Author: Holly Nelson
Gift giving is fun and while on vacation many people, myself included like to bring home gifts for our friends and family members. I even knew a dog, who liked to give gifts when he came home from his vacations.
Duke wasn’t always my dog, I found him when I was fourteen year old. One afternoon while I was on my way to a friend’s house I noticed a dog walking down our quite country road all alone. We didn’t have many stray dogs around our area and the few dogs that did run loose were local farm dogs. I knew all of these dogs quite well, but this big burly dog was not one of them. I wondered whose dog he was and why he was roaming around on his own. After a few days of seeing the dog hanging around our neighborhood I decided to befriend him. Hoping that he was friendly I walked towards him encouraging him to come over to me. He was very compliant and trotted over wagging his tail. I petted him and as I did he looked up at me with a happy expression. He had a large head, floppy ears, and grey eyes that almost seemed human. His long black and white fur was very soft and as I stood petting him a great idea began hatch in my mind. If this beautiful dog didn’t have a home then maybe I could keep him. I headed home and was glad to see that he willingly came with me. He hung around our house all afternoon, but when evening came he left. The next day he was back and this routine went on for about a week. He would hang around our house all day, but in the evening he would leave again.
My mom noticed the dog was continually hanging out at our house, she told me that he probably already had a home and I needed to find out where he lived so that I could return him to his rightful owners. After inquiring around our neighborhood, I found out that the dog belonged to the Quin family. The Quins were cattle ranchers who lived about a mile away. They owned Black Angus cattle and one of their cattle fields was adjacent to the woods behind our house.
I was very sad when I heard that this wonderful dog already had a home because even though he was only around for a week or so, I had quickly becoming very attached to him. I really didn’t want to contact the owners of the dog, but my mom insisted that I call them and let them know where their dog was. I looked up the Quins number in the phone book and then grudgingly dialed it and waited for someone to answer
“Hello,” answered a gruff voice
“Hi, is this Mr. Quin?” I asked.
“Yes, what do you want?” His gruff voice snapped.
“Well, I live on Fieldwood Dr. and one of your dogs has been hanging around our house, I wanted to let you know just in case you were wondering where he was.”
“Is it the big black and white dog?” He asked.
“Yes.” I said.
“That mutt is my son’s dog.”
“Well could I speak to your son then?” I asked
“No, you can’t speak to my son, he moved out and he left the mutt here.
“Well, would you like me to bring the dog back to your house?”
“I don’t really care.” snapped the gruff voice. With such a disapproving response I was at a loss for what to say and there was a moment of silence, I was having a hard time digesting the idea that Mr. Quin did not want the dog.
“You mean you don’t want the dog?” I asked, just to make sure I understood the man correctly. Then Mr. Quin retorted,
“I don’t really care what you do with the dog, if you bring him back to my place he is just going to leave again and my son isn’t coming back any time soon. The dog is a nuisance around the farm, so do whatever you want with him.
“So you won’t mind if I keep him at my house?”
“No, I don’t really care where he goes.”
“Ok well what is the dog’s name?” I asked.
“His name is Duke, listen, I was on my way out the door when you called and I need to get going. Good bye.” Mr. Quin said and then the line went dead.
In a daze I hung up the phone. This was an unexpected turn and I realized that Duke might really get to be my dog after all. With Mr. Quin not wanting the dog, I had high hopes that my mom would let me keep him. I approached her on the subject and with a lot of fast talking, a little begging and pleading, a speech on how we really needed an outside dog to protect us, then a solemn promise that I would be completely responsible for Duke and a large compromise to never ever let him come inside the house, my mom reluctantly gave in and Duke began residing with us that very day.
Soon however, I discovered what Mr. Quin had meant when he said Duke was a nuisance. Duke was very aggressive around male dogs. We did not have a fenced yard to keep him in, so for the peace and protection of the canines in the neighborhood, my mom told me to keep Duke tethered when we were not at home and at night. I wanted Duke to be comfortable while he was tethered and I remembered we had an old doghouse, it was somewhere in our barn. I went on a mad search and dug it out. Then I found a long chain to use as a tether for Duke. I put the doghouse in a sheltered area under a large tree for shade in the summer and protection form the cold during the winter. I attached the chain to the doghouse and then I hooked Duke to the chain. I waited to see if he would get upset and lunge while on the chain, but he didn’t seem to mind being tethered at all and I soon found out why. It was another definition to Mr. Quin’s word “nuisance”. The Quin’s son should have named Duke Houdini because he was an escape artist. The odd thing was he never ran away when he was lose in the yard, he only escaped when he was on his chain and only during times when we were not at home or at night.
The other oddity about his leaving was he did not run away every day. He only left when he wanted a little extra freedom, about every eight weeks or so. We never discovered how Duke unhooked his chain, he never broke it, but somehow he mysteriously un-clipped it. I tried many different chains, clips, and collars, but it didn’t seem to matter how complicated the clips were, Duke could always figure them out. During his escapes, it was apparent that Duke didn’t stay around our immediate neighborhood, for we never had any complaints about him fighting with the neighborhood dogs. I never found out where he went, but he always returned after two or three days, and upon his return he would go to his dog house and take a long rest.
Duke had another odd idea about leaving, well actually in this case about returning home. After a few escapes Duke began returning home with different objects. He would leave the object on our porch at our front door and then he would then go to his house and rest. It was as if he wanted to give me a peace offering for his unauthorized adventures. Duke was consistent with his escapes, which I referred to as his vacations, he was also consistent with his gift giving and through the years he left many gifts on our porch. Duke gave me all kinds of things; a rake with a broken handle, an old tattered hat, a rock, tree branches, old shoes, a bucket with a hole in it, and many other similar items. upon one of his returns he had dropped a paper bag at our door. I was amazed when I opened the bag and found a set of six antique pewter mugs. I asked around the neighborhood to make sure that no one was missing the set of mugs, but no one claimed them. They were nice mugs, my mom liked them so much she cleaned them and put them on the mantel above our fire place as a decoration.
Duke was very devoted to his gift giving and I once had the privilege of witnessing just how devoted he was. I was in the living room doing my homework when I happened to look out the window and see Duke coming up the road towards our house. He had been on vacation for the last three days so I was happy to see him coming home. I watched as he came up our driveway. When he got half way up the drive he stopped and just stood there for a few seconds, suddenly he turned around and ran to our neighbor’s house, he grabbed the doormat off of their front porch, carried it to our house, and then left it at our front door. With his last minute gift shopping complete, he had a very satisfied expression on his face as he went in his doghouse for his long rest from another great three- day vacation.