A couple of years ago, someone said Duke had a disease. That it was highly contagious. That no one should go near him.
So someone chained the 10-month-old puppy to a ramshackle trailer.
And then there was no one.
For 10 excruciating days, Duke huddled under the broken-down trailer outside a Bulgarian village, under the cruelest kind of quarantine.
But one woman who lived in the village saw only suffering. She called Rudozem Street Dog Rescue, a registered charity in Bulgaria that works with animals in need.
When the group's cofounder Tony Rowles arrived, he found a dog covered in flies, surrounded by his own feces. And understandably terrified.
"He was very scared," Rowles tells The Dodo. "There was a stench of ammonia. He couldn't move anywhere. It was totally overwhelming."
Yet Duke kissed the first hand that was offered to him.
The group's shelter was already crammed to capacity. So Duke stayed at the Rowles family home along with several other dogs and cats.
It turned out the only thing contagious about the dog was his gentle charm. Although, for a few weeks, he nursed a strong fear of men.
"He was OK when I approached him initially. But you could see that fear in the way he moved and the way he backed away for those first few weeks," Rowles says. "He really made an attachment with my wife Diane. He just loved Diane."
And then there was the matter of Duke's bent, broken feet.
The vet who examined them came to a disturbing conclusion: Someone had inflicted this upon Duke.
"It was a real shock when the vet said this was trauma to his feet," Rowles says. "They were obviously broken. His feet were shattered. The ligaments in his feet were nonexistent. Bones were just floating about in his feet."
Of course, Duke was also malnourished. And the heavy chain that once bound him had also damaged his throat, giving him a sharp cough.
Surgery, more surgery and splints followed. Along with the right kind of food. And the right kind of people around him.
"It came to a point where we said, 'You know, he could actually go for adoption now,'" Rowles explains.
The group has found homes for more than 1,000 dogs since they started working in Bulgaria eight years ago — sending them to places like the Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium and the U.S.
Duke would cast a spell as far as England — where a woman named Diana Romaine decided to adopt him.
"It was a tearful goodbye," Rowles recalls.
And, in England, an even more tearful hello.
Two years later, the dog who someone once decreed untouchable has touched a trail of hearts all the way to that distant isle.
All it took was the best chain of all — a human chain of caring.
Want to support Rudozem Street Dog Rescue and its mission to save countless animals like Duke? Consider making a donation here.
Watch a video of Duke's rescue below: