Duke, Salida’s famous hero dog, died in 1902, but his legend lives on. Now a group called Friends of Loyal Duke is working to restore Duke’s historical gravesite on Tenderfoot Mountain.
“Duke was part of Salida’s history from the 1890s until 1902 when he passed away,” said Tom Pahnke, one of the Friends of Loyal Duke. “Duke was adopted by the manager of the Monte Cristo Hotel and loved to greet train passengers as they arrived at the depot next to the hotel.
“He was a true friend known to many in Salida at that time. After his passing he was buried on Tenderfoot Mountain and an elaborate monument was created for his grave.”
That initial monument has long since deteriorated, but a replacement was erected in 1938 by the Salida Junior Chamber of Commerce. The last restoration was in 1989 when the late Bob Meyer, a Salida native whose grandfather worked on the railroad, took it upon himself to fix it with help from donations from the community.
Legends of Loyal Duke tell of heroic rescues he made, among them pulling a child from the tracks when an oncoming train was approaching. No one has been able to document these legends, but the fact remains that Duke was a much loved and respected dog, and more than 100 years after his demise people still honor him.
“This effort will restore and improve the appearance of Duke’s gravesite,” Pahnke said. “It’s a way for the community to preserve the history of a famous dog in Salida.
“Many people use the trail that passes close to the monument and people frequently relax on the bench overlooking Salida. Improving this site will make it look good for many years to come.”
Members of Friends of Loyal Duke are Joe and Stephanie Amend, Nick Avignon, Ryan Edmonson, Jon MacManus, Lisa Marvel, Pahnke, Laura Pintane and Donna Wagle.
They expect to start the restoration project around the beginning of May. Commitments have already been received from businesses. Hylton Lumber has agreed to donate materials and Avignon Stone from Vail will help.
“We may also have use of some pack animals to help haul heavy material to the site, and a new plaque commemorating Duke will be made,” Pahnke said.