From the moment she and her husband adopted Duke a year ago, Lucia Piscoglio of Swedesboro, New Jersey, recognized the special bond the 20-month-old English Mastiff had with her 9-month-old daughter Ava Jane, even before she was born.
“Throughout pregnancy he stayed by my side,” Piscoglio said. “Once Ava Jane was born he immediately became her best friend. They never leave each other’s side. He sleeps outside her door. He is there for every diaper change, every bath and whatever else we decide to do.”
The special bond between the two was proven early January when Duke came to Ava Jane’s rescue.
“Duke came into my room and woke me up by barking at me,” she said. “I looked into the monitor and saw Ava’s face deep into the bumper pad. As Duke and I ran to her side I didn’t feel her inhale or exhale. I am not positive if she ever stopped breathing because I scooped her up so quickly and she began to cry from being startled. Duke gave her a quick lick on the head and we sat in there all together for a while. Duke is Ava's guardian angel on earth.”
Two days later, Duke was in a crisis of his own. After he received a Lyme vaccination during a routine checkup at the veterinarian, Piscoglio noticed something was wrong.
“Sadly, days later after his heroic deed he became ill,” she said. “After two separate vet visits they had no exact diagnosis but severe allergic reaction. A day later he became so ill we rushed him back to the vet, he was swollen all over, not eating, not drinking, not going to the bathroom or even moving.”
Duke was placed in critical care at Saint Francis Veterinary Hospital in Swedesboro, New Jersey. The veterinarians determined he had a severe allergic reaction to the Lyme vaccine causing hemorrhaging in his eye and Vasculitis, a group of disorders that destroy blood vessels, throughout his body.
Piscoglio shared Duke’s story in the Facebook group Mastiffs Rule, Drool is Cool. Almost immediately the hero dog who was so quick to help someone in need received some much needed help himself.
Thousands of Facebook users both from America and around the world showed their support with some even offering to help with medical expenses. Inspired by the outpouring of generosity and encouraged by the Facebook users, Piscoglio created a new group and donations page for Duke.
“In only a couple hours there were three hundred followers, not counting the thousands of comments and likes on the other Facebook page,” she said.
Duke, who is now back home, continues to suffer from swelling and is having trouble walking. He is being treated with a steroid pill, antibiotic, Benadryl twice a day and Pepcid. He has also been placed on a strict diet. Piscoglio told NBC10 the experience has taught her an important lesson, one that she wants to share with other pet owners.
“Please educate yourself on all the vaccines you are administering your dog,” she said. “Ask questions because we almost lost Duke to something preventable. I am not against vaccines but please educate yourselves on the risk.”
Despite Duke’s condition, Piscoglio remains optimistic that her beloved companion will make a full recovery, thanks in large part to all the support shown from complete strangers.
“This is a story that can show many that the world is not so bad and that there is kindness everywhere,” she said. “Duke is Ava Jane’s guardian Angel. Now Duke has many guardian Angels.”
If you would like to donate to Duke’s medical fund, CLICK HERE.