Dakota Girl

By Casey Leger

Recently, we had to say “See You Later” to the best dog that I have ever been blessed to care for and call a companion. She was the fattest, fuzziest pup of the litter when I picked her, nearly 14 years ago. We’ve logged hundreds upon hundreds of hours sitting (sometimes snoring) in fields, boats, and duck blinds. She sat so willingly by my side on mornings and afternoons where there were quick limits of birds and also days of nothing but an empty thermos to bring home. Neither freezing, miserable, rainy days nor hot, muggy, mosquito days were a deterrent for her wagging tail and enthusiasm. Riding a boat to the camp in summer storms and winter fronts that we should have never been traveling through.  We shared countless Spam sandwiches and Powerade combos, along with boudin egg-rolls, Lougon’s cracklins, and other junk neither one of us should’ve been eating.  

She was a blonde missile and a duck nightmare; she was mean when she needed to be; she was loyal at all times to those she loved (and those with snacks). Knowing the years were stacking up on us, and with a baby on the way, I prayed that our daughter would get to meet and play with such an amazing animal.  When the day came that they did, they became fast friends, like they’d been pals all along.  

Lord knows the shells that have been shot over her, or the whistles blown to her, or the miles of marsh covered. She had the nose, drive, and heart of a champion. She was the first volunteer for a boat ride, a truck ride, or a camp trip (most often, all three). My permanent copilot to fish, crab, and work in the hunting off-season. She wasn’t much with a hammer and nails but she’d bust a snake or two if they got brave.  

I hope that dogs do go to Heaven. Or at the very least, their version of it. For Dakota, that’d be a couple hundred acres of marsh with a single duck blind. A pond with unending retrieves and forever limits of wounded birds that weren’t quite as fast as she was. Not a single scratch day, no boat breakdowns, and no gun jams. A camp with a shaded porch for snoozing and begging for BBQ. She’d have all of my wife’s slippers to chew at her leisure. She’d finally be back with her old hunting buddies: Maverick and Mossberg. 

I’ve known this day was inevitable and I’ve dreaded it for a while. Our bond was something I’ll always cherish and the dog shoes she leaves behind will be impossible to fill. It’s been a great run, old girl. I’d choose every time to have you by my side for 100 more years. Our pup, Dakota Girl, Pretty Girl, or KoKo/Kota as our daughter says. Take a break and rest; “dead-bird, girl, dead-bird.”