The older Dakota got the more play he demanded. He was about a year old and we were exhausted, and he wasn’t letting up. He started getting into things he knew he wasn’t supposed to and stealing our things so we’d have to pay attention to him. One Sunday evening he was unusually quiet. We thought he was just tired from being at the barn all day. After dinner I took him out. He squatted and nothing came out then he started throwing up what seemed to be gallons of water. I called the emergency animal service since our vet didn’t have weekend hours. We rush him in immediately.
After an exam, the vet said he suspected a blockage in his small intestine. We couldn’t imagine what it could be since he’s always with us. We sat in the waiting room for several hours while Dakota was in surgery. The vet finally came out and said surgery went well, they found the blockage. He held up a bag and asked if we had any idea what this thing is. It was a hard, bouncy cat ball the neither of us new we had. Dakota found it. They wanted to keep him over night, but he had to be picked up before 8 the following morning and transferred to his regular vet. When we got home I left a message for Dakota’s vet telling them he’d be there early the following morning. Morning came and I picked him up and took him to his vet. He was to stay there for a few days to make sure there wouldn’t be any complications from surgery. A few day later the vet called. There were no problems and we could pick him up, but he needed to stay quiet for about a week. I told her if he was supposed to be quiet, they needed to keep him. The only way we could keep him quiet was to keep him crated and we certainly couldn’t crate him for a week.
Dakota got the all clear to come home and resume his (almost) normal activities. He was as active as ever but starting to get a bit aggressive. We weren’t sure if it was the surgery that caused this or having to be quiet for over a week. We took him to dog trainers, did everything suggested, and nothing could break his aggression. In fact it was getting worse. If he stole something that wasn’t his and we tried to take it, he’d growl. If we persisted, he’d bite. I could no longer handle him. I was getting to the point where I was afraid to be home alone with him. Since I worked at home, this was getting to be a huge problem. He was as strong as an ox and weighed about 30 lbs. less than me. After trying to push thru this, dog trainers, Greg having to come home from work to rescue me from Dakota trapping me in one room, it was time to make a decision. We just couldn’t continue the way we had been.
In early December 2009 I made arrangements for a Springer rescue to take him. We drove him to a foster home over an hour away. We watched as he played with the other dogs and made himself at home. He was happy and barely said goodbye. A few months later I got a call from the rescue. He’d been rehabbed and rehomed. He was living with a family in Delaware that had 2 boys that loved to play baseball. Dakota was going to love it there.
Like puppies have a tendency to do, Dakota grew like a weed. Our week day routine was me throwing toys while I worked, Dakota would play with Mouse, I’d throw more toys. At lunch I’d eat and we’d go outside to play puppy soccer. I finished my work day the same way it started. I’d feed critters and start our dinner. When Greg got home we’d eat, he did dishes and I’d do odds and ends of things I needed to do. When we finally sat in the living room to watch TV and relax, Dakota would shove toys in Greg’s lap and he got to be playmate for the rest of the night. If Greg refused to play, Dakota would stuff toys under the sofa, behind the sofa or in the baseboard radiator fins (anywhere he knew toys weren’t supposed to be). Someone would get the toy out and be forced to play. He quickly caught on to this new game and played it any time someone refused to play with him.
The months passed and our (his) routine didn’t change. The only time we got a break is when he was in his crate to sleep. He was far more puppy than we expected, and exhaustion was setting in. A few evenings a week and sometimes on Saturday mornings I took Dakota to doggie playground to get some of the energy out. He’d race and wrestle with the other dogs. He was racing down the fence with another dog one day, apparently not paying attention until it was too late. He was going to crash into chairs. At the last minute he made a huge leap, right over the laps of two older ladies sitting in those chairs and kept right on going. Greg and I were stunned and couldn’t hold back our laughter. The ladies Dakota jumped over were stunned and horrified. I was laughing so hard I could barely apologize.
Somewhere around 6 or 7 months the squatting stopped and leg lifting started. Once the leg lifting started Dakota was suddenly un-housebroken. After all of these months I had to housebreak him again. One night we were eating dinner, Dakota went under the table and Greg got a very funny look on his face. After a few minutes he yelled that the damn dog just peed in his moccasin. I ran to the bathroom, closed the door and laughed my head off. I had to quickly regain my composure. I certainly couldn’t go back out laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.
Dakota learned him name and how to come as quickly as he learned everything else. The barn owner where we boarded had been telling us to bring him with us so we could stay longer. He was about 4 months old when we decided he could go to the barn. We got there and got him out of the truck. Charlie was there and told me to unhook the leash. I looked at Greg. We have to let him loose sometime. Let’s see how well he knows his name and comes. He stayed with us until he saw a barn cat. I called, he ignored me. I called again, he still ignored me. I ran over, grabbed his collar and took him back to where I was when I called him. He got the message for now. We had 2 or 3 more repeat performances before he started listening.
Dakota loved the barn and we took him every weekend. He’d play with the baby goats and calves from the other side of the fence. There were a few other dogs to play with and people. It didn’t take him long to learn how to con everyone into playing with him. I kept a few tennis balls in my tack box and gave them to him when we got there. Everybody he saw got a ball dropped in front of them. He also learned that barn cats didn’t make good playmates.
He was loose while we groomed and tacked up the horses then went into a clean stall or our trailer with water and toys until we finished riding. When we were finished riding we’d turn him loose while we finished up with the horses. He was a very good boy at the barn, but everything took twice as long when you’re watching a pup and trying to get things done. When we put the horses away we’d often take Dakota for a run in the hayfield. He’s run out in front and circle back to us. That was a hunting dog. He was instinctually pushing game back to us! When we were ready to go home, he was so dirty he’d get a bath with horse shampoo and hop in the truck. After 5-7 hours of playing he was exhausted ready to go home. After a 30-minute ride, he was ready to play again. One day Dakota heard a noise in the hay barn and went to investigate. He came flying out with mama chicken on his tail. She chased him at least 500’ and pecking him every chance she got. She was satisfied he was far enough away from her chicks and stopped. He added chickens to the list of not good playmates and avoided them at all cost.