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Old dog, new tricks

Dakota gets his 3rd chance at age 9

Can we have an ampuversary without you?

February10

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Tomorrow is the 2-year milepost on our journey. I have been thinking about it for easily a month, knowing I wanted to write about it here but not really knowing how. I trusted that the words would arrive when the day did, but they really haven’t. I’m kind of at a loss.

Two years on this journey is a very big deal. When you started, you were in fantastic company: Bellona, Lucky, Rio and Bud were in the same week with you. We’ve not seen Bellona or Lucky here for a very long time so we don’t know how they’re doing or if they also crossed the bridge. Rio went ahead of you just before her first year ampuversary. You went 2 months before your second. Bud is here, though. He is holding down the fort and making all the February Furball Family proud. His being here makes it a happy time.

Dakota, I want to let you know the things that have happened in the last couple of months since you left. Evelyn is settling down but she is still confused at night. She is sleeping in her crate in the bedroom. We leave the crate door open and she usually stays there, but not always. She does a fair amount of pacing and searching for unknown things and then goes back to sleep.

The grandpuppy is now on her hands and knees, threatening to crawl. She does a combat crawl at 90 miles per hour and zeroes in on poor Evelyn sometimes. You would have hated this and run for your bed.

We have not had much snow, so you would also not have enjoyed the weather. I’m sorry your last winter with us couldn’t have been filled with the deep stuff you so enjoyed.

Your Boy is still the same, doing his boy thing and growing. Your Man has asked me when I think I might want to take your ashes to the mountains and scatter them around your old hopping grounds. He seemed surprised when I told him I’m not sure I’ll ever want to do that. I wish I knew what you wanted me to do with them, D.

I used to think that when people cry for a loss, they are crying for themselves because of how much they miss the one who’s gone. I’m not so sure I’m right about that, though. I miss you, D, very much–but I’m still very angry that you were cheated out of so much. I am incredibly pissed that you died so young. I realize you were almost 11, but we’ve never lost a dog so young. We were counting on several more years, more time to give to you as a gift. I’m sorry you were cheated. I’m sorry so many here have been cheated. If I could change the rules, I would.

On a happier note, your hated harness is going to a dog in Texas. I hope that’s far enough away for you to feel comfortable. I know you detested the damn thing.

Happy two years, Dakota. I wish you were here to experience it.

portrait

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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.