A little over 10 years ago, a wiggly, sweet, soft as a feather puppy was placed in my arms. It was love at first lick with his adorable little black masked face and a tail that looked like it had been dipped in paint.
Dakota Bear came home with us when he was 8 weeks old and our lives would never be the same! He filled our home with laughter, his feet too big, his ears to floppy and his very wet puppy kisses.
He found mischief in the yard on a regular basis, digging holes under the pine tree was one of his favorite pass times.
He quickly let us know what life was about; eating, sleeping (preferably in the sun) and playing!
Dakota went to puppy school, the Rhodesian Ridgeback Academy and Agility school. He tried his hand at Lure Coursing but chasing the other dogs was far more fun than chasing the lure. Sheep herding was interesting he was even given a certificate, but he really didn’t like the sheep all that much. Dakota was some kind of handsome and so we even gave him a chance in the ring, but alas, he hated it. What fun was life if you couldn’t sniff and play with the other dogs? Where was the joy in standing around in a ring having people look at you? For Dakota three times show was pretty much enough, he did walk away a winner though!
Our handsome bear grew so fast and time just seemed to fly. He reminded us all the time of what was important, enjoying life, naps and food!
He turned 10 this past April and while he had slowed down he was still the same sweet, puppy we had brought home. His grey hairs distinguishing him, showing his wisdom to the world.
Dakota had developed some spinal degeneration in recent months and while it had slowed him down, made walking on the wood floors hard he was still young at heart. He still wanted to play with me, still wanted to be outside in the sun. On Tuesday though something was very wrong and we rushed him to the vet. They kept him all day, running test and then told us he needed to go to the animal hospital. We took him over there and checked him in and left him thinking that we’d be bringing him home on Thanksgiving. Things didn’t go as planned, Dakota’s spleen was filled with a bacterial infection, it was pumping it into his body, his blood. We discussed all the options and had decided that we would indeed give surgery a try, have his spleen removed. We asked about recovery and the vet told us that a young healthy dog has a 50% chance of recovering, that odd was good with us, this was our Dakota bear. He then went on to tell us that he’d have to be in the hospital for at least a month, that because the infection was as bad as it was that he’d probably need additional surgeries and that blood transfusions were probable. There was no way we could do that to him, he was in pain, suffering and leaving him in the hospital for a month or more would just be selfish. We just couldn’t do that to him.
So Dakota and I went into a room that looked like a living room, a French door to an outside area, a nice quiet non hospital kind of place. I got on the floor with him like I had a million times before, I curled up with him, arms around my Dakota bear and I talked to him like I had so often. Telling him how much I loved him, telling him that I’d never forget how mad Randy was when he ate my birthday cake. I sang to him just like I had when he was a puppy, You are My Sunshine. I told him he had to go and find BB, Lexus, Bandit, Baby, Scooter, Misty, Shep and Charile. I told him that Buddy, Radar and Jonah would all welcome him to the pack. I told him that there would never be another dog like him. I sang his song to him, the one that I’d sung to him his whole life, "Hey there Dakota Bear, handsome dog with the soft red hair, without a worry, without a care, hey there Dakota Bear. He passed quietly in my arms, I heard his last breath, I heard the last beat of his heart.
At this time of year we reflect on all that we have to be thankful for and while my heart is broken in a way that I can’t even put into words. I am so thankful for Dakota for everyday that he was in my life, for the unconditional love that he gave me. There is something amazing about animals that we bring into our lives, the love and the happiness they give us they ask for so very little in return. I will love him forever, I will miss him for the rest of my life….