Nugget, Duke's beloved golden retriever, dies at 11

Nugget, Duke’s beloved golden retriever, died Thursday morning from lymphoma, according to her owner, Keith Upchurch, Trinity ‘72. She was 11 years old. 

Nugget was diagnosed in March, but had “not been feeling well in recent days,” Upchurch wrote in an email to The Chronicle.  

She collapsed Thursday morning and Upchurch drove her to the vet to be euthanized. 

The duo promenaded through Duke’s campus beginning in 2012, visiting almost every day since Upchurch retired from the Durham Herald-Sun in 2016. Often, students found them near the Brodhead Center and chatted with Upchurch as they pet Nugget. 

"It may be foolish to think there’s a heaven for dogs, but the truth is that Nugget found heaven on earth. She found it every time you stopped to give her a pet. She found it every time you gave her an apple," Upchurch wrote to The Chronicle Thursday afternoon. 

"Nugget loved coming to campus each day. She loved you all, and so do I," Upchurch added. 

Upchurch first emailed students on Thursday morning about Nugget’s passing. 

Over the years, Upchurch has befriended many students. In 2019, he told The Chronicle that he estimated he had come to know roughly 2,000 students through Nugget. 

He often asked to take pictures with students and Nugget, then printed the photos and stored them in a filing cabinet at home. He also regularly emailed photos of Nugget to a lengthy student email list. 

“She’s not officially a therapy dog, but in actual practice, I’d say she’s providing therapy,” Upchurch told The Chronicle in 2021. “Some students tell me they get more therapy from Nugget than from the Wellness Center.”

Nugget would have turned 12 in July. 

Editor's Note: This story was updated Thursday afternoon to include additional comment from Keith Upchurch. 

Kathryn Thomas profile
Kathryn Thomas | News Editor

Kathryn Thomas is a Trinity junior and news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

Milla Surjadi profile
Milla Surjadi | Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator

Milla Surjadi is a Trinity junior and a diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator of The Chronicle's 119th volume. She was previously editor-in-chief for Volume 118.


Share and discuss “Nugget, Duke's beloved golden retriever, dies at 11 ” on social media.