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Published February 24, 2013, 11:28 PM

Former Sen. Conrad mourns passing of dog Dakota

WASHINGTON – Former North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad is mourning the death of Dakota, his beloved dog and best friend.

By: Sam Benshoof, INFORUM, Sam Benshoof, INFORUM

WASHINGTON – Former North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad is mourning the death of Dakota, his beloved dog and best friend.

Reached from his Washington home on Sunday night, Conrad said the bichon frise died last Wednesday afternoon due to complications from lymphoma.

Dakota was diagnosed with the disease in September 2011.

“He fought it successfully for a year and a half,” Conrad said. “He was a fighter.”

Conrad and his wife, Lucy, adopted Dakota in spring 2009 from a rescue shelter in Maryland. Conrad guessed that Dakota was about 10 years old when he died, but he wasn’t sure.

During Conrad’s time on Capitol Hill, Dakota became very popular among lawmakers, reporters and staffers, even being dubbed the “101st senator” by NBC’s Brian Williams.

“He went to work with me every day,” Conrad said. “People just took to him. To have an animal in that setting, it warmed people up. It made them feel more at home.”

Conrad also recalled how Dakota had a particularly calm disposition, and how other politicians took note.

“In some of our (budget) negotiations, colleagues would call and ask if I could bring Dakota,” Conrad said. “He calmed everyone down.”

Over the past eight months, Conrad and Dakota had flown four times to Houston, where the dog was participating in a T-cell cancer research project with the University of Texas’s M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

“He was part of experiments that are very important, that they think could help save many people’s lives,” Conrad said. “He was part of something that hopefully will help people.”

And for a time, it seemed as if the treatments were helping with Dakota’s condition.

“They called him the wonder dog at the hospital,” Conrad said. “The doctors were amazed at how well he reacted.”

But then the cancer returned last week, and Conrad was informed that Dakota probably only had a few days left.

Conrad called Dakota’s death “a big loss,” adding that the dog was “the most faithful companion you could have.”

What he’ll remember most about his pet and friend, Conrad said, was Dakota’s ability to cheer up even a complete stranger on the street.

“He was such a jaunty, confident and happy little dog,” Conrad said. “And he was cute – he just put a smile on people’s faces. And so that’s how I’ll remember him.”

“He improved people’s days,” he added. “He certainly improved mine.”

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