Dakota, the fluffy dog who became a Washington fixture as he attended congressional meetings and trotted alongside former U.S. Sen. Ken Conrad around Capitol Hill, has died.
Conrad was rarely seen without his bichon frise, who accompanied him down the halls at the Capitol, at meetings and at campaign events during the North Dakota senator's final years in office. The white, curly haired pooch even earned a national spotlight when dubbed the "101st senator" by NBC's Brian Williams, who did a segment on the rescue dog adopted by Conrad and his wife.
Conrad said Monday that Dakota died last week due to complications of lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system. "He was a great little guy and I'll miss him forever," a clearly heartbroken Conrad said.
"He went to work with me every day and had lots of fans," Conrad said, adding that the dog became the Senate's unofficial mascot and a bit of a celebrity. "He brought smiles to people's faces."
Dakota had been abandoned and was wandering the streets of southern Maryland in the winter before he was adopted four years ago by the senator and his wife, Major League Baseball lobbyist Lucy Calautti. The dog was about 6 years old.
Dakota couldn't be with Conrad on the Senate floor, which is off-limits to pets. But the charismatic canine was with him most everywhere else. Calautti noted the little dog had a calming effect on "the senators who always seemed to be fighting each other over this and that."
Dakota had undergone chemotherapy and traveled several times to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, where he was participating in cancer research aimed at humans but used dogs for testing.
"They think that this research is going to ultimately save millions of people," Conrad noted. "Hopefully, Dakota contributed to mankind by being part of this."