Duke the Loyal Dog
Salida’s legendary loyal Duke accounts the tale of a silky black curly-coated spaniel with drooping ears and a friendly face who, in the late-1800s, was locally renowned for greeting railroad passengers at the Salida rail yard. The Salida rail yard served travelers along the Rio Grande and Denver-bound train lines. Duke, also referred to as Buster, what the pet of Charles Catlin, who managed Salida’s Monte Cristo Hotel. Duke was often spotted in front of the Monte Cristo Hotel, and approached guests with a cordial energy. When loads of trunks were set to arrive or depart, Duke adamantly requested to be placed on top of the load where he overlooked his dominion of Salida.
The legends of Duke warrant many heroic rescues he made along the train. The rail was a dangerous place to work with hard manual labor and heavy machinery. One of the tales accounts Duke rescuing a child from the tracks as a looming train threatened the child’s life. The tales of Duke have yet to be documented, yet he remains honored at his gravesite.
In 1902, Duke passed away at age 13. It had been a sweltering hot summer and Duke’s asthma became deadly. Dr. Roe was the chief surgeon at the Rio Grande Hospital at the time who attempted to save Duke, but was unable to. Catlin wrapped Duke in a white sheet and prepared a funeral for his beloved pet. Many citizens and commercial workers helped to dig Duke’s grave that’s situated atop Tenderfoot Hill.
The obituary claims thousands of people will recall Duke as a welcoming and loyal fixture of the Monte Cristo and Salida overall. It has been over a century since Duke passed, yet he continues to be celebrated as a fixture of Salida. In fact, as a treat to the children, Longfellow Elementary School makes special fieldtrips towards the end of the year to visit his grave. The original wooden alter with pagoda-style roof did not last long, but a concrete grave commemorating Duke remains today. This renewed grave was built in 1938, was restored in 1989, and a new plaque was installed at the site over Tenderfoot in 2017. Since then, various landmarks of Salida resound the legacy of Duke, including Loyal Duke’s Dog Park on Holman Ave, and Loyal Duke Lodge on Rainbow Blvd.