This is Duke Hartley Underwood. Looking at most of these photos, you’d presume he’s always lived the life of a well loved pet. Duke was born and bred in Russia by a breeder who is fairly prominent on Facebook. She seems to specialize in unusual coloring, as I’ve seen other litters produced by her with similar color patterns. But coat color has very little to do with Dukes story, other than the fact that it is very distinctive.
Duke, who was originally known as Hugo was bought by my friend Laura Underwood as a pet/breeding prospect. I remember the excited text she sent me early in November of last year when she bought him. I remember how she told me she already felt a bond with Hugo and couldn’t wait for him to arrive here in the US.
Then the thing that’s always in the back of the minds of every buyer who imports a dog happened. I received a heartbreaking text from Laura. Hugo had disappeared from the breeders property the day before the transporter arrived. Understandably distraught, she contacted the breeder to find out what had happened. She was told that her puppy had been stolen, and the breeder was trying to locate him.
This began a four month long effort to find and recover a puppy who had literally disappeared into thin air. Various stories and speculation regarding what happened to Hugo were passed around, his breeder seemed to be making minimal efforts to help locate him, and most of us gave up on ever seeing poor Hugo again. Laura offered a reward for any information that would lead to Hugo’s return but months had passed and everyone but Laura had given up hope of ever seeing Hugo again. Many of us tried to help her get closure, but she kept reiterating that she knew he was still out there, and she couldn’t give up looking for him.
Then in February, a miracle. Another breeder, Lenka Erbanova, contacted Laura with a photo of a puppy being offered for sale by a dog broker in India! The photo was clearly Hugo. Finally, Hugo’s breeder admitted to Laura that she’d sold Hugo to the broker because she was in need of money. She was reported to local authorities and pressured from NCSM to buy Hugo back from the broker and to put him directly into the hands of Natasha Prudnik, a trusted friend who would see to it that he was cared for until he could be transported to the US.
Based on the fact that he was now a large, 8 month old adolescent and had spent the past several months crated or in a very small area, Laura, who suffers from a rare form of RA decided to ship Hugo here to us for training and socialization prior to bringing him home. We traveled to Salt Lake City on March 19th to meet the transporter and brought Duke home.
Other than having an obvious fear of being left, Duke was a joy to work with. It was slow going at first as he was not familiar with walking on lead, was not house broken, and didn’t know his name or pretty much anything an 8 month old pup would normally know, but his positive attitude and sweet nature made up for so much. In an effort to help Duke overcome his fear of abandonment, we went on many short outings into town. Duke especially liked driving through McDonalds for a Puppercino. He also became very popular at the local feed store, and at our vet when he went in for a routine health check up, and vaccinations.
On June 2nd, 7 months after this ordeal began, we traveled with Duke to Kearney NE to meet Laura, and she finally got to meet her boy. We are so very thrilled we were able to be a part of this awesome story, and wish our dear friends Laura Underwood and Hugo, now known as Duke Hartley Underwood, the very best, and many happy years together❤️