Broken Spirit Restored

By: DogTrekker Staff

If we’re having family over for the big holiday feast, the day will likely end with an uncle or a grandpa snoring on the sofa. Maybe he’ll be on your sofa—or maybe you’re that guy!

The subject of food makes this the perfect time to share the story of Duke, a skinny black Lab who found his way to the Peninsula Humane Society.


Duke arrived as a stray weighing just 57 pounds, pretty lean for a young male Lab with his frame. But his weight was just one of the issues troubling our staff. Duke seemed like a deflated version of Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh.

Broken bones are easy to fix; broken spirits require much more work. And Duke had one. He had no bounce, no wiggle. At one point during a short walk with staff, his legs just gave way.

Duke entered his second week in our care at 55 pounds. Not a good sign, especially since we were doing our best to entice an appetite with good, fatty, wet food added to kibble. It's not uncommon for dogs and cats to lose weight during their initial days in a shelter, since some are stressed in a new environment. But not many of us know a Lab who will just pick at food for a week straight.

Our vets were perplexed. Duke was a beautiful, purebred Lab we could place in a home quickly, yet we didn't feel right making him available for adoption without crossing health issues off the list as possible reasons for his weight loss and demeanor. How would our counselors answer adopters' questions? Did they have a dog with hidden medical issues, or a dog simply down in the dumps?

Blood work came back normal, so we took the only approach that felt right. We made Duke available for adoption, kept him on our vets' radar and were completely honest with potential adopters.

I actually didn't know much about our skinny guy until I had a text message from an old friend. "R u at work? I'm at the Center checking out Duke."

My friend returned the next day so his wife could meet him. We all spent time with Duke, and saw glimpses of a goofy lab emerging from Eeyore.

A day later, a flurry of texts. "We're at home. Duke explored, now he's lying down at my feet – it's a ploy 🙂 Your staff is great. We had a great, caring experience."

And, even better, this most recent update: "Duke's appetite continues to improve and his mood has changed. He is walking taller and without his head hanging. Duke's spirit has been lifted and his 'Lab Wag' has returned. He's accepted our 14-year-old cat, Jasper, and Jasper him—new siblings. Duke has been a great addition and we're so glad to have a new member of our family."

As I told my friend, I wish all our shelter animals could find homes as good as his.

We decided to get together for a celebratory lunch when Duke gained five pounds. I joked that we might get there before Duke, especially given the holidays.

It's now December 15. Total weight gain for the three of us since their adoption day: 15 pounds —11 of them for Duke! That’s worth celebrating.

—Scott Delucci for Peninsula Humane


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