David Burke Case Study

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He stood out among the forlorn pit bulls and abandoned mutts stuck in cages at the animal shelter in Upper Manhattan: an underfed, 50-pound mix of Labrador and Great Dane with a messy, jet-black coat.

David Burke saw him there that Christmastime, in 2011, took him home to the apartment he shares with his daughter, named him Duke and nursed him back to health with regular meals and nighttime romps in Central Park.

Duke got his bark back. He found his legs. He chased tennis balls and sniffed out raccoons and, after four years with the Burke family, filled out his frame with an extra 40 pounds — a long way from the dog that rescuers had said was found dumped along the side of the Mosholu Parkway, in the Bronx.

“He was strong and beautiful,”
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Burke said he and Duke usually went together four or five times a day.

For Mr. Burke, it was the second tragedy in just a few days: On Saturday, his wife, Eileen, died at home from pancreatic cancer after being sick for three years. It was Eileen, he said, who had taken a particular liking to Duke at the pound.

“She fell in love with him at first sight,” Mr. Burke said.

For several hours, the dog’s death was a mystery. When Mr. Burke dialed 911 after Duke collapsed and slid down a grassy bank, he told responding officers he thought the wounds on its head were made by bullets.

But police officials said investigators found no weapons or ballistic evidence.

A necropsy conducted on Wednesday afternoon by the chief medical examiner of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals confirmed the dog had not been shot, but, rather, suffered from an enlarged heart, a finding that surprised Mr. Burke.

“It looks like it may be natural causes,” said a police official, speaking on the condition of anonymity as the investigation was continuing. Officials said the puncture wounds to the dog’s head appeared superficial and did not penetrate its
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