When a dog becomes someone’s unicorn … Duke

In his short 10 months of life, Duke went through quite a bit. The sweet brindle greyhound, Anatolian shepherd mix was initially adopted from a shelter when he was about 7-months old, and the circumstances around how he got there are unknown. After living in his home for three months, Duke’s human relinquished him to the Dumb Friends League, which is how we met this beautiful canine.

Duke’s human dad was working long hours and combined with having small children, he did not have the time to devote to Duke’s training. We learned Duke was crate trained, friendly and playful (and sometimes that playful spirit leaned toward the overly excited side) but that he was not housetrained yet—hence the lack of having time to train becoming a challenge.

When Duke arrived at the Leslie A. Malone Center, he was on the timid side and slow to approach anyone. He allowed leashing and followed staff with a bit of coaxing, but he trembled—especially during his examinations. Despite being in a new and different environment, Duke allowed all handling and was receptive to treats, but once he secured said treat, he would retreat into his kennel.

League veterinarians discovered a rather large mass on Duke’s neck and performed surgery to remove it. During his recuperation, Duke had to wear what is affectionately called “the cone of shame”—and he was not a fan and seemed to recognize the nuances that went along with that accessory. In Duke’s notes, there’s a sweet entry about how a staff member removed the cone for a few minutes to take Duke outside, and he relished the experience. The cone combined with doorways seemed to cause some challenges Duke couldn’t quite overcome, but the treat-motivated pup prevailed.

Because of Duke’s sparse history and some behavior seen at the shelter, he was enrolled in the League’s Canine Courage program, which uses positive reinforcement training to help overcome challenges such as overstimulation, fear, body handling issues or frustration. After a few sessions, Duke was visibly more relaxed and even tried to become a lap dog. He was still energetic, he’s a puppy after all, but he began to lean in for pets and lick hands looking for treats. That Duke.

When he was ready for adoption, Duke’s blurb on our website noted his favorite things were “TREATS, affection and more treats.” The sweet pup’s life was about to change when Chloe and her mom Kathy came to the shelter.

Chloe’s family adopted other pets from the League and were familiar with the process. Kathy fell in love with Duke the moment she saw him. “Duke was in the first room across from the door to the dog room, and he followed us as far as he could when we walked past,” said Chloe. “Duke was so sweet and so excited to meet us.”

One of the League’s experienced adoptions counselors met with Chloe and Kathy and reviewed Duke’s history, as well as the best way to introduce him to new people and situations, the benefits of using high-value treats, how to read and respect his body language and other valuable information. Chloe and Kathy were also told that Duke was likely to show increasingly high energy behaviors once he acclimated to his new home, and it was important for him to have daily physical and mental outlets and supervision. Both Chloe and Kathy were experienced pet owners and knew they could give Duke the love and training he needed to thrive. The trio left with handouts and information for online resources and the League’s Behavior Helpline.

As sometimes happens, a pet’s behavior is different when they find the family they’re meant to be a part of. Maybe a pet knows when a family isn’t just right for them or they know shelter life, which is filled with love at the League, is temporary, and that different environments cause various behaviors—and some better than others. But, that all changes once they find their people.

“Duke wasn’t like what his paperwork said at all. His previous owners wrote that he was “aggressive,” “needed a professional trainer,” and the owners needed to be “experienced dog owners,” said Chloe. “Well, that wasn’t what he needed at all. He’s been the best dog we’ve had. He’s so sweet, gentle and doesn’t nip or bite unless we’re roughhousing. He even turned my mum into a slight dog person. She didn’t like dogs, especially big dogs.”

Duke adjusted to his new home perfectly and is now Chloe’s emotional support animal. With training from Chloe, Duke now has a deeper connection to his person, and the duo are learning new things together as they go, including Duke joining Chloe when she attends her college classes. “Duke and I do almost anything together,” said Chloe. “I couldn’t ask for a better partner. He’s still young, so we’re working on focusing on his task instead of his surroundings, but we’re getting there.”

Sometimes, new beginnings are the best starts to happy endings, and that’s certainly the case for Duke. “He’s the sweetest thing ever, and we got so lucky,” said Chloe. “He’s our unicorn.”

To find your unicorn … err … pet, visit our adoptions page or call 303.751.5772. All adoptions include spay or neuter surgeries, age-appropriate vaccinations, a microchip ID, 30 days of free pet insurance and a free wellness visit with a participating veterinarian.