Duke of Windsor, The Worst Name For The Greatest Dog

By: Kathleen Fitzgerald Let the record show: This is not a photo of my childhood dog, Duke of Windsor. Duke refused to pose for photographs. He was too busy sniffing his own butt and rummaging through suburban trashcans for that ... but when we’d catch him, he always gave this exact “terrified squirrel” look:

I think Jay Z said it best with, “I got 99 problems but a bich(on) ain’t one.” Duke was a purebred bichon frise but not the brightest bulb in the discount store lamp. In fact, we’re pretty sure that he was part of an overbreeding ring and mildly retarded as a result. Luckily, the little guy’s abundance of cuteness compensated for his idiocy. Every week, he managed to dart past my Mom as she opened the front door and run down the street. While “making a bolt for it” is a classic dog move, my furry Steven Hawking sucked at it. Without fail, Duke would get “lost” midway down our cul-de-sac and start running in circles like the anti-Lassie. I once joked that the guy was too dumb to hate anything (the aroma of his own butt included), but as I grew and watched him respond to family crises, I realized that Duke was smart about the important things. When I fell seriously ill during freshman year of high school, Duke sat with me for months, delicately placing his snout where it hurt most as if to say that everything would be okay. When my younger brother started getting college acceptance letters delivered, Duke skipped out to the mailbox with him and sat patiently while Sean nervously read the verdicts. He wagged his tail at stressful situations, licked away tears, and never hurt anyone … something that the rest of us couldn’t pretend to claim.

During my sophomore year of college, I flew to Rome for a semester studying abroad. Stressed until the last minute, I threw my overpacked suitcases into our hip 1992 Previa van (it was 2004) and worked through a mental check list. As I looked back into the utility room to double check that I’d grabbed everything, I saw Duke wagging his tail goodbye. Duke died from cancer less than three months later. Looking back, it’s clear that Duke seemed sick even then; but we never suspected anything since his tail wagging and nuzzling kept pace. In the end, this was the greatest lesson that I ever learned from our tiny, trash diving dog: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Duke made us feel something good every day.

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