If you’ve found your way here it probably means we share the belief that pets are much more than just animals. Sometimes they become as important as any other family member. This site is dedicated to that love and the scarifies that christopher and bri made for their young great dane named duke merle.

Nearly two years ago they welcomed a faithful new companion into their lives. Duke merle was a beautiful and healthy puppy. He instantly filled a void in their hearts and it was all about love.

bri and duke before surgery - courtesy of shannon bullock

Duke was one of those overly pampered dogs. As a young pup during crate training christopher would sleep with one arm inside the crate so duke could snuggle for a few minutes before falling fast asleep. From the beginning they took him everywhere.To the mall, to starbucks, to farmers markets, and every training session they could find. They knew he was going to be large and wanted him to be the gentle giant he quickly grew into. Duke spent time at the luxurious Fido and Co. country club, to the kind caring and training of Canine To Five, to his fun and tumbling at Best Friends Day Care where he had always been a social butterfly. A few of these places even used duke to help mentor the young puppies. They would tell us stories of him rolling onto his back so the young pups could pounce on him. Stopping traffic during his walks was Duke’s specialty. He even caused at least one accident. Crowds would form around him anytime they were in public. Duke loved life! But, his favorite past time was sitting on the couch watching tv with his family. He’s protected bri when needed, but mostly just goofed around all day waiting to meet his next new friend.

Black and white image of christopher and his duke silhouette tattoo

In 2011 duke started showing signs of something wrong. he would fall when playing. he would drag his paws after a short walk. He would express bursts of pain. They thought it may be growing pains or a soft tissue injury. But after a visit to their regular vet it was thought to be more of a neurological condition known as wobblers disease. To test the theory their vet prescribed prednisone used to reduce swelling. It worked wonderfully! He hadn’t been that playful and full of energy – ever. Though he had to pee, every hour 24 hours a day! The trade off was well worth it. This showed that surgery could be beneficial.

Black and white image of Bri with her duke merle tattoo

Last October they began the process by seeing a specialist who recommended getting an MRI. It was expensive, but much better than the alternatives. Shortly later they were the local imaging center. That afternoon they received the news. His C3 & C4 cervical vertebrae had started tightening around his spinal cord. This compression was causing loss of feeling in his limbs. To remedy this, a surgery called a cervical dorsal laminectomy would be needed. It was explained to them that this condition usually worsens into full paralyses and the longer they waited the less beneficial surgery would be for Duke. Though the surgery wouldn’t repair an already damaged spinal cord the surgeon felt hopeful since it was very localized, atypical, and caught early.

It still took christopher and bri a couple months to book the surgery. They say it was the hardest decision they’ve ever had to make. Nothing felt worse than trying to decide to take your loved one into surgery. But they started to see him deteriorate – quickly. He could still run around, but it would only last a short while and then he could hardly get around.

The operation was very expensive, so they started to rearrange their lives and finances to prepare. Finally, after a couple months of preparing they decided it was time. They trusted the specialist, he came highly recommended so on february 8th, 2012 they made the heart wrenching decision of going through with surgery on their less than 2 year old boy.

Follow their story here

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