Duke's Day: Experiencing Dog Loss And Duke's Legacy
7 years ago today, the amazing Duke passed away. Please join us today in remembering him and all the incredible dogs who have sadly passed. To commemorate Duke's anniversary, we interviewed Angel about his experience with dog loss and how Duke's legacy lives on through Betty & Butch.
How long has it been now since you lost Duke?
We lost Duke at 11.15 am on 8 April 2015. I remember everything about that day as if it was only yesterday down to the smallest detail. I carried Duke down the stairs for the final time at 8 am and I remember thinking to myself, this is the last time he will be upstairs so we had a little chat at the top of the stairs and I told him that today was goodbye day but I would be with him every step of the way.
He had steak for breakfast and we took him out to a communal garden at the back of our home and some neighbours came out to visit him and say their goodbyes, everyone loved Duke on the street and he was just as much part of their lives as ours.
The sun was shining and Duke kept looking up at Paul and me and smiling. It was so beautiful and a moment to treasure for the rest of our lives.
Paul and I spent the rest of the morning cuddled up to Duke in silence.
The vets arrived just before 11 and explained everything that would happen and what to expect. The vets were so gentle with him and we spoke to him and kept repeating he was a good dog and then he took his final breaths.
After the vets had left, we washed his face and paws and wrapped him in his blankets. It truly was the most dramatic experience of my life and Paul looked after us both at that moment.
We had arranged to take Duke to be cremated ourselves just outside Warrington. When we arrived they took Duke in on a stretcher and laid him out for us to say goodbye.
We waited for him to be cremated and chose a casket for his ashes. I couldn’t believe that the same morning I had woke up with our boy and now we were taking him home in a little box.
There are steps of grief that people go through losing a loved one. Are those steps the same as losing a pet?
I definitely went through the five steps of grieving, denial; anger; bargaining; depression and acceptance but not in the order they usually represent themselves. Some days I went through all the emotions but the dangerous emotion, depression, creeps up on you and I didn’t know that I had fallen into depression until it was too late.
I suffered from depression for months and agreed to go on antidepressants to help me with the grief but nothing was going to help the situation until I accepted that Duke was gone, this took nearly a year.
When someone you know is experiencing the loss of a dog, what is your advice for looking after them? What should you say to them? What should you not say to them?
I start by saying that I am sorry for their loss and is there anything I can do. I always tell people that their dog had a fantastic life and their pet was so lucky to have found a pet parent like them and to focus on this and rejoice in the memories that they made together.
It’s okay to grieve and it’s okay to take time out, your dog is a family member and they deserve the same emotions of a loved one.
It’s not okay to say that someone should snap out of it, it’s only a dog. If you don’t know what to say, just say, I’m sorry for your loss and call the pet by its name.
What do you find brings the most comfort to dog owners who are grieving?
Space to talk and share stories about their dog brings the most comfort. Sharing pictures and heart warning stories.
Paul and I get great comfort talking about how regal Duke was and how he looked down on the other dogs as if he really was a Duke and we love to talk about the puppet shows we put on for him and he would nibble our fingers.
Our extended Betty & Butch family stood by us in our darkest hours and we will always remember this.
Would you recommend getting a new pet after the loss of a dog?
Everyone is different but we made a big mistake in getting another dog so soon after Duke passed. We were lost and I was suffering from depression and Paul had started to work away so we rescued Nuala.
I think in those early months it was unfair to Nuala, I kept calling her Duke and I expected her to behave a least a little like him, but the fact of the matter was, Duke was gone and Nuala would never take his place.
That wasn’t Nuala's job, she was meant to be loved on her own merits. We did contemplate rehoming Nuala in those early months but we knew if we did, she would be in and out of the dogs home for the rest of her life.
She was the right dog for us and we joke now that Duke sent her as payback for having it so easy with him. It’s just she came at the wrong time or did she? It’s really hard to know.
What, if anything, can you do to prepare for the loss of a pet while they are still alive?
We were so happy we kept everything of Dukes; his first collar, first bandana, all these bring back wonderful memories now. Keep all their photos and videos in a safe place.
If your dog is ill, organise a plan with your vet, don’t allow them to get into too much pain, you don’t want their memory to be filled with regret.
Plan their last days. We gave Duke a wonderful final week filled with happy memories. Plan to take some time off work and to meet up with friends who understand your bond with your dog.
How does Duke live on through Betty & Butch? What is his legacy?
Anyone who works with us, knows about Duke. His name gets mentioned regularly. 8 April is a day to remember all of the wonderful memories he has brought us.
Duke wasn’t just our dog, he was also our customers' dog. So many people and some who did not have dogs used to visit him at the store to brighten up their day.
He had his own sofa in the store and people would come in for a sit beside him and give him belly rubs.
His legacy is in everything we do, we always ask ourselves are we doing it the Duke way, would Duke eat this, would this healthy enough for Duke?
Betty & Butch wouldn’t even be here today if it wasn’t for Duke. We wouldn’t be the first dedicated dog store in the UK, we wouldn’t have been the store that introduced Santa for Dogs! And so many dogs would not be eating a healthy diet if it was not for Duke, he just made you want to be better.
Would you like to share one of your favourite memories of Duke?
I have two that I can’t decide between. The first is our first Christmas together and Paul spoiled him with so many presents and we all wore Santa hats, even Duke. That day we became our own special family.
The other memory is Paul used to put on puppet shows that drove Duke wild trying to get the finger puppets. Duke would inevitably get the puppet and Paul’s finger, I used to laugh so hard at Paul yelping and Duke was so proud of himself.
We thank ourselves luckily that Duke came into our lives.
Join us in a day of remembrance and please share your stories and photos in the comments.