Duke’s story – tied up and left to die

In the time since Diane and Tony Rowles founded the Rudozem Street Dog Rescue in 2008, they have become known in their area for the work that they.  Often they will rescue abused or abandoned cats and dogs that they see running about in the street, but all too often local people dump animals outside the Shelter to be looked after.  Unfortunately, some do not make it that far.

One day last month, a lady from a village near Rudozem called Alie asked if Diane and Tony could help an abandoned dog in danger.  Tony tells the story:

16 June 2014

Alie explained that the dog had been tied up under a trailer for ten days, only surviving on the bread and water given to it by people passing by.  She said that the people who dumped him there claimed he had a disease which could be passed to humans.  Call it what you want, stupidity or ignorance – why on earth would you chain a dog up just to let it die?

Despite having no space at the Shelter and our house being full of cats and dogs, we simply could not leave this poor dog to die.

When we arrived, the poor little guy was covered in flies, but within a minute or two, he was responding to me, licking my hand as I went to stroke him and he was soon wagging his tail.  (Click here for a video of Duke’s rescue.)

Duke crateBack at the house, we gave him his own crate.  Because of the lack of space, we had to put him with another rescue dog Dotje and some of the cats.  We didn’t know how he would get on with them and wanted him to feel safe while he got used to his new surroundings.  (Click here for a video of Duke arriving at our house and having cuddles from Diane.)

Once we had a chance to look at him, we could see that he was a young boy, probably only about 10 months old.

The little lad had very misshapen legs which might have been a congenital problem, the result of malnutrition, or a mixture of both.  When we rescued Khaleesi, her front legs looked quite deformed.  With proper nutrition and support from bandages, her legs were straight again within a week or so.  This little guy’s case looked more severe, but we were determined to do what we could for him.

Another day and more emails, messages, phone calls and people turning up at the shelter asking us to take dogs. Every time we have to say we can’t help because we have no room, it breaks our hearts. Every pen, every room at the shelter and house is full of dogs and cats. Sometimes it is just too much for us to say NO, sorry we cannot help. But today was different…

As with many of our rescues, we asked for a supporter to donate 20 euros to name the dog or cat.  We are extremely grateful to Jane Hughes Elton for naming this little guy Duke.

17 June 2014

Duke 17-06The next day, we spent a lot of time getting to know Duke and helping him to feel safe and secure in his new home.  He enjoyed wandering about the garden and showed us just how much he craves love and attention.

It was important that he should be able to relax because the day after we were planning to take him for a check-up at the vets in Plovdiv which is a 3-hour drive from the Shelter.  Duke would need to be used to his crate as he would spend the journey in it each way in the car.

18 June 2014

We were up very early to take Duke for a full check-up at ProVet.  We were keen to know what could be done to help his legs and to make sure that he was otherwise in good health.  The vets, who always take such great care of our cats and dogs, ran blood tests and took X-rays.

After his x rays, Duke just wanted a cuddle and to be reassured. He kept pushing up to be close.

After his x rays, Duke just wanted a cuddle and to be reassured. He kept pushing up to be close.

The distressing news was that the X-rays of Duke’s legs did not show signs of a congenital problem or malnutrition.  It seemed that his legs, and in particular his feet, had been deliberately smashed – bones and ligaments have all been broken.  The vet said if the damage had been the result of an accident, or Duke had been run over, there would be evidence of cuts.  It looked as though the damage had been done deliberately as if he had been stamped on or hit with something.

Despite all the sad cases that we see, we are still deeply affected by the story of all of our rescues, but for some reason, we were particularly upset by this news: that someone had decided to inflict such injuries on a defenceless dog is beyond our ability to comprehend. 

We are often asked whether the person/people who abused Duke have been prosecuted and brought to justice. The sad fact is that we don’t know who hurt Duke and most likely we never will. So we focus on what we can do to help the many, many other street dogs and cats who need our help like Duke.

Duke also had a cough which the vets said was not an infection, but due to damage to his throat from the chain used to attach him to the trailer where we found him.  Other tests showed that Duke was also very malnourished.

Now we had to give Duke the best chance of recovering from his injuries so the vet suggested putting splints on his legs for the two weeks to see what effect they would have on the deformity.  Because there is so much damage to Duke’s bones and ligaments, the vet wanted to try this first before deciding what operations to do.  They are hoping that there will be some improvement before the surgery because some of the deformity has been caused by Duke being forced to walk with his legs in an unusual position in order to get around with broken feet.  They hoped that the ligaments and tendons might be manipulated back into position with the splints, but we would have to wait and see.

And all through the tests, examinations and dressing of his legs, little Duke was as good as gold, waiting patiently for it all to be over. 

When we arrived back after a long day, Duke was happy to be home, wagging his tail and, over the next few days, he began eating well and learning how to get about with his splints and we gave him lots of love and cuddles to help him on his road to recovery.

Two weeks later – 2 July 2014

We set off once again for Plovdiv – the vets wanted to check Duke’s feet again and do some more tests.  On taking off his bandages, they were very pleased with Duke’s progress, but despite this, Duke would still need a series of operations to help him to walk properly again.

9 July 2014

The following week, we returned to ProVet for a further check.  From our first visit and the initial X-rays, the vets had been consulting with specialists in both Bulgaria and Italy over Duke’s legs.  They were agreed that any operations should be held off for a few months because Duke was still growing.  He would still have supports and go for regular checks until they decided it was the right time to operate.

24 July 2014

Duke 23-07

Duke waiting patiently at the vet’s office.

Earlier this week, Duke returned to ProVets for another check-up, before which he chewed his bandages off!   After discussions with other specialists, the vets checked the movement in Duke’s shoulder because they were concerned it was not normal and that this could cause further problems when he was older.   As a result, they decided they would do surgery the next day in an effort to correct the problem or at least make movement in his shoulder more natural.  I left him at the vets, confident that he would be taken good care of, but worried about how he would cope with being left there.

Duke and Wilma return home after a long day, both tired but happy to be back.

Duke and Wilma return home after a long day, both tired but happy to be back.

When I went back the next day, Duke was doing really well, already up and about treading on the flowers in the bed outside the vet’s office!  What an amazing little guy he truly is.  He had made lots of new friends among some trainee vets who had been taking photos with him. They all knew his story and could not believe what a happy boy he was after all he had been through.  Once again, we could not fault the care and love that the ProVet team show our dogs and cats.

Now we will wait for Duke to grow a bit more and keep him happy and well cared for until the next stage in his treatment.

The cost of caring for Duke, and for his operation and ongoing vet checks is considerable.  If you can help him by making a donation, please visit the donation page of our website.  We and Duke are incredibly grateful for your support.

Read here how Duke recovered and found his happy ending with a forever home in England.



  1. What an amazing job you did in helping Duke, he looks like a very happy boy! The world needs more people like you and less of the ones who did this. There should be much harsher punishment for animal abuse. All the best.

  2. I had a good cry reading all of this but it was an overwhelmingly lovely story with a very happy ending. I’d like half an hour with the original owners to give them a taste of their own medicine. I can’t believe there are so many nasty types in the world, but thankfully they are outweighed by good people with loving hearts.

  3. Bob Bell · · Reply

    Well done guys. Such a beautiful natured dog. You are the best!

  4. Heart wrenching stories and I am in such gratitude for what you do and are doing. I have just donated 100 Euros Ihope it goes some way to helping your great cause. It makes my heart weep reading these stories and how human beings can be so cruel. Thank god for people like you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for the love and kindness you bring to these defencless dogs and cats. God bless you.
    Gary – London UK

    1. Oh my goodness, Gary! Thank you so much for your generosity! We are incredibly grateful xx

  5. Max D. · · Reply

    God bless those who helped rescue and heal this dog. And bless little Duke, of course. The sick people who this dog gave love and loyalty to and who in return horribly abused him – I have no words for them as they make me sick to my stomach. May they get what they surely deserve.

  6. Sheila W · · Reply

    Pity you can’t name & shame people who abuse defenceless creatures.

    1. We don’t know who they are, Sheila ☹️

      1. It’s a good thing you don’t know who the owners were (good for them), as I would love to get my hands on them. Reading this story brought tears to my eyes. No creature deserves to be tortured and hurt/mistreated. I am so happy to hear of Duke’s full turnaround. I would have adopted him and spoiled him the way he deserves to be. He’s beautiful, and I’m glad that he is happy, like he deserves to be. May Duke live a very long and very happy life, only filled with the most tenderest of love for the rest of his days.

  7. I wish I could get a hold of the devil that hurt this little angel. They would wish they were dead when I got through with them. God Bless you good p[eople for saving his life. Thank you

  8. So sad that that boy had to go through such a horrific beginning in his young life.. how could anyone be so cruel just to want to literlly throw him away and let him die… hope they meet an untimely “accident”!

  9. Victoria · · Reply

    heartbreaking to see what people are capable of . heart warming what other people are capable of. to the shelter warming , to the vets warming, to the adoptive mom , warming. I am so happy for Duke. Thank to all those good souls who helped him

  10. Paola Calise · · Reply

    Thank you so much for helping Duke and nursing him back to health and for all the wonderful work you do. I would like to get my hands on those heartless creeps who abandoned and abused him and give them a taste of their own medicine. Hope and pray they will get what they deserve.
    I have made a small donation for you great cause. Hope it helps.

  11. DAMN the people who did this to a puppy and then left him to die a slow death of starvation. Besides hoping that Duke continues on his road to a happy and forever home, I only wish for karma of the LARGEST proportions possible for these people who were his original “owners”. We recently found 2, 8 week old puppies about a half a mile from our home that were obviously “dump offs”. Their little bellies were completely distended from worms and they were covered in fleas. A little male dog and (obviously a female litter mate).

    Well, you should see them now! Healthy, robust, happy and absolutely two of the smartest and most loving dogs my husband and I have ever had. I send my strongest black powers out to seek and find Duke’s abusers……………I know that Karma never disappoints………………

  12. Thank you for a beautiful story. I have fallen in love with Duke….what an amazing soul who withstood such horrific abuse to show the world that he maintained a heart of gold. I am humbled and inspired.

  13. Do we know the whereabouts of the lovely people who took him in and any chance of an update on how he is doing? got to get couple more tissues! so sad but at least Duke you have a happy ending…lots of strokes and cuddles..thanks to everyone caring for you…

    1. For an update, go to: https://streetdogrescue.wordpress.com/2016/07/15/dukes-story-3/ The site will tell you about the rescue group too.

  14. since leaving my comment found an update on his arrival in the UK and photos of Duke with Diane his new owner…lovely ending…

  15. When you truly care for an abandoned animal, you have achieved the highest level of agape love a human being can reach. From that point, no one can ever question your heart.

  16. Mickey Brannan · · Reply

    My neighbors have a beautiful collie/black lab mix. They got him as a puppy and walked him several times a day. But when he got to be full size he got kicked out of the house and put on a 6 foot chain. Oh they feed and water him daily. But he gets no love. No one ever pets him or walks him anymore. Food is dumped in his dish with about as much love as you have dumping garbage. He doesn’t even get a pat on the head. If his food spills or his water dish gets dumped from him dragging that chain around, he just has to wait till 4 pm the next day when the uncaring food dump happens again. I don’t understand why they just don’t get him a new home or contact PAWS for help. This is a sweet dog that is left to live his life without love of any kind.

    1. Can you call an animal rescue/protection organisation?

    2. Hi Mickey, Why don’t you just contact your local animal welfare and get an inspector to go and see the situation. Maybe they will happily pass on the dog to the welfare inspector because they obviously see it as a burden now and might be happy if welfare take it and give it a new home. Worth a try. Actually the owners should be fined for cruelty, or perhaps the inspector will tell them that he will forfeit fining them if they release the dog to his/her care.

    3. Mickey please please do something about it. Don’t just watch this dog suffer on a chain. There’s absolutely no reason to put a dog on a chain if it’s already confined in a back yard with no way of escaping. If I were in your shoes I would talk to the neighbor, offer to take the dog “off their hands” since they clearly see it as a burden that outgrew the house. Then either keep the dog yourself or try to find him a good home, but by doing nothing you are condoning the abuse, I’m sorry to say but it’s true. If they refuse to surrender the dog to you then I would definitely contact your local SPCA or animal welfare organization. I don’t know if there are laws in your area against leaving a dog chained up in the backyard if it’s getting fed and watered and/or the chain is long enough. So call animal welfare and ask!!! But rescue the poor pup. Imagine how miserable his life must be, being rejected like that from living in the home to thrown out in the backyard.

  17. I am a animal lover & myself have rescued dogs from terrible situations where they have suffered so much from total neglect , so reading about all the rescues you have done & continue to do brings a tear to my eyes that in this day & age this ignorance on how to give basic love & care to a dog its just disgusting so I want to say thank you thank you for saving these animals also finding forever homes for them .

  18. I live in the USA and am so proud of our animal shelter’s and care givers for all they do and I want to thank those in the UK–Duke is a great dog and I hope that one day his previous owners get what’s coming to them for this horrible thing they did! Our laws on animal cruelty need to be not only enforced but ‘upgraded’.
    I realize that we need to care for our fellow humans that are in need, but why give so much to third world countries-who often don’t even get what we send, why not give some of that aid to animal shelters!!

  19. Carolyn Pleckaitis · · Reply

    These stories of abused animals break my heart. I just can’t fathom why people mistreat animals. Thank you to all the people who help these beautiful creatures. I know I’m being cynical, but I need to ask this question. Once you have rehabilitated an animal, how can you be totally sure that the person adopting them will be a kind and loving owner?

    1. Hi Carolyn. We have a very rigorous assessment process for fosterers and adopters. They complete a comprehensive questionnaire, then undergo a telephone interview and finally a home check. We then do a follow-up home check a month after the dog arrives. This is why we only rehome to the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands where we have an established support network.

  20. Nadja Croft · · Reply

    What an incredible story! I have to hurry past the bad parts, but I tell you, what these wonderful people did to help little Duke, is an example of the highest level of human! Animal kindness is such a passion, in ALL ways, and I would love to see so many more vets get on board with this heroic effort!

  21. Hats off to Rudozem Street Rescuers.

  22. Jimmy Pinet Winchell · · Reply

    Saints you are to these angels…thank you and love from Texas, USA.

  23. I was very touched by this story about little Duke. I could see the love and loyalty in his eyes. May God bless each person who helped Duke survive. This is our responsibility to care for the animals of the world. Damn anybody who would harm an innocent animal !!! Thank you again for taking care of this precious dog. We need more good stories like this. I wish I could hug Duke !!

  24. Tamara Baker · · Reply

    Some people do not deserve animals, they should be prosecuted fully. My husband and I, have three beautiful girls. Over a year ago we adopted a beautiful called from a shelter, like yours. Thankfully, she didn’t have her legs broken. But she had suffered torment and abuse. Looking at Duke, I can see show much of my Khloe in him. Thank god for people like you.

  25. Tamara Baker · · Reply

    I must apologise for my wording. I had a minor procedure done today and am still a little sleepy.

    1. Hope you’re feeling better now x

  26. To me “rescues” appreciate their second chance in life and will reward you with all the love they have. We have one that I wouldn’t take anything for. We’ve spent over $7,000 on ACL surgeries for both hind legs and follow-on therapy for him and I’d do it again without hesitation.

  27. Chuck Decker · · Reply

    Beside mentioning the cowardly scum who did this,—what is wrong with the priorities of the world? The U.S. Military budget alone is about 700 Million dollars, and that is just one small fact of what people care about. The one per-centers could could buy a yacht that is 3 feet shorter. What happened to caring about those who cannot care for themselves,—it’s left for caring people without the finances to do it. We should be ashamed of ourselves as human beings,—but thank God for heroes like these people that stepped in and saved Duke. There is a place in heaven for all of you.

  28. God bless everyone who cared for poor little Duke. My heart breaks when I see or hear of such abuse as he had to live with. I have adopted two different breeds of little rescue dogs in the last twenty years, and loved them like children for the last years of their lives. When the first one had to be put down at age 14, my world disappeared. A few years later, we found a poor baby who had been abused in a puppy mill that was shut down. She was the joy of my life for many years, but eventually succumbed to a tumor. I am now too old to love another, as I would hate to leave it when I go, and do not want the pain and sorrow of outliving another little baby I miss both my little ones so badly. God bless little creatures.

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story, John. You have given two beautiful souls a wonderful life xx

    2. And bless you for taking in animals that have no one else to love them!

  29. I am so happy for duke. I wish they could find who did this to him and prosecute them.Also thanks who adopted him please If would keep people up to date on Duke, let us know how he is doing thank you. The people who rescued him are super heroes keep up the good work. Thank you for what you do . I have a dog that I adopted from humane society, she is a beagle, bulldog. She was there for 1 yr . She is a big baby and couch and bed hog. She is spoiled I love her so.

  30. Rachel McCormick · · Reply

    I wish I could set up my own dog rescue centre because there are so many animals around the world that deserve better lives than a lot of so called human beings. Its the bad owners who should be out down, and not the poor animals who have suffered because of their owners neglect and sick behaviour. You guys at every animal centre around the world, have my full respect and best wishes in your every day lives ****

  31. James Clark · · Reply

    I thought I saw God, but then I realized there were TWO – a wonderful dog and a loving veterinarian. I saw God in both. Bless them.

  32. Barbara Sloan · · Reply

    Hope they prosecuted the owner!

  33. Robert Bray · · Reply

    Thank you for saving this wonderful dog! I also cried as I read his journey from vicious abuse and neglect to health. While I curse the evil monster of a human being that so cruelly hurt this precious creature, I also remember the warm and loving angel hearts of the vets and staff involved in giving Duke life. While I am not a religious guy, I hope you are blessed and that you reap all the joy you have sown. May everyone who had a part in nurturing Duke have a long, healthy, and happy life, as may Duke. Bless Duke and his forever home.

  34. While reading Duke’s story, I wanted so badly to see a video of him jumping, running, playing, just being a puppy! Thank you for all you do for the animals. You will be rewarded ten fold.

  35. Hi from los angeles. When i read that someone purposely did this to him, i cried. Animals don’t deserve this. It breaks my heart that people make up excuses to mistreat an animal. People are selfish, especially the people who shooed others away from duke and told them he was diseased. How hard is it to take him to the pound or just find him a new home? What kind of an idea is it to chain him up and let him die, at least give him a chance. But the broken legs…. GOD that really hurts my heart! KARMA!!!

  36. margaret dixon · · Reply

    Shouldn’t something be done about the people that did that to Duke? Is anything being done to trace them??

  37. Amber Rodwell · · Reply

    it makes me SOO MAD 2 no that their are preciouse cats & dogs out there getting abused like that!!!! I wish that just for once the roles are reversed, so every last thing the owner has done 2 the animal to them & see how they r feeling afterwards… personally, if that doesn’t bother the person whose done those horrific things . theres not much hope 4 them is there?

  38. Lawrence Earl Scofield Junior · · Reply

    I sincerely hope that A: the abuser(s) man up and admit what they did, and B: the little puppy gets adopted with a loving home. This story sends emotions such as sadness, empathy, and anger, and that’s what a puppy should do when they’re abused.(Please don’t take this the wrong way.)

    1. Hi Larry

      Duke was adopted in the UK and has a wonderful life ☺

  39. […] “Alie explained that the dog had been tied up under a trailer for ten days, only surviving on the bread and water given to it by people passing by. She said that the people who dumped him there claimed he had a disease which could be passed to humans. Call it what you want, stupidity or ignorance—why on earth would you chain a dog up just to let it die?” the rescue’s co-founder Tony Rowles said, according to its website. […]

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