Duke

The Tale of a Brave Dog and his Compassionate Owner

 

Jane Frances de Frémyot, the foundress and first Mother Superior of the Order of the Visitation, was a mother, a wife, and eventually, a nun.

As a young woman, she was cheerful, fun loving, and had a deep faith in God. At 21, she married the Baron de Chantal, and had four children.

Her days in the family home where filled with domestic duties, charitable work and daily mass. After seven years of marriage, the most profound loss had befallen her family. Her husband was killed in a hunting accident after being mistakenly shot in the leg by Charles d’Anlezy, a cousin, neighbor, and friend.

The heartbroken Jane had to struggle with forgiving Charles or “Duke” as he was called, for a long time. At first she tried just greeting him on the street. When she was able to do that, she invited him to her house. One evening, Duke found a stray puppy and decided that the orphaned creature would be a good companion for Jane and may even cheer her up a bit.

Jane was overcome with happiness and joy upon seeing the puppy. This particular dog didn’t look of a certain breed, but rather was composed of all breeds in some way. He had dark fur, cute ears, and the most trusting eyes you could imagine. Jane decided to the call the puppy Duke in an effort to help her heal and learn to forgive the man who took her beloved husband away.

Day after day, Duke the dog, accompanied Jane on her visits to the sick and stayed awake all night with Jane during the vigils for the dying.   Duke witnessed first-hand how devoted Jane was to her Catholic faith and mission. The women who turned to Jane when other convents turned them away were welcomed by Duke with a wag of his tail or an affectionate lick of the hand. His unconditional love was akin to that of his saintly master.

He was extremely loyal and friendly, yet strong and brave. Whether he was a watchdog guarding the sheep from hungry wolves, or a leader shepherding the animals to greener pastures he did so with a happy heart and a positive attitude. He proved he could not only show love, but hard determination and bravery.

In fact, Duke showed his bravery over and over again. During a very cold, snowy winter in Dijon, the lakes and streams froze over. Another snow storm was approaching, and the Baroness de Chantal gave her carriage driver the rest of the day off to prepare his family for the incoming storm. However, that afternoon, Jane needed to see a very sick woman who lived in a nearby town.

She set out with Duke by her side and rode one of the horses from the stable. The storm arrived quickly practically blinding her visibility of the road. Accidentally, she steered the horse on to a frozen lake. As her horse started to slip and slide the ice broke, and the horse jerked so hard that Jane fell off and into the icy, cold water. The horse succeeded in getting to the side of the lake where Duke was barking and racing back and forth. Duke managed to get a rope from a supply bag on the horse and carefully edged out on to the ice and tossed a rope end to Jane. Duke was able to pull Jane out of the frigid water to safety with his strong body and clenching jaw.

The story of St. Jane and her journey to sainthood is not complete without learning about Duke. It takes courage to forgive. With the help of Duke, Jane found that courage to forgive. With that courage she had the fortitude and strength to pursue her missions. Both St. Jane de Chantal and Duke the dog were true defenders of faith, family, loyalty and love.

And such is the tale of Duke.

The spirit of Duke lives on. The characteristics of Duke are alive and well and embody who we are at St. Jane de Chantal Catholic School in Bethesda, Maryland. We are a community of teachers, students, and families who are loyal and brave. We are friendly, kind and faithful. We are strong and agile, yet happy and welcoming. We strive to please and protect. We are the Dukes. We are De Chantal. Go De Chantal Dukes!