Meet Dakota

Meet Dakota2023-03-06T17:38:32+00:00

Meet Dakota! Dakota came to North Shore Animal League America on a rescue transport from Georgia. At our Pet Health centers, she was immediately diagnosed with pneumonia and spent her first month under the watchful care of our veterinary staff. It was during this time that we found Dakota to be fearful when approached and handled. She was also observed to have issues with balance and gait. These observations prompted an extensive neurological exam.

An MRI revealed a birth defect in her brain known as Dandy-Walker syndrome ─ part of her cerebellum did not develop and she has decreased grey matter. Dakota was then put on behavior medicines and her foster family initiated desensitization and counter conditioning programs to alleviate the issues stemming from her condition. Dakota’s foster family also has taught her how to “say hi” to new people, to “walk away” from things that scare her, and many other skills.

While her condition may seem daunting, Dakota enjoys a life in a home with other dogs and is surely loved by her foster family as well as her Animal League America family. All because of her Sponsors, thank you!

March 2023

Dakota is really taking to the training the mom Dana is working on with her, and even listened to her cue of “walk away” while in pursuit of a rabbit. Impressive! “Our bond is truly special,” said Dana. “She has taught me so much. I am so grateful that I’ve been able to give her a safe and enriched home life.”

November 2022

Dakota is doing well, and lately happiest when she is chasing something. Though her preference is to run after tennis balls, she has also discovered the joy of keeping backyard bunnies hopping! “She can’t catch them, but she tries,” said mom Dana. “She’ll come running back to me after the chase every time, and I reward her with treats for doing so.” Her canine sister, Lucille, is a favorite and constant companion, and they certainly make a dynamic duo.

June 2022

Dakota has the wonderful benefit of having a mom who will go the extra mile. When Dakota started having more frequent barking episodes, Dana started to do some investigative work and began experimenting with enrichment activities that might help. “I first tried some scent work, fetch, and longer periods of time just exploring our wooded property,” Dana said. “Adding just 10 minutes of play 2-3 times a day reduced her barking drastically.” We are so thankful for Dana’s efforts to keep Dakota healthy and happy.

March 2022

Dakota recently moved with her family to a home with a larger property, which suits her incredibly well. “She is having a blast having so many new places to explore,” said her mom, Dana. “Dakota is particularly crazy about leaf piles!” A favorite game is one where Dakota has to find a tennis ball or treat in a leaf pile and will happily burrow to retrieve the surprise. Thankfully her health is stable and she is able to frolic with her family to her heart’s content.

November 2021

This adventurer loves the outdoors and is ready for a long walk whenever her family is! Despite the challenges Dakota has to her mobility, she can keep up with her pack, which includes her beloved canine sisters, Lucy and Martha. Nature walks have given her added confidence as she explores all the sights, sounds, and smells along the way. Dakota has never minded getting dirty and the woods provide lots of opportunities to roll around! Her family is so grateful to have Dakota as part of their home and they deeply appreciate the support from all of her caring Sponsors.

July 2021

Dakota’s mom is pleased to report that Dakota continues to thrive despite the challenges of her condition. Dakota suffers from Dandy Walker Syndrome which can affect gait and balance. Thankfully, her family is undeterred in making her feel right at home, and they have also helped her overcome and regulate her fear and anxiety. In the warmer weather, Dakota is thoroughly enjoying going on trips in the car and being outside. With a particular affinity for tennis balls, Dakota is not afraid to get messy and will dig holes for them in the dirt!

March 2021

Dakota’s mom, Dana, says that she is “so grateful for her and so happy with the progress that she has made.” Dakota now enjoys a massage and even petting more often in certain situations. The Dandy Walker Syndrome she is diagnosed with means that she is missing a piece of her cerebellum, which causes her gait and balance issues. Dakota also has decreased grey matter in her pre-frontal cortex, which contributes to her difficulties processing information and her fear. That’s why her special room at home, her sanctuary, is so important for her. She has several different food dispensing items including an interactive treat toy and a Lickimat. The act of licking releases endorphins and serotonin, which regulate anxiety and helps a dog like Dakota feel calmer and less anxious. There is nothing her family won’t do for her to make her feel more comfortable in her home.

November 2020

Dakota’s mom, Dana, says she is doing much better going out on walks around the neighborhood. Dakota is now less anxious and distracted by her environment; she’s turning around and sitting in front of mom when cued to do so, and she’s more focused. Dakota’s medications continue to help her. During the height of the pandemic, Dakota was due for her vaccinations and heartworm test at Animal League America’s Pet Health Centers. Other clients were asked to stay in their cars while the veterinary technicians would take the animals inside to see the doctors. However, because Dakota has special needs and they didn’t want to cause her even more stress, one of the veterinarians was able to see her outdoors so that Dana could be there with her. Otherwise, the pandemic hasn’t affected Dakota too much, other than the fact that her dad is around much more and she appears to have bonded more with him during this time. Dakota still has her special room to which she can retreat when she feels overwhelmed and it offers her tons of enrichment activities designed just for her.

July 2020

Dakota is in a really good place right now — both behaviorally and medically. When Dakota’s not hanging out with mom Dana, her dad, and canine siblings, she has her very own room called “Dakota’s Sanctuary.” Dana uses the room for this special dog’s feeding time and for resting at night. To make it enriching, she has several different interactive treat-dispensing toys and a lick mat. The toys make Dakota use her brain to problem solve and figure out how to manipulate them to get her food. She also has a lick mat that’s filled with dollops of yummy foods as licking behavior is relaxing for a dog. The floor mats help keep her hind legs from slipping out from under her when she gets up or stretches and when her paws knuckle under due to her underdeveloped brain. All of this enrichment, plus her daily training exercises, help to stimulate Dakota’s ability to problem solve, her memory capacity, and her ability to relax.

March 2020

Dakota is comfortable in her home with mom, Dana, and her four furry canine siblings (Martha, Willy, Lucille, and Helen). Her veterinarian at Animal League America recently changed one of her medications to address the hip pain that is related to her awkward gait and balance issues. The gait and balance issues stem from the fact that she is missing a piece of her cerebellum possibly due to her illness, Dandy-Walker Syndrome. Dakota’s family has been with her every step of the way on her journey to better health. They’ve helped her adjust to medication and took on the task of desensitizing and counter-conditioning her to combat her fears. Dakota’s favorite activity is digging holes in the backyard. She runs to one particular hole, pounces into it with her front paws, and flings dirt out behind her. “Her physical and psychological infirmities melt away in these moments. She is not the dog who freezes in fear, she is not the dog with the awkward gait,” said Dana. “She is transformed by the joy of digging. This is her bliss.” The Pet Sponsorship Program makes it all possible for Dakota. Thank you!