ends, I think of Duke and my heart breaks, but in my heart-of-hearts I know he went peacefully and we were fortunate to have him for ten years. As I type this the tears come, but I will be a better person because of one dog who made an impact. Goodbye Dukie Wukie…….I will see you soon………..


With Love.....
Dennis McClenning