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Old dog, new tricks

Dakota gets his 3rd chance at age 9

Dear Dakota,


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It’s very late and I should be asleep. Instead, I lay in bed thinking of you and how you left us so very quickly.

I was not ready.

I’m not sure you were, either, regardless of what others may think. I believe you were very tired and weak and grateful that your doctor owns a gurney. I am sure you were relieved that only women were working at the vet’s office Saturday morning.

I was not ready, though.

Was it hard when Dr. B was out of town and you had to see Dr. S, whom you did not know? I thought she was wonderful. She was so tender with you and she seemed to fall in love with you at first sight.

But I still wasn’t ready.

When you were trying so hard to leave me and I was squatting down looking right into your eyes, you were very calm. Oh Dakota, you gave me such a gift with your peace. As hard as this is, it would be unbearable if you’d been afraid. I was so proud of you and how you demonstrated perfect grace to me. Don’t you think it’s ironic how our roles were reversed in your last half hour? You, who’d always been terrified of getting into the car and going through the vet’s door, ended up being the one who was at ease and without fear. I was not as graceful as you, but at least I let you do what you needed to do. I cried, but I did not blubber. I hope you were proud of me. I put my face next to yours and let you breathe me in even as you breathed yourself out. It was the only familiar offering I had to give you. I wish I could have given you more.

And I was not ready.

I did not expect to say goodbye to you on a gurney, early on a Saturday morning, after a wild ride to the vet’s office. I did not expect to say goodbye to you this year. I did not expect you to go so fast. I did not expect you to go.

I was not ready.


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9 Comments to

“Dear Dakota,”

  1. December 21st, 2012 at 2:00 am      Reply Porthos Says:

    I am so sorry. I know your heart ache.
    After our vet had given Porthos the shot of morphine she asked us if we would like a few more minuets to say goodbye to Porthos before the final injection, my husband said “always”.
    We also were not ready.

    I am thinking of you. Run free Dakota, you were so loved by your pawrents.
    Amanda & Angel Porthos x

  2. December 21st, 2012 at 9:45 am      Reply jerry Says:

    Tears fall as I read this Shari, my heart hurts for you and the pack.

    It seems like no matter how much time we have, no matter how much our brains rationalize the inevitable, we are never ready.

    I’m so sorry.

  3. December 21st, 2012 at 10:46 am      Reply bartsmom Says:

    So beautifully expressed…
    I am so sorry for your loss.
    …never ready.

    Darcy & Bart

  4. December 27th, 2012 at 10:17 am      Reply Toby Boy Says:

    So sorry Shari… so sad and sorry for your loss.
    Bunch of hugs (from me) and sloppy kisses (Toby).

    I’m so so sorry.

  5. December 31st, 2012 at 5:09 pm      Reply doggiemomma9 Says:

    Oh, Shari, I’m not sure any of us humans will ever be ready. I am in tears, this is such a beautiful post. It is amazing how they can still be there for us, right up until the end. They give us everything…and we must make the hardest decisions for them. Hugs to you. Run run run free Dakota

  6. January 6th, 2013 at 1:48 pm      Reply chilidawg Says:

    Oh Shari I just read this now. It broke my heart and I wish I could give you a hug. Very well written and beautiful.

    Jenna & Spirit Chili Dawg

  7. January 31st, 2013 at 9:51 am      Reply bruiserbruno Says:


    I too just wrote Bruno a letter also. I miss him soooo much, just as I’m sure you miss D. He was lucky to have you. Thanks so much for your friendship and words of insight. They have comforted me when I needed them. You have much to offer this community. Hopefully time will dull the pain we feel from the loss of our beloved companions. I’m sure D and Bruno are living it up with all those who preceded them and that one day we’ll be reunited.

  8. February 4th, 2013 at 9:06 pm      Reply princess Says:

    Shari, I’ve just read this blog, I must have missed it before. Like others the tears were streaming as I read it. You have captured those last minutes too well. ”
    “I was not ready”. I’m still not ready to let go and it’s been 9 months today since we said goodbye to Magnum. Unlike you with Dakota I knew that Magnum’s time was drawing to an end but the last day still caught me by surprise. I woke up that Sat morning not knowing she would be gone before sunset. I was not ready.
    I cannot imagine how hard it was for you without any warning. Time helps but there is still an ache in your heart that I don’t think ever disappears completely.

    Many hugs to you


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December 2012
« Nov   Jan »

What came before

Dakota is our Golden Retriever mix, and he was likely born in February 2002. His full name is South Dakota Watson, and we found him on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in August 2002. The area we discovered him had no homes, no structures, no bodies of water, no shelter. He had his permanent teeth but was still a puppy, so we assumed 6 months was a reasonable age guesstimate. He weighed 12 pounds, which was grossly underweight. Two weeks later, he weighed 23 pounds. He was too weak to eat much so we fed him 6 times a day. Sometimes he would just collapse at his food dish and fall down, and I would have to feed him by hand.

I wish Dakota could write this page because he is the only one who knows the beginning. From his birth until the day we found him, we have no idea what he endured. Well, that’s not entirely true. We know some of it, and other bits we can infer from his behavior. For instance, we know for a fact that Dakota was suffering from malnutrition, sarcoptic mange, assorted internal parasites, flea anemia, dehydration and dental enamel hypoplasia (pitting and staining of the teeth commonly resulting from distemper as a puppy before the teeth emerge). We can infer that Dakota had distemper from the hypoplasia. We can infer that he was deliberately dumped. And we can infer that a man in a baseball cap wearing sunglasses hit him with some kind of stick and chased him off with a hose. Dakota has problems with all of those things.

Dakota has every reason in the world to hate people, but he doesn’t. He’s very mistrustful of strangers, but he is beyond loyal to his family. Once he meets someone and gets the ok from us, he opens his heart to them, too. He is very attached to me, probably because he was isolated (due to the mange) for the first 11 weeks we had him. He had nice digs set up for him in our house, but he could only look at our other 2 dogs and not touch them. I was the one providing all his care during that time, as we found out the hard way that mange can be transfered to humans. To protect our young son, no one but me played with Dakota during those 11 weeks.

Because we feel pretty sure that Dakota survived distemper, and he survived being abandoned, surviving cancer should be no biggie for him.

We know Dakota’s cancer is not an osteosarcoma, and his chest films were clear, one month apart. We are very optimistic about his long-term prognosis in light of those facts. Hopefully we have several more years with him and he will grow old with us, just as he should.

Right after we got home with Dakota, all 12 pounds of him.

Eyes swollen shut, ragged ears, and just as calm as could be.