If you or someone you know purchased a Blue Heeler puppy during a Heifer Show at the Gallia County Jr. Fairgrounds in 2005, you could be the answer to helping a family carry on their beloved dog’s bloodline.
Piketon resident Jeanette Spencer posted a plea on her personal Facebook page on Friday in the hopes of identifying someone who may have Blue Heelers carrying her dog Duke’s bloodline. Duke passed away in 2012 at 16 years old due to complications from cancer surgery.
Spencer purchased Duke in 1996 while she was traveling the Mid-States Rodeo Circuit with her boyfriend Garson Spencer, whom she married in 1997. Garson was a bull rider at the time. Jeanette had just completed college and was living at home with her parents, so purchasing a dog was not really in the plans, until she spotted a man selling Blue Heelers at a rodeo in Indiana. Garson talked her out of it, but Jeanette made the decision, if she saw them again, she would buy one.
“Lo and behold, the next rodeo we went to that very weekend, that guy was there with those puppies again,” said Spencer. “He was down to one male and I said it was meant to be. I’m taking that dog.”
Because she didn’t want to keep such a young puppy on the road with them while they were traveling that weekend, Jeanette said she found a friend who was heading back to Piketon. Considering cell phones weren’t necessarily common at that time, the puppy went back with her friend to be delivered to her home, unbeknownst to her father.
“I didn’t even call home or anything. Duke just showed up at the front door,” Spencer said with a chuckle.
While her father was obviously surprised, he did care for Duke until she returned and Duke officially became a member of the family.
“He just went everywhere with us,” said Spencer. “Everywhere we would go, he would go with us on the rodeo circuits for weekends at a time. He just grew up with me.”
While Jeanette has a stepson, Tyler, who is Garson’s son, the couple were unable to have children of their own and Duke claimed a special place in their lives.
“It tugs at our heartstrings with anything about Duke, since he was our first dog together,” said Spencer.
He was an integral part of their family and Jeanette shared a story of a time when they believe Duke was trying to tell her she was ill. By the time he was 12 years old, Duke had started living in the house. Jeanette said he started constantly following her and wouldn’t leave her alone, to the point she thought something was wrong with him. A trip to the vet proved his health was fine, but as it turned out, Jeanette’s was not. An MRI technician, she discovered by accident, during an MRI technician training, that her kidneys were failing. She had no other symptoms.
“We believe now that Duke was trying to say I was sick and I didn’t know it,” said Spencer. “I had to have surgery shortly after that. After that Duke wouldn’t leave my side. The whole time I recovered, he wouldn’t leave my bed, wouldn’t leave my room. He was just amazing. He was just really in tune with us and really, really in tune with me.”
Though Spencer originally had no intention of breeding Duke, as he grew older the desire to keep his bloodline on their farm grew. When Duke was nine years old, Spencer purchased a female Blue Heeler pup, Dixie, in the hopes of carrying on that line in the future. The plan was to have one litter and keep one dog from that litter. “Nature took its course”, however, and the future happened faster than Spencer intended.
And that’s where the story and Gallipolis connect.
Spencer worked at Holzer Health System in Jackson and a co-worker encouraged her to bring the puppies to the Heifer Show at the Gallia County Jr. Fairgrounds in 2005. She sold five that day to attendees of the show.
“I just wasn’t ready to have a pup yet,” said Spencer. “That’s the whole reason I sold that litter.”
Duke did father one more litter of puppies, out of which Spencer kept two, leaving one unneutered to continue Duke’s bloodline. Unfortunately, D.J. (for Duke Jr.) suffered a health issue that required the surgery.
“When we had to fix D.J., we lost the bloodline,” said Spencer.
Now, Spencer hopes that someone somewhere has a generation of puppies carrying Duke’s bloodline and would be willing to help them keep Duke’s bloodline at home.
Anyone with information can reach Jeanette at (740) 357-6060 or message her on her personal Facebook page.