Dakota

A tough year has gotten tougher. Last night, we had to put our 10 year dog, Dakota, to sleep.

Dakota Dec 05 smaller.JPG

We had lost our first family pet, a dog named Spooky, while I was at the Chicago Comicon. He had mysterious internal injuries and he left us way too soon. No sooner did we return from a vacation, than the kids insisted we find a new pup.

As Kate explained over at her blog, “I found him after spending a few weeks of my summer with the phone book in my lap on the steps at the front of the house. I sat on those steps with the cordless phone and called all the shelters and vets within the county and then I started to move outside the county when that wasn’t working. Finally, one of the vets directed me to a woman who saved pregnant dogs and puppies from kill shelters. She had a mother with a whole litter. When I called, she had one puppy left. That tiny rat of a dog would grow up to be my 75 lb. hunk o’ enthusiastic love, Dakota.”


He loved being with us and when it was clear he was lonely when we were gone, and therefore prone to trouble, he was coupled with a pup named Dixie. Still, the kids loved Dakota; their friends loved him, too.

Growing up, he was playful and sought love and affection. As he aged, he grew territorial, making our home an unwelcome place for other dogs. Maybe he didn’t want to share the humans (or the food), but other than that, he was loving and loveable.

He was also strong-willed. He never quite got the Invisible Fence training. Dakota would stand in the field, his collar buzzing and shocking him and he’d yelp, but he was determined to bark at whatever captured his attention on the other side of the fence. If he could, he’d crawl under our fences or break through the Invisible Fence. His walkabouts had grown worrisome but whenever we found him, he gleefully jumped into our car for a ride.

Dakota was smart, figuring out how to open cabinet doors or garbage lids making dog-proofing the house an artform. It was hard to stay mad at him as he wagged his mighty tail and wanted to be petted. He loved to sidle up for attention and gratefully accepted belly rubs.

He loved the sun. Outdoors, he would sit atop the backsteps and survey the land. Wherever the sun shone, he would lay and bask. He could stay like that for hours. Indoors, he would find a shaft of sunlight coming through the window and lay there, regardless of room.

He was also starting to age. In December he was diagnosed with arthritis in his hind legs. Anti-inflammatories helped and we began giving chondroitin to help. Still, we were surprised when he had trouble moving yesterday. He went out as usual, but was reluctant to come in nor did he eat breakfast. Later, our dog walker called to say when he tried to rise and go out; he collapsed and remained in place on the carpet.

When we returned from the hospital last night, I took him right to an emergency vet clinic in Norwalk. They examined him and came back to say that his belly felt full of fluid and when they took a sample, it was blood. An ultrasound revealed a tumor on spleen had ruptured and he was bleeding internally. This led the doctor to believe our beloved dog was suffering from an aggressive form of cancer on his spleen.

Even with surgery to remove the spleen, she said Dakota would need chemo and even then he would only have three to six months.

Given what we are already dealing with, it made no sense to keep him uncomfortable and put him through something that was short-term at best. I called Deb and discussed it and we chose to let him go.

They wheeled him back in and we sat for a few minutes. It should have been all four of us surrounding him. He should have had more time. Instead, when it was time, I petted his head and he looked around a little and then settled down. His final moments were calm and he went quickly and quietly. Despite the unfamiliar surroundings, at least he had my scent for comfort in those final moments.

The family has lost three dogs in the last decade and it’s been tough each time. Already both kids are talking about finding a new dog to raise. I’m ambivalent because this one was hard and we still have Robbie to be concerned with. Both kids’ reaction was surprising, given how both will be away from home in the coming years. We’ll see.

But for now at least I know Dakota was loved and we did right by him.

13 comments

  • Oh Bob, I’m so sorry. I think it’s a great sign that your children recognize there are always more animals out there that need the kind of love your family can obviously provide.

  • Aw no…

    Bob, I’m sorry and glad at the same time. Reasons for that state of mind were already covered by Elayne, for which she has my thanks.

  • Susan O

    Your family is so incredibly strong. Our sympathies to all. We had to put Duncan down in December at 15. He was mostly blind, mostly deaf, couldn’t do stairs, but it was the failing kidneys that finally made us face reality. Even with the new puppy, Rocky, who will be 14 next week, still has not gotten over it. Rocky has never had an original thought of his own; Duncan led him through every moment of life, and Rocky followed willingly. Now Rocky simply lies around, still waiting for someone to tell him what to do.

    It doesn’t matter if the kids are away; Home is where the dog is.

  • Alan Coil

    I am sorry for your family’s loss.

    I’d suggest you wait a few weeks or months before considering getting another dog. Take some time to heal. And perhaps a new friend will find his/her way into your life in his/her own way.

  • Bill Mulligan

    Terribly sorry about your loss. I worked for a few years in a vet’s office and I know that the animals don’t suffer during the procedure. It was always tough on us to do it and God knows how hard it was for the owners but it’s one of the kindest acts we can do for those creatures who have given us so much devotion and loyalty through the years. Take care.

  • Pazzi

    My beloved Dakota…
    My first pictures of my Au-pair year on the States were taken with him. He was then a cute puppy that kept me company and was by my side when he sensed I needed company, being far away form home
    . The picture of him dressed as Superman-dog, ALWAYS makes me smile.
    I saw him on December and he was loving as always. He has been a lucky dog and his wish to run like the wind was granted everytime he ignored the electrical fence! xxx

  • Bob Ahrens

    It was about a month after my dad passed, that Lady, our 14 year-old Cocker started moping around the house. She slept mostly, couldn’t jump on the bed anymore, and when she ate, she really only picked at it. All we could do is see that she had plenty of water and food, walked her as much as she could take and tucked her in at night. She never whimpered, never complained, and the rabbits she constantly barked away from the house were left un-challenged.
    One morning, we awakened to find that Lady had not. It was the saddest thing to wrap her in her night blanket and pillow and take her to Dr. Hammond, who confirmed what we already knew. She had left us in the night, likely due to heart failure. Wish she could have told us she was gonna leave us. In her way, I suppose she did, but because I was thinking of my Dad, I guess I didn’t see it. Only now is it obvious what she was doing. It’s hard losing family, and pets are your family too.

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