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Walk to honour Duke at Woofstock

Long before beagles invaded my heart, I was servant to a seriously spoiled Cockapoo named Wednesday. She was a backyard breeder special. I wasn’t so rescue savvy in those days. According to her paperwork, Wednesday had been born on Dec. 3, just a day before my stepdaughter Claudia.

After her dad and I got together, Claudia had little choice but to share her special day with my fur daughter. From singing the birthday song to blowing out candles on her liver-flavoured cake (with Claudia’s help), Wednesday enjoyed an equal blast of birthday bliss every year.

But when homeless beagles hit the scene, I realized celebrating birthdays was completely unnecessary. For them, every day following their rescue is cause for celebration. While Wednesday had been a happy dog from start to finish, this business of rescuing dogs triggered something more. It’s funny how much we gain from giving. For me, it’s about seeing a dog’s tail wind up and swing like a pendulum for the first time.

More than 120 beagles later, I’m still hooked. Actually, I’m more hooked than ever and I owe it to the dog pictured above.

There was still plenty of snow on the ground at the end of March. That’s when I first met Duke. He was making the best of things at a small rural shelter where his owner had parted with him due to a job transfer. It seemed Duke had come full circle in just over a decade – his owner had adopted him from that same shelter as a puppy. Duke was about to turn 12. That’s over-the-hill by shelter adoption standards but a perfect candidate for a Big On Beagles (BOB) Rescue.

I fully expected to meet a sad old dog when I visited the shelter, but I was wrong. Never had I met a happier couple than Duke and his tail. I got acquainted with both in the outdoor dog run. He spared a brief moment to melt my heart with one look and then was back at the door with what appeared to be eager anticipation. The shelter manager solved the mystery for me. Dogs are creatures of habit. The World According to Duke clearly states: getting sprung from his cage means walks along the country road with a friendly volunteer, despite any silly detour to the dog run first.

With every tick-tock of his tail, I became more driven to find him a foster home as soon as humanly possible. I wanted Duke to really have something to wag his tail about.

They say everything happens for a reason, but it’s hard to find consolation in that adage when the unthinkable happens. While Duke waited for me to get my ducks in a row, tragedy found him first. He was on one of his beloved walks along the country road when two escaped huskies viciously attacked him. Duke was seriously injured and may well have died on that road were it not for a woman who risked life and limb to save him. I still don’t know who she is or how she did it, but I am forever grateful.

Duke was rushed to a local veterinary hospital with little hope of survival. There was concern his rectum had been perforated by the deep bites to his back end. That’s when I shared a tearful telephone conversation with the shelter manager: “If Duke can be saved and still live a happy life,” I sobbed, “I want him saved no matter the cost.”

Of course, no amount of money can buy a miracle. We could only hope surgery would be enough to make that tail wag again. I should have known it would be enough. We were talking about Duke’s tail after all.

A few days later, I was picking up our miracle beagle from the hospital. Once again, I prepared for a sad old dog, considering all he’d been through. Once again, I was delightfully wrong. Despite looking like a patchwork quilt of shaved fur and giant staple stitches, Duke and his tail were raring to go on the next leg of their adventure! We began with a two-hour car ride to Toronto. Have you ever driven that far with an impatient patient? He literally burst out of the car when we arrived at Beaches Animal Hospital for his follow-up care.

That brings us to the part of this adventure I wanted for him all along – a fabulous foster family to really give him something to wag about. That family comes complete with an equally adventurous beagle sister and brother. They all share his tick-tock philosophy: Every day is worth wagging your tail over.

It probably goes without saying but from this day forward, let me be the first to wish you a “Happy Birthday, Duke”.

Duke is the happiest 12 year-old beagle to ever wag his way to Big On Beagles (BOB) Rescue, bigonbeagles.ca! Endless tail-wags of thanks go out to our friends and supporters, including Quinte Lost Dog Network. Join us in the Rescue Me Village (k9rescueme.com) at WOOFSTOCK (woofstock.ca) on May 24 and 25 when we will be hosting our own Beagle Wiggle Walkathon in Duke’s honour!

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