Five years ago today my heart and soul Dakota left me and this world behind to join the Angels in heaven above. While she did not have Cushings, I was told that I could write an “honorary” memorial for her here. (Thank you, Marianne). I have mentioned a bit about her in a couple of threads, but wanted to honor her with a place of her own.

I picked her out of a litter of 7 black lab puppies, or I should say that she picked me. She was born in a barn (literally) in the middle of February, and on my first visit, she was the one who followed me all around the farm yard in the freezing cold and snow, untying my shoes at every turn. I brought her home at 6 weeks of age, a little fuzzy ball of black fur. She grew into the most regal, beautiful, shiny black dog you have ever seen. She was my first born, and she was my whole world.

She enjoyed the outdoors, water, snow, running, playing ball, and chasing anything that moved. A typical Retriever. And she loved laying on the couch watching TV with me, sleeping on my bed with her own fuzzy blanket, and in later years when she couldn’t get on or off the bed easily, her sheepskin pelt “bed”. She was what you would call a “velcro dog”. She had to be with me every minute and would follow me from room to room, never staying by herself for more than a few seconds. Even from a sound sleep she would get up and follow me to see what I was doing. She had separation anxiety, and hated being left home alone while I went to work. In later years she developed a wind phobia (as opposed to thunderstorm phobia), and on days where the forecast was calling for wind over 20 mph, I would give her a small dose of anti-anxiety medication to take the edge off. She tore both of her ACL’s through the years, one at age 8, the other at age 12, and had surgeries to repair both. She had occasional UTI's, a couple of episodes with some small bladder stones/crystals in her urine, and occasional bouts with colitis. Other than those things, she was a healthy girl. I realize now more than ever what a blessing that was.

We had a wonderful life together, her and I. We had many adventures, walks, fun outings, and lazy days. We were inseparable. When she was 10, we were blessed with her brother Jasper. That was quite the adjustment for her, but she accepted him with grace, even though he was a little hooligan. He was a very bossy and demanding puppy, and he pestered her mercilessly. I do not have children, so she was definitely my child and my parenting revolved around her, as it now does around Jasper and Shelby.

I took her with me everywhere I could. My family lives in South Texas, and I couldn’t bear kenneling her, so rather than flying, I would cut the visit a bit short in order to allow time for the 2 day drive each way so she could come with me. We made the trip 3 times just her and I. On her last trip to see Grandma and my brother, she had her baby brother Jasper along also. My Mom so enjoyed these visits, and called her “her Granddog”. We were quite the group on a long road trip. She had her own tote bag and everything!

When she was almost 14, we discovered a mass in her chest, which my vet felt was hemangiosarcoma based on all the symptoms. The prognosis was very poor, and it progressed very rapidly from the time she was diagnosed. I was devastated. She became so sick so quickly, that I was completely unprepared for what was to come. Six days before her 14th birthday, I faced the most difficult decision and day of my life, and had to let her go. Losing her brought a pain I have never known. It felt like my heart was torn out, and that I had lost not only my heart, but my soul as well; everything. I felt like only a shell was left. It was some consolation having Jasper, but at first I felt like I didn’t have anything left for him. Then he came to be my reason for going on, my savior. It didn’t take long to see that he was grieving also, and we struggled with her loss together. I know I will never be the same without her, but I have come to realize that the experience of her loss has somehow enabled me to have even that much more love and nurturing for Jasper and now Shelby.

While I love them both dearly, I still miss her so. I miss the light that shined in her brown eyes, her shiny black satin fur, her silky velvet ears, her cold wet nose, her big feet stepping on everything, her tail knocking everything off the coffee table with one sweep, the sound of her footsteps padding down the hallway, her entire body wagging every time she saw me, even if I had only gone out to the garage and back for a second, the deep sound of her bark, the way rain rolled off her back like a duck, the feeling of her body on the back of my legs as she crammed herself into the bathroom with me every day as I got ready for work, the peaceful sound of her deep breathing in a restful sleep, her hot breath in my face, her sloppy kisses, the smell of the top of her head and neck when I would hug her. There is so much more that I could say.

She was the most special of dogs, and everyone that had the privilege of knowing her could see that. My vet called her a “once in a lifetime dog”. There is no description that fits her more accurately.

Dakota, I love you and miss you so. In five years, not a day has passed where I don't think about you and talk to you just like I used to when you were here. I look up at the heavens above and know you are there in every sunny day and in every star that shines at night. I know your spirit is always with me. My precious Angel Baby, my beautiful Princess. My once in a lifetime dog. Always in my heart, never out of my mind. Don't forget me Dakota girl.

I love you and miss you so much,