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Losing Duke

Posted in: Di's diary3 Comments

It is now 24 hours since I kissed Duke good bye and told him we loved him and he fell to the ground. After eight days of throwing everything we had at his infection I knew that it was time to let him go. Mind you if he had stopped eating or lost interest in everything around him I would have made that decision days ago but he continued to eat and come to me for a pat and an apple. He tried so hard but he was too old and it was too cold – bitterly cold and raining. When his white blood cell increased after five days of antibiotics we tried intramuscular injections as well as the paste but that did little, so at least I know we tried. But that doesn’t seem to make any difference to me now, all I feel is sadness that he has gone and that he didn’t get more time.

Duke was a police horse in the NSW Police force for 12 years. If you have ever seen the Police horses perform at the Sydney Easter Show or the Military Tattoo, you would have seen him. He was one of their most trusted and respected horses and I was always in awe of him. I have never ridden a horse like Duke and I probably never will again. He was enormous – 16.2 hands and I had to use a milk crate to climb up on him but he was gentle and sensible. I remember when I first got him, asking was he used to the bush. I knew that he would be perfectly sound on the roads but I didn’t know whether he had spent much time trail riding and wondered whether he might spook. Tiffany, the policewoman who dropped him off said “Oh yeah, he’s used to riding through bush looking for bodies”. I remember thinking what a life he had had and the stories he could have told if he could talk.

Beautiful Duke

Beautiful Duke

Some people say I am crazy for taking in old horses – that I am just setting myself up for heartbreak but I have a soft spot for the oldies. They are so wise and gracious and wonderful to be around. Summer, another of our oldies is just delightful. She is 29 but acts like a teenager. She used to be a successful show horse and at one time, would have been very valuable but she passed her ‘use by date’ and came here. Only last month we took Summer to the Hawkesbury Show for Kelsea and Kyle to ride in the Pony Club beginner events. She had to carry both of them as Kitty, Kyle’s pony had a stone bruise. Anyway, she loved it! It had probably been 15 years since she had been at a show and she reminded me of a retired opera singer making a long awaited comeback – soaking up the applause, unable to leave the stage, bowing over and over again. She competed in six events and was placed either first or second in five of those (with some of these classes having 14 entries). She pranced and she danced around the ring (ever mindful of the precious cargo she carried on her back) and she definitely didn’t want to go home. The judge even remarked that she wanted to take her home with her.

By the way, I know Alana doesn't have a helmet on, I didn't think about it til after I had taken the photo. She just wanted to be part of the glory.

By the way, I know Alana doesn’t have a helmet on, I didn’t think about it til after I had taken the photo. She just wanted to be part of the glory.

Another story of an amazing oldie came from a Reader Digest magazine that a friend of mine Angie sent me. It was about a 13 year old Golden Retriever suffering cancer. Her owners were deeply attached to the dog and decided to fight the cancer, spending over $5000.00 in the process, despite the overwhelming negative response of all those around them. They were successful and were glad that they had bought their old girl just a bit more time. The following year the lady became pregnant after many years of trying and before long a baby girl arrived to share their world. One day their old dog appeared in the kitchen – whining and visibly distressed. The lady thought she wanted to go out but she didn’t and kept running to their stairs. She ignored her for a while but the dog wouldn’t let up so she followed her up the stairs and into the baby’s room. The baby, asleep in her cot was having trouble breathing and was turning blue. The woman rang the ambulance and the baby was saved but of course the outcome would have been very different, had they not saved their old dog the year before.

So if you asked me would I do it all again, would I take Duke on knowing that it would end so sadly, so differently from what I wanted, I would have to say yes. Whenever we love someone or something we set ourselves up for hurt but what is the alternative? To never love, to insulate ourselves against others, to never let others get close. To me that is not living.

Yesterday as I stood with Duke, the final lines of a poem I wrote for my book went through my head.

“…and though to lose you will be tragic,
I must endure to share your magic”

I know that the sadness that I am experiencing will eventually soften and what will remain are the wonderful memories our time spent together. My life is richer for having known him and sharing his magic and I know a lot of other people who feel the same.

So rest in peace, Duke my friend. You deserve it.

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  1. Jennifer said on 16/06/2011 at 8:05 am

    What a beautiful beautiful post. I am shedding a tear for the wonderful Duke. Thank you for sharing his story, and the stories of the Retriever and your Summer. I’m for old animals too, they always have so much to offer.

    I think I found you through Edgars Mission. I so admire you both, it is my dream to one day have some acres so I can give unwanted animals a loving and safe home. Thank you for looking after the animals. Jenn x

  2. Diana said on 16/06/2011 at 10:41 am

    Thank you Jenn… that means so much.

  3. The Beagle said on 01/09/2011 at 6:32 am

    Sitting here, I can feel Duke, his wonderful smell, his gorgeous long face, his long striding gait. I’m sorry I didn’t share this with you at the time of his passing, but I loved him too – I know you know. Thankyou for sharing those times with me, plodding along on bush trails, warm sunshine, wonderful friends and gorgeous equine conpanions. Is there a better time or place..? X

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