Stephanie Dagenhart, a Maryland resident, found a dog tied to a tree with his toys placed beside a note from his former owner. She shares her story.
Duke was found tied to a tree in a Maryland park on an icy morning earlier this year. Beside him was a sad note left by his former owner, explaining that the big white dog needed a new family.
"This is Duke; he has his favorite toy, his crate, and his food, and he needs a new home and someone to love him,” it read.
Dagenhart was walking her two rescue dogs early Sunday morning when she came across the sight. She recalled the weather being so cold that she could barely feel her hands and feet.
The 32-year-old public school teacher in Baltimore almost did not believe her eyes. Duke was there trembling in the cold, and also probably with fear, tied to a tree in a local park.
Dagenhart told TODAY:
"I was stunned. I literally looked left, looked right, looking for someone who might be his owner — like I couldn’t believe what my brain was telling me."
The dog was surrounded by some of his belongings and wore a collar with an illustration of the Natty Boh man, an iconic Baltimore symbol of a one-eyed man with a handlebar mustache for National Bohemian Beer.
A concerned and outraged Dagenhart dialed 911 and made a post about Duke on a neighborhood Facebook group to see if anyone recognized him. The Good Samaritan also called her fiancé to get her dogs so she could attend to Duke.
"I’m such a dog lover,” Dagenhart confessed to KTVU, adding:
“I just couldn't imagine. I had my own two dogs with me when I arrived at the park and immediately called 911, and then called my fiancé to come take my dogs because I didn't want to leave Duke, but didn't want to attempt to approach him with my two dogs."
Close to an hour after Dagenhart called 911, a police officer finally arrived, but it would take another 10 minutes before animal control showed up for Duke. Not once did she leave him throughout that time.
Dagenhart handed over the note to the officer and trusted that Duke would get the help he needed from BARCS, Baltimore’s animal shelter.
Duke’s story went viral after it was picked up by local media and people across the world sent in kind messages and offers for adoption. Eventually, Duke found a new home with U.S. Army Specialist Wallace White.
"Wallace didn't even realize he had picked out a celebrity dog until a friend pointed out the news stories to him. He just happened to fall in love Duke just for being Duke," Dagenhart revealed.
Like Duke, a sick puppy named Rumble was also abandoned by his owner. Rumble was found earlier this year around a mobile home park in Michigan. He was only five to six weeks old, but Rumble was already dying and covered with maggots.
Fortunately, the kind person who found him did not leave him for dead. Rumble was taken to the Canine Companions Rescue Center, and despite his life-threatening injuries, is now on his way to recovery.
As the spokesperson for BARCS urged:
"We want to remind pet owners that should they ever need to give up their pet, open-admission shelters like BARCS are a community resource. We welcome all animals into our care without judgment."