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The International Writers Magazine: Story of A Dog called Duke

The Rescue of Duke
• Leroy B Vaughn
I was trying to make small talk with one of the men that hand washed our pick-up truck, when I looked towards something moving behind the chain link fence.
“Is that a rat,” my wife asked as I moved closer to the fence. I told her that it was a puppy, as I squatted down to get a better look.


It was a puppy and from where I was at, it looked like a bull terrier. I asked the car washer that spoke a little English if it was a bull terrier and he told me that’s what it was.

The puppy was in terrible shape. It was hard to tell if it was black or gray, because of the dirt and motor oil that it was covered in. These car washers had a big pit bull chained under a metal lean-to that they used for a lot dog, when they closed for the night. The man that spoke a little English told me he was going to use this puppy for a “junk yard dog,” when it got older.

Looking at the shape that puppy was in and the fact that it was eating out of a can of tuna fish, I had my doubts that this pup was going to get very old. My wife tried to talk me out of it, but she knew that we could not leave that puppy there. I asked her to try to negotiate a good price with the man, as I intended to buy the puppy from him.

We had buried our Chihuahua two months earlier, after she had a heart attack and we promised each other that we would not get any more pets. We were traveling and did not know how long we would stay in Mexico.

He was reluctant to let the puppy go at first. He told me the pups mother had been killed by a car three days earlier and he was trying to keep it alive. When I asked how old the puppy was, he said twenty eight days. We settled on four hundred pesos, or forty U.S. dollars.

They finished detailing our pick-up and we headed across town to my wife’s third cousins office. We had been in the state of Michoacan, in central Mexico for six months now and luckily she had a cousin that was a Veterinarian. He examined the puppy and confirmed that he was not long for this world if he stayed at the car wash. The puppy was under weight and after all the motor oil and grim was cleaned off of him, we discovered that he had a skin condition that the Vet described as “elephant skin.” Being a cousin, the Vet was going to give us a reduced rate for his services. I asked him to remove the dew claws, clip the ears and bob the pup’s tail. He de-wormed the puppy and gave him the required vaccinations also.
His fee for all of these services was about the same as I had paid for the puppy, four hundred pesos.

I was a little surprised when he asked if I wanted the dog for fighting. I told him I wanted the dog to be healthy. I was not a dog fighter.
We named the dog Duke and left him with the Vet for two days. He looked much better when we picked him up. The Vet sold us a sack of high protein dog food, a leash and some type of oil that was to be applied to the puppy twice a day, for his skin condition. It took a few weeks before he started to look like a healthy puppy. The oil treatment was working and his coat was now a shiny black with a flash of white on his chest and nose.
He was filling out and getting strong. I was making sure he got exercise every day, under the direction of the Vet. I found a little rubber boomerang at the store, and I had a lot of fun tossing the toy and watching Duke slide across the tile floor as he went after his boomerang.

Two months after taking the dog from the car wash, I pulled in to get the pick-up detailed. The car wash man looked at Duke, as I took him out of the truck and asked if he was the same dog that I had purchased from him.  
He offered to buy him back. He would give me the money I had paid for Duke, plus my Vet fees. There was no way I would let Duke go now, especially to this character.

Over the next nine months, I would get two or three offers a week to sell to sell Duke, when I walked him through the streets of central Mexico. When he was three months old, we moved to the state of Jalisco. Duke became my constant companion, walking the streets with me, everyday. The offers continued from people that wanted to buy Duke. There was no way I would sell the dog in Mexico, for fear of him becoming a fighting dog.

After six more months in Jalisco, we let the lease expire on our rental house and decided to take a few months and travel around the south east coast of the United States. The question was what to do with Duke? I could have sold him or given him away to a number of people in the town we were living in, but I couldn’t take that chance.

The local animal shelter was full of dogs that had been pets for Americans and Canadians, until they decided to go back home. I didn’t want Duke to go to a shelter and be picked up by a dog fighter. Shelters in that part of Mexico did not screen people looking to adopt pets.
I have a friend that I had known for about thirty years at that time. He has a small ranch in New Mexico and is a dog lover. I gave him a call and told him about my plans to travel and asked if he might be interested in taking Duke. He already had six dogs and two cats, but asked me to send a picture of Duke. If he couldn’t take him, he had a good friend that lived in northern Arizona that might be interested.

A few weeks later, we packed the pick-up and headed for Gallup, New Mexico with Duke.
It would be a two day trip and Duke loved to ride in the pick-up truck. He wasn’t crazy about the back seat, but he had plenty of room and there was no way he was going to ride in the front with us, as we drove across Mexico.

I didn’t want to leave Duke in the truck when we got ready to eat, so we found a taco stand and I stood by the truck, keeping Duke on a leash while my wife ordered tacos. The operator of the taco stand was amazed when we ordered tacos for Duke. My wife told him to leave out the tortilla’s and put the meat on a paper plate. Duke was good for three tacos.

That night we found a hotel in Durango and I paid five bucks extra for Duke to stay in our room. I left some dry dog food on a paper plate while my wife and I went downstairs to eat. When we returned to our room, Duke was sound asleep on the bed. Something he was never allowed to do at our house. He appeared to be a little annoyed when I asked him to go back to his bed that I had brought up from the truck, but he did it.
We drove through the desert of Chihuahua the next day before pulling into the border crossing at Santa Teresa, New Mexico.

I was expecting to have a hard time getting Duke across the border. There was an anti pit bull movement starting in the United States, but I had his shot record ready when we pulled up to the customs inspector.
The customs inspector asked where we were going and where we were coming from. I told him as he glanced past my shoulder and saw Dukes big strong head sticking up behind me.
“Is that a pit bull? He asked.
“Bull terrier,” I replied, as I thought, here it comes.

The inspector asked if he was friendly and I told him the dog was harmless. He believed me as he stuck his hand into the back seat and let Duke give him a good licking. He didn’t even ask for the shot records as he waved us into the United States.

A few hours later, we decided to spend the night in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. We could have driven into Gallup that night, but I wanted to see what kind of a town would name itself after a 1950’s television show.

We spotted a decent looking motel on the highway and I figured that we would not have a problem getting a room with Duke, since there was a group of people with small dogs sitting in fold-up lounge chairs on the grass, next to the motel.
I stayed with Duke and watched from a distance as the people with the tea-cup dogs drank beer and gossiped.
My wife didn’t have any problem getting a room, after she explained that we had a “terrier” with us.

I made sure Duke was secure on his leash, before we left the truck and headed for the room. I had taken the leash off of Duke, after I closed the door to the room.  My wife said she was going back to the truck to pick up her make-up bag. I called for her to watch the door, because Duke was loose. Before she turned around to ask what I had just said, Duke made his escape.
I was on his trail, but there was no way I could keep up with a big strong dog. I heard excitement as people in the yorkie group yelled and rustled about.

My mind was racing. I knew that Duke was heading for the tea-cup yorkies that were around the shade tree area. I could picture Duke jumping into the group, thinking that he was the same size and there would be no reason that he could not play with the other dogs.
As I rounded the corner, I realized that it might not be as bad as I had suspected, when I heard laughter coming from the dog owners.

Duke had jumped into the dog circle and was so happy to see the little dogs that he was lying on his back and peeing straight up into the air when I got to the dog circle. I got his leash on him and stayed for a few minutes to talk with the other dog owners. They loved Duke and told me that they were in town for a tea-cup yorkie dog show and that their dogs were valued at two thousand dollars each.

Luckily, I didn’t have to write any checks to cover for a big strong bull terrier wrecking havoc on a group of defenseless yorkies.

We made it to Gallup the next day and we were assured by our friend that he had a good home for Duke. He wasn’t able to keep Duke, because he has an old mutt named Buster that refused to get along with Duke.  
Our friend took Duke across the state line into northern Arizona, where he has a friend that was looking for a good dog for a pet.

A few months ago, I called my friend in Gallup and asked if he had seen the family that took Duke in. It had been six years, since Duke moved to Arizona.

The man and woman that have Duke now are very happy with him. Duke was implanted with a micro chip the first week he was in Arizona and spends his days with the retired couple. They ride their horses in the high country behind their ranch and Duke tags along.

Duke never leaves the man’s side. When they are not riding horses in the field Duke rides in the front seat of their pick-up truck, while the man’s wife rides in the back seat, when they go into town.
© Leroy B Vaughn May 2013

Leroy B. Vaughn has had short stories, both true and fiction published in magazines in the United States and Mexico. He has written two crime fiction novels and four novelettes. His stories also appear in e-magazines and on the pod-cast Crime City Central.

Meeting at the Hide-Away bar & grill
Leroy B. Vaughn

A light snow was falling as Mickey Weldon left the diner and made his way down Madison Street.
*You can read two of my novelettes for free at
I also have several short stories in e-magazines, and Short and on the pod-cast Crime City Central.

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