The Story of Duke

Sir Duke of Save-An-Angel

This is the story of Duke.

Of how humans have failed him.


And now he needs a miracle.

Most animal rescue experts say focus on the positive attributes of the dog you’re trying to save, leave out the past. But in Duke’s case, his past is what created his present and, unfortunately, will affect his future.

You see, Duke’s had really bad hands dealt to him. He was found tied to a pole outside a lady’s yard in New Orleans. Save-An-Angel, a New Orleans-based dog rescue operated by Oklahoma natives Kristie and Johnny Sullens, opened their hearts and brought him into the rescue. After a period of time, Duke finally had an adoption application that looked promising: Good family, good references, home visit checked out. Everything looked great! So, Duke was off to his forever home in Atlanta!

Or so they thought.

Happy Duke with Save-An-Angel

Happy Duke with Save-An-Angel

Duke’s Nightmare Begins

A few months later during a routine check-up about Duke, the adopters confessed they’d given him away to a guy in New York because he “didn’t get along with their dog.” Never called Save-An-Angel, never tried to get a trainer to help work out the issue, just decided to get rid of him. Once in New York, Duke was subjected to horrific abuse. The new owner let his other dogs attack Duke. Repeatedly. Duke went from a happily-ever-after beginning to a never-ending nightmare at the hands of this new owner.

Fast forward to now, and Save-An-Angel was able to get Duke back from this horrible situation, but the damage was done: Duke had become a fearful aggressive. Instead of waiting to see if a fellow dog was friendly, Duke was on the offensive, ready to stop an attack – whether real or not – before it happened. Through no fault of his own, Duke was now afraid of his own kind. And willing to fight to protect himself.

A bump in the road

Save-An-Angel put out a plea for a foster, as trainers felt it was his only real shot at a successful rehabilitation. Yet no one stepped up. Every volunteer they had was full or had no way of keeping Duke separated from their own dogs. The only option left was boarding, not an idea situation for him given his past and present condition. But Kristie and Johnny weren’t willing to give up on Duke, so boarding it was.

Duke started out 2015 in a boarding facility in New Orleans where he began rehabilitation training. One day a kennel worker decided to get the hose out and play with Duke. Now, Duke is like my girls, Maggie and Katie – get out a hose and their excitement levels are off the charts! I’ve been nipped occasionally as they play in the water and go after the hose, which is exactly what Duke did. He didn’t attack, he was playing. But because the kennel worker was nipped, Duke was labeled “dangerous” and again, found himself without a home.

Save-An-Angel rallied and found only one facility, knowing all his issues, willing to take Duke. SAA volunteers made a schedule, visiting Duke constantly, taking him for walks, car rides, hikes. His training was continuing. It was felt Duke had finally found a safe place, so Save-An-Angel decided to proceed with Duke’s heartworm treatment given the boarding facility could place him in a quiet, secluded area. Five months and $4,300 later, things were looking up.

And then it all came crashing down.


No more options

Just today, Kristie received a call that Duke’s boarding facility is being shut down temporarily. For how long, they don’t know. Which means Duke needs a new home. Boarding is no longer a viable option for Duke. He’s simply been bounced around too much and his training won’t stick unless he’s in a home / foster environment. Duke needs to learn he’s safe and loved in a quiet place while he’s being treated for heartworms. A kennel simply cannot provide that.

Duke is temporarily staying with founders, Kristie and Johnny, but they have their hands full with three personal dogs, two of the rescue’s dogs, and a new baby in a tiny shotgun house. Ideally, they need an experienced, dedicated foster in New Orleans without any other dogs, or if they have other dogs, able to safely keep Duke and the other dogs separated. This isn’t a suggestion; it’s necessary. Duke has done well with his rehabilitation, but he is nowhere near ready to be loose with other dogs. Thus far, after months of trying to find a foster while he was in boarding, they’ve come up empty. And now the situation is critical.

Kristie reached out to me, and I, in turn, reached out to my fellow rescue warriors. Here’s what we’ve come up with…

Extreme Makeover: Duke Edition

If we can find a viable foster in Oklahoma meeting the same criteria, I’ve offered to go get Duke this weekend. Kalyn McKenzie with Dogism has agreed to help with his rehabilitation and between the foster, Kalyn, and myself, we’ll be doing Extreme Makeover: Duke Edition. Save-An-Angel will still pay for all fostering costs, as well as his heartworm treatments. This would give Duke the chance for happiness he’s been denied his entire young life.

So what happens if we can’t find a foster? Duke dies. No one wants to hear that and plenty are going to be angry upon reading this, but if a foster can’t be found, Duke is facing euthanasia. No rescue ever wants to make that call, but long-term boarding is no life for a dog, especially one with Duke’s heartworm condition and abandonment / abuse issues. It becomes a quality of life issue, and Duke won’t thrive as well as he would in a foster home. We wish it could be all butterflies and unicorns, but this is reality and there’s no sense glossing it over.

Humans failed Duke.

And who loses?


He doesn’t deserve it. He simply doesn’t. Duke’s super people friendly and full of smiles. And sloppy kisses. He loves car rides. He absolutely craves attention and loves learning, shining during his training sessions. He’s thinks he’s a duck around water! He loves to hike! Duke is simply too full of love and life to have this as his final legacy. But we are out of options and the clock is ticking.

Please, if you can find it in your heart to help Duke, call Kristie at (504) 638-2341. There are so many people lined up to help Duke, we just need the missing puzzle piece – a foster.

Let’s not fail Duke this time.


UPDATE 6/1/15:

Duke is with a foster in New Orleans and is doing extremely well with his training. He is still desperately in need of a permanent foster or forever home. To follow his journey, visit Save-An-Angel on Facebook where they post videos and photos of his progress. If interested in adopting Duke, contact Kristie at (504) 638-2341. Requirements for adopting him are very stringent given how his previous adoption went, so please understand, not just “any” home will do. Duke is a special boy and deserves a special home where he’ll never have to be afraid or fight again.

Happy Duke

UPDATE 6/24/15:

It is with the heaviest of hearts we share the news of Duke’s passing. Just a few weeks after putting out a national plea to save his life, Duke attacked and killed another animal while in foster care. This tragedy forced us (Save An Angel) to re-evaluate our responsibility to Duke and to the community as a whole. After working with three trainers, ranging from traditional to holistic; using anti-anxiety meds, and placing him in a home environment, it was clear Duke’s heightened state of anxiety wasn’t decreasing. No matter what we tried, Duke remained on high alert – a danger to other animals around him.

After consulting with his trainers, other animal welfare professionals familiar with his past, as well as our Board, we determined it was best to euthanize Duke. Our mission as a rescue is to SAVE lives, so please know that this decision did not come easily or without great consideration.

For months we did everything in our power to help Duke because we wanted to give him every chance at a happy life. We fell in love with Duke from the moment we rescued him off the streets. Sadly, the abuse he suffered early in life was too much to overcome. Duke was cremated alone and a memorial service is being planned to spread his ashes at the lake since he so loved the water. Duke taught us so much in our time together and his memory will be imprinted on our hearts forever. Run free sweet boy. You are finally at peace.

–Save An Angel

Betty Parks - July 28, 2015 - 2:36 am

RIP Duke. So sorry that you were failed by your original owners! Run free now you are with the Angels and no person or dog will ever hurt you again! Thank you Save An Angel for trying so hard to help Duke!

Devon Ressler - May 24, 2015 - 3:06 am

What’s the situation with Duke? I have been praying that some angel will step up and give this boy the home that he needs and deserves. I have two dogs, three cats so can’t foster this baby. I shared on my page and will share again.

Brenda Beck - May 24, 2015 - 1:50 am

I pray he finds a blessed home

Kimberley Cruz - May 23, 2015 - 3:26 pm

Could he have a foster in texas?

Ashley Lance - May 23, 2015 - 4:29 am

I will give y’all a call first thing in the morning

Analiese Monroe - May 23, 2015 - 1:35 am

Have you tried lakecharlesrescue they’re facebook page is team halo i would love to take him but i live in Colorado and don’t have a way to separate him from my other pits do not want to be the one to fail this poor baby again

Tammy Tierney - May 22, 2015 - 6:43 pm

Please don’t give up on Duke. I hope Patricia gets him.

Ken Coviello - May 22, 2015 - 6:13 pm

Any update on duke?

Karen Karp - May 22, 2015 - 5:22 pm

I will help share this beautiful boy and the request for foster or adopter

Beverly Koblick - May 22, 2015 - 5:22 pm

Try Guardians of Rescue in Long Island NY

Janice Shirley - May 22, 2015 - 2:21 pm

How about Villolobos Pitbull Rescue in New Orleans???

Valerie Polfuss - May 22, 2015 - 1:48 pm

Wish I could do more to help! Sharing from Canada. Good luck Duke!!!

Danica Nicole Jackson - May 22, 2015 - 1:40 pm

I’m sorry but don’t say ‘Duke doesn’t deserve to be boarded’ when the alternative is death. How ignorant. I respect tremendously what you’re trying to do- but don’t reason that death would be better.

Judy Cleveland - May 22, 2015 - 1:22 pm

What about Duke becoming a senior home mascot. He would get lots of love and pets, or even a VA hospital. He would get lots of love there and if the veterans or senior citizens know this the more he brings them up and they and Duke would find healing in that love. It would be a great thing for all.

Ashley Lance - May 22, 2015 - 12:27 pm

I’m in mississippi, I’m experienced with this breed and absolutely love them. I do have a female dog, if duke does not find a home please consider letting us take him. Have plenty of room for him to run and not be confine as well as plenty of love and attention

Clare Bikerbabe - May 22, 2015 - 11:28 am

I wish I did not live in the UK!! Duke is gorgeous and deserves a loving home forever. I’m praying this beautiful boy finds this and soon so he can see what true love and being a family member is about. Good luck Duke, and lots of snuggles to you, and bless the people who have saved you from cruel people

Belinda Greenalsh - May 22, 2015 - 8:09 am

Have you tried Villalobos rescue centre in New Orleans?

Karen Barry - May 22, 2015 - 3:09 am

What a great looking boy! Looks like my boy! Please help Duke find a loving home! PLEASE

Becky Prestage Spangler - May 22, 2015 - 2:19 am

piz I want him I have one and she need’ s best friend piz let me

Joelene Bradford - May 22, 2015 - 2:14 am

He looks so handsome – hoping he gets a deserving loving home he’s been through so much and I guys are so amazing for not giving up on him! I wish duke the best! Im sure it will be a lot of responsibility for the future owner but the love he gives in return will be priceless! Thank you!

Rochelle Angulo - May 22, 2015 - 2:01 am

Wouldn’t be surprised if the original adopters are middle men for dog fighting rings up in NY. Praying for a miracle for Duke.

Connie Earl - May 21, 2015 - 10:25 pm

Prayers for Duke”s forever home

Stephanie DeCair Brown - May 21, 2015 - 8:41 pm

Poor guy!!

Linda Archambault - May 21, 2015 - 7:47 pm

Praying w/ urgency for good home for Duke.

Ellen Hobbs - May 21, 2015 - 7:30 pm

I hate people

Jaime Cole - May 21, 2015 - 6:15 pm

What about Best Friends?

Holly Denise Sims - May 21, 2015 - 5:59 pm

I hope Patricia is able to get him!! Poor baby prayers for him!!! He deserves happiness

Penny Hamilton - May 21, 2015 - 5:37 pm

I,am praying he can and will get the best home ever,Please someone has to be out there that can help Duke to have the best life ever! PLEASE someone with love for Pitts adopt him!

Denise Roy - May 21, 2015 - 5:33 pm

Pray you find this baby a wonderful home .

Dorothy Delima - May 21, 2015 - 5:27 pm


Ana Sucena - May 21, 2015 - 5:14 pm

Be careful he has suffered too much! Enough lets not fail Duke again!

Linda Pike - May 21, 2015 - 4:12 pm

I wish you all the luck and love that you deserve you sweet baby boy with love

Mollie Helbert Williams - May 21, 2015 - 3:35 pm

I hope Patricia Ward gets him that sounds like a perfect fit. Please don’t kill him. What a beautiful boy.

Kay Russell - May 21, 2015 - 3:14 pm

I hope that PatriCia Ward to get Duke. He needs constant love and care to be the dog that he needs to be. Thank you Patricia and son……. Love duke for all his days. Wish I could help but I am getting way up in age and have three rescues……

Linda Reeves - May 21, 2015 - 3:08 pm

Please save him Patricia he needs a loving home please keep . US updated

Melinda Devine - May 21, 2015 - 11:40 am

I people who first adopted him should be held accountable in some way they agreed signed the papers and adopted Duke then gave him away to a horrific situation that he should have never been put into in the first place!! And now because of them who were suppose to love and give him a loving safe home he was giving away tortured and agreed of other dogs this is just not right on so many levels and now he could be put down because of them they need to be held accountable!!! So please please I beg ssomeone who will love and treat him like he deserves and help him with his rehabilitation and foster him please give Duke the chance he so deserves please I’m begging please don’t let Duke day because of the first owners who didn’t do what they were supposed to do love and keep Duke safe!!!!!!!!

Virginia R. Jones - May 21, 2015 - 11:31 am

I would bet that Tia at Villalobos if you told her his story, would make a place, and she would train him too.

Yvonne Boone-Hutchinson - May 21, 2015 - 7:56 am

Poor Duke, maybe you can see if VRC can help.

Skulls Black - May 21, 2015 - 5:29 am

I’ve been able to rehabilitate a couple of dogs who were people aggressive, dog aggressive, and food aggressive. Would love to step up and foster, but there is no way for me. I have 7 dogs, and two cats. All neutered and spayed, all up to date on shots. For that reason I can’t, seeing as 6 of my dogs are small breed dogs, n are not calm dogs. I do have a pitbull who was cat aggressive, didn’t know he was when I took him in from a friend who couldn’t keep him any longer after she rescued him from a relative who was cruel to him. I was able to get him not to be cat aggressive anymore, and is even good with the smallest of my dogs. Another reason is I’m in south Texas. Though if I didn’t have any of these other responsibilities would of love to help, ever since I got my first pitbull back in 2005, I’ve felt a special connection with the breed, and now I can’t live my life without having a pitbull in my life.

Patricia Ward - May 21, 2015 - 4:15 am

I want him. I have no other animals and my 15 year old son would love him. I’m in Mississippi yew can get wit me thru a message on messenger

Sherry Hannon - May 21, 2015 - 3:30 am

God bless him

Tonia Rodriguez - May 21, 2015 - 3:09 am

Shared to Villalobos as well. Hopefully Tia knows someone.

Tonia Rodriguez - May 21, 2015 - 3:06 am

I want him so bad, but I’m in OHio. 🙁 so I’m sharing this to ALL my friends in the hope someone will help.

Krissy Leigh Poirier - May 21, 2015 - 3:04 am


Mary Delaney Harper - May 21, 2015 - 3:03 am

Have you all called Tia at Villalobos?

Marjorie Willich - May 21, 2015 - 2:28 am

Shared and praying