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In memory of Dakota

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 
Originally I was going to ask Donna to post this - but it is not right that I don't do it myself. The following will appear in my newspaper column on Sept. 1st.

It was over five years ago that my then fiance called me from work and told me he had found two little balls of white fluff tucked inside a tire on the hospital premises. When he picked them up they began to purr - one little one had crystal blue eyes and the other sported what we call "odd-eyes" one blue and one gold. "What should I do," he asked and my reply was bring them home.

These two babies were our very first rescues. The vet estimated their age at just over ten days since their eyes were open. They couldn't eat on their own, nor could they even eliminate without help, and so my two girls along with myself and Clint became cat mothers. Blue eyed Milo and his brother Dakota had to be bottle fed every four hours, just like babies. My youngest, Allison, immediately claimed Dakota as her own and the feeling was mutual. Eventually Milo would become everyone's cat, very social and happy to meet any stranger who walked through the door. But Dakota was different. He was a loner, aloof and all his affection was saved for his girl.

We taught them how to eat and kept them clean. At first they lived in a plastic tote box and eventually graduated to Allison's bedroom. The two brothers loved each other and hated to be apart. There was never any question that these two kittens were ours. Dakota and Milo had stolen our hearts.

While these two were growing up, we began rescuing cats in earnest - Helping Paws would soon be born because of them. We would spend hours watching them play and grow and turn into cat adults, each with their own distinctive personality. Milo would become our household pet show cat, going on our public access television show, doing pet therapy and going to schools to teach children about cat care. He would be "bid boned and pudgy" while Dakota, lean and rugged, would remain a one-person cat, take over the job of being "boss" cat of our increased cat population and still be completely his own cat. His one true friend was a little black feral cat that lives in our home - Dakota and Zoe were often seen curled up next to each other; this turned out to be a warning of things to come.

We had a really bad scare when Milo and Dakota were about seven months old. They became extremely ill and almost died. Our vets had even suggeted putting them down as it appeared they had a genetic liver condition that would keep them from ever reaching adulthood. We declined to follow our vets advice and told them to treat the symptoms as best they could. Thousands of dollars and months later we had a miracle - two beautiful, healthy adult cats. Everyone was surprised and everyone was extremely pleased and thankful.

Years passed and as our cat family increased, as our rescue organization grew, Milo and Dakota were always heralded as the founders of Helping Paws. These two were total opposites in everything including their acceptance of our cat safe fenced in area. Clint (now my husband) had put in a privacy fence with a special ordered top that was netted in such a way animals could not get out or in, Milo accepted this and was happy to have a whole back yard to sun himself with the others - Dakota always wanted to know what was on the other side.

Five years from when he was found, Dakota started to lose weight and no longer looked healthy. Tests showed irregularities but nothing conclusive. At this time Dakota found a way out of the cat safe fence. Nothing we did could keep him inside - he would actually growl at us if we tried to pick him and bring him back into the house. Dakota was reverting back to his feral heritage and determined to see the world. He took to swimming in our pool during the hot weather and cooling himself off - he would ask to come in once or twice a week to see his girl and take a nap on her bed, just to let her know he still loved her. He continued to lose weight and stopped taking care of himself - we all made the decision to allow Dakota to have what he most wanted - his freedom.

Dakota was killed on the morning of August 24, 2001, by a motorist. It was inevitable that he would want to know what was on the other side of the street. Dakota lived his life to the fullest and although I would have done anything to keep him within the confines of the kitty courtyard, I also know he was dying and that he needed to be free, We have decided to start the Dakota Memorial Fund which will help people who have adopted abandoned and feral cats during times of catasrophy. For now though, my daughter mourns her loss and we join her in grieving for the little white odd eyed kitten who helped start it all.
post #2 of 18
Nothing shows up- did you forget the link? HUGS
post #3 of 18

I'm glad you posted it. It's a wonderful story that brings tears to my eyes and an ache in my heart. When my IRS refund comes on Monday, I will be donating a portion of it to the Dakota Fund. It's my way of remembering the cat that truly touched my heart.


post #4 of 18
Or actually, Dakota and Milo's story touched me deeply. No matter how long we have them, no matter how much we want to keep them safe, there is always that factor in there that they are only ours temporarily. You have paid great homage to this cat by creating a way for others to celebrate what he stood for in his life.
post #5 of 18
Rene - What beatiful words to remember a wonderful cat. I am so sorry for your loss.
post #6 of 18
Rene and family - I too would like to offer my sympathy and condolences on your loss today. The hurt must be very strong and painful at this time. I can imagine your little guy just spendng hours on figuring out how to escape the fenced in area. He sounds like he was a special and wonderful member of your family! I am sure he is romping at the Bridge and keeeping all the others in line.
Love and Prayers coming to your home from mine.
Deb M.
post #7 of 18
That's so sad... I can't really say anything else, words don't help much right now... Thank you for sharing this with us,

post #8 of 18
What a wonderful story. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing it with us.
post #9 of 18

All I can say is I am sitting here at my computer crying. That was a beautiful story. It won't be the same going to your house and not seeing Dakota sleeping on Ally's bed. You know I am here for you.
post #10 of 18
post #11 of 18
Dearest Rene,

When I first came to this site, I'll never forget you and how you comforted me while I watched my boy Kadaffi slip away each day until he finally passed. My heart breaks for you and your family and of course Dakota, I'm so so sorry... I truly am...

Thinking of you all...you have my deepest condolences.

post #12 of 18
Thread Starter 
Thanks everyone for your kind words - tonight we went to Sandie and Kens and told Dakota stories - we needed to do that as his memory brings us comfort. Hissy, it is your idea that made us decide to start the Dakota fund and to help ferals - after all, Dakota came from a feral cat colony and would want us to help those less fortunate than he was. And Dakota did have a good life - he was loved by us all, but especially loved by my daughter - I am sure he was the recipient of all her secrets and he was a good friend who never told them to us. I will miss Dakota but we will have him live on in the good deeds we(he) will do for ferals in need.
post #13 of 18
Dear Rene,
I am so sorry to hear of your loss.Tears filled my eyes as I read your story.I know Dakota's memory will live on through this Fund...
My prayers are with you and your family..

post #14 of 18
Rene, I am so sorry for your loss! Thank you for sharing his memory with us.
post #15 of 18
Rene I am so very sorry for your loss of Dakota. There are no words that will comfort you now so just know that I feel much sadness for you and your family.
post #16 of 18
Rene; I have already expressed my sympathies to you and your family and I hope you will excuse my using this space to once again ask Anne if we might have a "Special Forum", for those of us left behind when our beloved pets pass; so that we may share memories (like this one), "from our side of The Bridge" to help with the healing. . . . . . .
post #17 of 18
Rene, your tribute to Dakota is beautiful! And so touching....I am so sad for him.
I just feel the need to go find Merlin, who is outside now, and bring him in and hold him.

I am convinced that August 24th is a bad day. I will never forget the day that Dakota died, because my father died last year on August 24th.
I stayed home from work, because I could not think of anything else.
I am sorry that dakota passed away! I hope my dad was there to hold him and pet him.

My prayers are with you Rene, I love you.
post #18 of 18
Thread Starter 
Debbie, I hope your dad was there to pet him too!

I found it ironic that Dakota was the cat of the day on the day he died - for those of you who don't know this, yesterdays cat of the day, Mouse, is Dakota's half brother! We finally were able to trap Dakota and Milo's mother when she got pregnant the second time -Cleo had her kittens at our home and Mouse was the runt of the litter and the one we kept. Cleo lived outside our home for four years - a long time for a feral cat. One of our neighbors fell in love with her and tamed her enough to begin brushing her and all of a sudden she was gorgeous - when these people moved, Cleo went with them.

Again, thank you so much everyone for your kind words and support. Donna took home my two favorite pictures of Dakota and will post them tomorrow from work(I don't have a scanner). One is with my husband feeding him when he was three weeks old and the other is when he was all grown up.
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