Tuesday, October 13, 2015


As many of you know, we had to put down our sweet old dog yesterday.

I've had Dakota since 2000. We went to a neighbor's farm to get potatoes, and we came home with a puppy.

She looked like a husky pup, though she was 3/4 border collie and 1/4 Australian shepherd. I loved her immediately. As I played with her and her siblings, my dad walked up and said, "Well, would you trade cable (television) for a puppy?"

I don't think he expected us to answer yes. We already had one dog, that we'd adopted when a neighbor couldn't keep her, but we were pretty enthusiastic about the thought of bringing home another puppy. My dad and mom finally agreed, thinking that having two would help them keep each other occupied.

She was born on August 19. We brought home the little girl on October 16, 2000.
She was the cutest puppy!
Two years later, she and I went to dog 4-H together. We went to state our first year and she did really well. I learned how to train dogs from an incredible professional dog trainer, who donated his time to help kids learn at 4-H. He really taught me a lot, and I'll be forever grateful to him.

The next year, I didn't take her to 4-H (though I did take Meg), because I bred her with a purebred border collie. We ended up with eight adorable little puppies.

Unfortunately, none of the puppies took after her coloring. they were all black and white like their father.
She was the best mom. She took care of all those puppies, and trusted me completely with them. That was one of the best summers of my childhood.

Dakota wasn't perfect. She didn't like men very much, and we could never figure out why. She also didn't get along with other dogs very well. Toward the end of her life, we got her to get over that, but it took a long time and quite a few visits to the dog park. 

She only bit a person once, and that was when she was a mother. A neighbor girl was talking really loudly and animatedly around her pups, and it made her nervous. She nipped her to get her to stop. 

Actually, I guess she did bite my younger brother one time. He came in crying about how Dakota had bit him, and it turned out that he had chomped on her ear first, so she nipped him back. He wasn't really hurt, and we thought it was funny.

She and Meg (our other dog) were usually great friends. Meg taught her some bad tricks, and sometimes they fought, but usually they had a great time together.
Meg and Dakota
When I left for college, my parents said they would only watch one dog for me. I had to give the other away. It was a hard decision, but Dakota was my baby. I had raised her, and she was the easier of the two to handle. She stayed, and Meg went. 

No matter how long I was gone, Dakota was always my dog. She always greeted me enthusiastically when I returned, and I always looked forward to seeing her. She was aging, but she had a very puppy-like love of life. 

She helped me choose my husband. I wanted her to live until I married, so I could see if she liked the guy I was dating. She was very particular about the men that she liked. I shouldn't have worried. She lived long enough to meet and love Grig, and that was one of the reasons that I knew I'd chosen the right man. 

I didn't know she'd live long enough to meet my first-born son too.
Kevin's first time meeting Dakota
A year later, we moved into an apartment that allowed pets, and she was able to come and live with us. After being an outdoor dog her entire life, she was finally allowed in the house.

She loved it!

Kevin loved his old dog. She was just about his speed.
She struggled with the stairs a bit, and she was developing arthritis, but she could still get around okay. She was always kind and patient with Kevin. Even when he accidentally hurt her, she did her best to be gentle.

In the late spring of 2014, Dakota was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was already large enough that it had most likely become systemic, and so we decided to just take good care of her until her time came. We though she had six months at the most. We weren't sure if she would make it to her 14th birthday.

We decided to get a puppy, so Dakota could teach him to be well-behaved before she passed away. She wasn't so sure about the idea at first, but eventually, he grew on her.
That's one pooped puppy!
A little while later, Dakota reached her 14th birthday, and we celebrated it enthusiastically, imagining that it would be the last one that she would have.

Here's Dakota eating her birthday cake.
Time passed, and though Dakota incremently got worse, I didn't feel like it was time yet. I told my husband, "If she stops eating, if she stops being able to walk, if she gets an infected sore, or if she isn't happy anymore, we'll put her down."

It seemed like that day would never come. She wasn't moving easily, but she was still mobile. She loved food almost too much, and would occasionally do some pretty crazy things in order to get to it. She never stopped being sneaky. Even when she could barely walk, she still managed to break out of the backyard (thank you, Meg). We'd hear her breathing through the front window and know she managed to get out again. She was happy, and seemed pretty healthy for her age.

She had her 15th birthday while I was away working in Idaho, and we didn't ever get around to celebrating it. I kind of regret that.

During the last few months, she began to develop what Grig termed, "Bed sores." He was absolutely right. She wore away the fur and skin on points that were kept in nearly constant pressure with the ground (mostly on her elbows and on her sides). We cared for them, and they seemed to be healing, albeit slowly.

We've had a crazy few weeks, what with Grig's sister's health problems and my husband's imminent loss of job. However, Dakota was kind enough to wait until Grig's sister made it back to Virginia with her parents. Grig's sister made it home Friday, and that's the day Dakota began to go downhill.

She was unable to get to her feet without assistance, and she showed no interest in food. She wouldn't even drink water, and a pretty foul smell began to come from her. She seemed despondent. I hoped she would pull out of it, but something inside of me told me that this might be the end.

We gave her a couple of days to see if she'd get better, but she only got worse. She didn't move most of the day, and when she did, she required assistance. Sometimes she looked fairly alert, but she had lost the joy in her face.

This picture was taken Friday night, the day Dakota started going downhill. My parents got to see her one last time. 
Saturday was a busy day for us, and she didn't show any signs of improvement. She was able to walk some, but she still didn't want to eat or drink.

This picture was taken Sunday afternoon. This was her favorite place to relax outside.
By Sunday morning, I knew it was time. I wrote in my journal, and after I finished, I e-mailed our veterinarian, who is a good friend of mine. I used to work for her when I lived in this area before. I asked her if she could come on Monday to put Dakota down. She was kind enough to e-mail me back on a Sunday, and we figured out a time. 

All day Sunday, I struggled with it, and prayed that I was making the right decision. I commented to Grig that the only thing she was missing on my list was an abscessed wound. A few minutes later, I found one after it burst. One of her bed sores had become infected, and the infection had run under the skin and abscessed right behind her right shoulder. It was huge and deep. I actually edited the above picture so you couldn't see it. She looks much better without it. 

After that, I still wasn't sure. Sometimes she seemed pretty alert, but she still didn't seem happy. Every one of the items on my list had been fulfilled, and I took that as a sign that it was time, but I still struggled with it. I didn't want to end her life prematurely. 

I cried and stressed about it quite a bit that night. I didn't know what our lives would be like without my wonderful companion and friend. She'd been with me for more than half of my life. However, after discussing it with Grig, I became convinced that it was the right decision. He was kind and left it up to me. She was our dog, but ultimately, she was and had been mine. She loved Grig and often greeted him enthusiastically, but she followed me everywhere and never liked me to be out of her sight. 

Monday morning, when our vet showed up, her first words were a huge comfort to me. She told me, "You're right, she's ready." Grig was able to leave work to be there as well, and that was also a huge blessing.

Dakota didn't really even react to the vet's presence. She just laid on the floor. 

This is where she was when the vet arrived. We took these pictures a few minutes before she came.
As the vet gave her sedative, her face relaxed and for the first time, she was free of pain. It was such a comfort to have her euthanized in our home by a dear friend whom I have know a long time. Dakota never made a sound, and she was very peaceful though out the entire procedure.
Once the drug had been administered, she stopped breathing, but it took a few minutes for her heart to stop. I couldn't help but admire what a fighter she was. She never quit, and she always kept going with a smile on her face. I can't even imagine how much pain she was in sometimes, but she never let it stop her from doing what she wanted to do and being with the ones she loved.

After her death, I felt more peace than I had been expecting. I didn't know how I was going to handle it. I'd never had a dog die before.

I wasn't sure how I was feeling about everything. I was sad, but part of me also could see her running, free of her mortal pain. As I thought about that on the ride home from the crematory, an impression hit me very strongly, and the thought popped into my head that said, "She's happy now."

I began to cry with joy. At that moment, it was as though all of my sadness was gone, to be replaced by joy that she was now free and happy. Her body had been becoming more and more of a prison to her gentle, loyal, joyful soul. She could now run with the speed of her youth, and I knew that she was still watching over us. 

Kevin and Arkhon didn't really understand what was happening. When we took Dakota's body to the crematory, Kevin kept saying, "Dakota's dead, dead, dead, dead, dead."

However, the rest of the day, he kept asking, "Where's Dakota?"

I would tell him that her spirit was now with Heavenly Father. That thought seemed to satisfy him, but he also was sad and grumpy for the remainder of the day. 

Arkhon has also been especially needy. He doesn't want us to go anywhere without him. That's not really like him. 

I am still sad, but I am not as devastated as I thought I was going to be. I'm so grateful for the life that I've had with her. She was worth every moment, and I learned so much from her. 

I saw this meme the other day, and I wanted to share it. I'm not sure who said this quote originally, but I loved it:
He might only be here for a part of your life, but for him, you are his whole life | Remember that people. Dogs are forever, not until you get tired of them. They are alot of work, but they give you unconditional love. They deserve the same in return! by delia
Here's a short poem I wrote right before I e-mailed the vet to schedule the appointment. 


Clear eyes cloud and the light slowly dims
Silk-like fur greys and becomes as wire
Energy lessens, and joints stiffen that 
once flew like raging wildfire.
What will life be, without you by my side?
You were there to greet me, each time I returned.
To you, it didn’t matter if it was five minutes or years.
The joy you exuded, could bring me to tears.
You helped choose my husband, 
You listened to my fears.

I learned from you what a dog is, 
and you taught me well.
With you, I learned to be firm and loving.
You trained my son to adore dogs .
You taught my cousins to give up their fear.
You were a comfort on warm, friendless days,
You slept with the cats, on winter’s dark nights.
You taught me responsibility, though sometimes I failed.
You taught me to endure, when I grow old and frail.
I have needed you and you gave me your best.

Thank, you Dakota.
You will be missed.

We thought you had six months. 
You gave us a year.
I’m not ready for you to disappear.
Our home will seem empty without you here.
When you’re free of your body,
Come visit us again.
Come run after Arkhon, 
Come play with Kevin. 
Come sit by my side, and greet Grig at the door.
There’s a place here for you now, and for forever more. 

We buried my dog tonight, under our apple tree. We sang Amazing Grace and had a prayer. It was a nice moment with my family. 

She's happy, and that's the most important thing to me.

Dakota, we will miss you and we love you. You are, always and forever, my beautiful dog. We'll never forget you.
My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.
--Hazel, Watership Down


  1. Beautiful tribute Rebecca. I enjoyed reliving her life with this. You are a wonderful person and Dakota was lucky to have you. We love you!