Duke's last day: The touching story of one man determined to give his beloved sick dog the perfect final 24 hours

It is a heart-warming tale about one man and his dog - a pet so special he was given the 'perfect day'.

Iraq war veteran Harry, from Minnesota, wanted to thank his collie-cross Duke with helping to heal the trauma he suffered on active duty for his country.

So, when the vet diagnosed that his loyal friend didn't have long to live, he set about pulling out all the stops.

Writer: Jon Katz penned the heart-warming story of a soldier and his trusty dog

Writer: Jon Katz penned the heart-warming story of a soldier and his trusty dog

Duke's heart was failing and so Harry, a tennis coach, decided to give him the perfect day as a send-off.

This heart-warming story is one of many lovingly retold in a new book by the appropriately named Jon Katz, called Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die.

Harry had promised his beloved dog the perfect day and he was true to his word.

He took the day off work and decided to fill it with all the things he knew Duke loved.

The dog had always been a lively, energetic animal who loved walks, work, food, Frisbees and especially playing with red bouncy balls.

After getting home from shopping for supplies shopping for supplies Harry found Duke was napping on his dog bed. 

Best-seller: John Katz's book cover

Best-seller: John Katz's book cover

'Pal', he whispered. 'Tomorrow is for you, your Perfect Day.'

He was a little embarrassed to tell his wife, Debbie, about his plan, but after sensing what was going on she gave the two friends the space they needed.

Debbie, more than anyone else, knew just how much Duke had helped Harry heal after he returned from Iraq.

Harry couldn't look at Duke without smiling, and when he had first arrived back home from the was he hadn't had too much to smile about.

The big day began at eight the next morning as Harry got up to fix a special breakfast of bacon and hamburger.

Never normally allowed human food Duke stared at his bowl in disbelief and had to wait for Harry to say 'OK boy' before before wolfing it down in a few gulps.

The next treat was to allow Duke to follow him up the stairs, normally out-of-bounds. He sat in the bedroom and watched as Harry got dressed.


  • Breakfast of hamburger and two strips of bacon that had been carefully prepared the night before.

  • A light rest curled up on the couch to aid digestion

  • Allowed upstairs for once. Help master get dressed by obediently fetching running shoes from cupboard when commanded

  • A few games of chasing favourite red bouncy balls around the garden

  • Short walk to the town pond. Saunter in and out for a quick dip, shake dry, repeat about a dozen times. Receive a liver treat every time

  • Amber back to the house for a short nap

  • A gentle walk in the local state park outside town

  • After a few miles along gentle trail stop for an hour or so to take in the beautiful view and a few interesting scents.

  • Gentle walk back home stopping frequently to rest

  • Dinner of prime sirloin steak neatly chopped up

  • Curl up on the couch while master watches his favourite Clint Eastwood film

  • Carried upstairs and gently laid down at the end of the bed

When Harry said 'Sneakers,' Duke ambled over to the closet, and brought his master his white running shoes - a trick he had enjoyed learning.

After a good game of chasing red bouncy balls around the garden it was off to the park for a swim in the pond which involved an almost unlimited amount of liver-treats.

After a quick nap back at home Harry took Duke to the nearby state park where they followed a flat, gentle trail for a few miles until they came a spot with a beautiful view.

The pair sat down together for over an hour enjoying the scenery with Duke sniffing the air taking in the scents.

Knowing that Duke would be tired Harry took his time walking back and made sure they stopped frequently to rest.

Back home it was time for dinner. But rather than his usual dog food Duke was beside himself when he was served prime prime sirloin steak neatly chopped it up.

The pair then adjourned to the sitting room where Harry put one of his favorite Clint Eastwood and Duke jumped up onto the couch, put his head in Harry's lap, and went to sleep.

When it was time for bed Harry gently carried the dog upstairs and laid him down on his bed.

Sadly just a few weeks after enjoying his perfect day Duke passed away.

Harry dug a deep hole at the end of the garden and buried him there along with with some bones, his collar, and some of his beloved red bouncy balls.

Harry passed on the idea of the Perfect Day to friends and other dog owners struggling to come to terms with their own pets' failing health.

Many have since shared with him the stories of their dog's Perfect Day. It makes him happy to think about Duke's legacy - all those Perfect Days for all those other great dogs leaving our world behind.

Harry's and Duke's story is part of a new book by author Jon Katz -  Going Home: Finding Peace When Pets Die is published by Random House.

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