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Keith and Nugget during pandemic: Still walking daily in Durham but miss Duke students

Nugget at the Duke pond. Photo by Keith Upchurch.
Nugget at the Duke pond. Photo by Keith Upchurch.

Among all the uncertainties surrounding the future of the semester, Keith and Nugget are still finding ways to entertain themselves even without Duke students to dole out affection to Duke’s favorite dog.

Keith Upchurch, Trinity ‘72, and his golden retriever Nugget have been visiting Duke’s campus since 2012. They began by only visiting on weekends, but after Upchurch retired from The Durham Herald-Sun in 2016, they’ve come to campus almost every day. 

Upchurch and Nugget’s usual routine includes walks around campus and sitting together at their regular spots like the benches outside Marketplace or near the Brodhead Center. Students pet Nugget and chat with Upchurch, and small crowds often form around the beloved duo.

But ever since Duke canceled in-person classes for the rest of the Spring 2020 semester, it hasn’t been the same. 

Now, Upchurch and Nugget are taking two daily walks to help stay in shape, Upchurch wrote in an email. The first walk is always around their neighborhood, and due to the closure of West Campus, their second stroll is now on the walking trail at the Duke Pond.

Upchurch also wrote that he works out every other day at home with a sports ball and dumbbells while Nugget gets her workout by running up and down the steps.

“We’re both big believers in staying fit,” he wrote.


Nugget in Keith's garden, not on campus. Photo by Keith Upchurch. Special to The Chronicle


Even though the duo is keeping busy, “there’s no substitute for the love of Duke students,” according to Upchurch. 

“I think she’s confused about why people aren’t running up to her as they used to, and that’s hard for me to explain to her,” he wrote.

Upchuch encourages anyone who wants to send a note to himself or Nugget to reach out at kupchurch6@nc.rr.com. He thinks that Nugget understands the messages pretty well, so he plans to read students’ emails to her.

“We’re thinking of and missing our Duke friends each day,” Upchurch wrote. “Nugget is storing up her love for when she sees you again!”


Photo by Keith Upchurch. Special to The Chronicle

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