Dan Urshan of Hermantown shared his book, “Where’s Duke?” with students from Cooper Elementary School May 24. Hes been telling the true story for more than 40 years..
It’s about love, determination and never giving up, he said. It also stresses the importance of animal rescue organizations.
“Animal Allies helped save my dog’s life in 1974,” Urshan said, when he was a 12-year-old living in Twig, Minnesota.
He never forgot the loss of Duke, the family Labrador, or the joy he felt when he walked into the living room two months later and saw Duke.
“I never took that dog for granted again,” Urshan said.
Duke was 9 years old when he went missing Jan. 19, 1974. A family about 20 miles away later found him -- skinny, weak and barely able to walk -- in their barn and contacted Animal Allies. A foster family cared for Duke, who they named “Super Dog,” until Urshan’s mother learned about the stray and contacted them through Animal Allies.
After hearing Duke’s story, Cooper students opened up about their own pets -- cats and dogs who ran away across the street or were lost. They wondered how Duke got lost.
“It was -6 degrees the night Duke went missing,” Urshan said. “Maybe his nose wasn’t working.”
The students asked how the family picked Duke to be their dog. Urshan said he was the last pup left in the litter, so they got to keep him.
“Duke was the last pup picked, but he became the most famous of them all,” Urshan said.
His rescue story was featured on the front page of the Duluth Herald newspaper.
Urshan said he initially planned to make five copies of Duke’s story, one for each of his grandchildren. Those who read it encouraged him to publish it.
“Where’s Duke?” was released Oct. 15. Since that time, about 3,500 books have been distributed or sold. Urshan said copies have traveled to 28 states, three Canadian provinces and even Japan.
The first 1,000 copies were donated to Animal Allies in Hermantown. Ten percent of the proceeds from all other book sales also go to the animal rescue operation.
The author talked with students about what to do if they find a stray animal and encouraged them to use their talents.
“I’m a pretty good writer; you know how I know?” Urshan asked the students. “My third-grade teacher said so.”
The Hermantown man has visited about 55 classrooms to share Duke’s story. Cooper was the first Superior school the author has visited, but he plans to kick off his reading tours again in the fall.
Urshan shared his story in yet another way with students at Cooper. On May 31, he donated 300 copies of his book to the school -- one for each child he read to.
“Where’s Duke?” is available at Animal Allies, The Bookstore at Fitgers, Yellow Bike Coffee in Hermantown and at www.wheresduke.com.