Celebrating 40 Years of Amazing Animals: Dakota

Animals are not just our companions, they are our heroes – guarding our homes, working as service dogs, and even rescuing their families from burning buildings. As TVMF celebrates its 40th Anniversary, we want to take a moment to recognize some of the extraordinary animals that have been inducted into the Texas Animal Hall of Fame.

In this week’s edition, we’d like to honor TVMF’s Texas Animal Hall of Fame winner, a Golden Retriever named Dakota.

Inducted: March 2000
Owned by: Michael Lingenfelter
Nominated by Dr. Harold Krug

Dakota was found by representatives of the Greater Houston Golden Retriever Rescue Group, chained to a stake and near death from heartworm infestation and neglect. They rescued the dog and took it to a veterinarian for care. Dakota’s heart actually stopped beating temporarily before the dog was revived and started on a treatment program to clear him of the heartworms. In a remarkable story, straight out of the movies, Dakota survived, became a highly trained therapy dog and went on to save the life of his current owner, heart attack victim Michael Lingenfelter.

After being taken in by the rescue group, Dakota was entered into a special training program for therapy dogs, before being donated to Lingerfelter. At the time, Michael had given up on life. After two heart attacks and other major health problems, he couldn’t work, he couldn’t write his name, and he didn’t care.

But then, Dakota entered his life, performing therapy dog duties as part of Lingenfelter’s mental and physical rehabilitation. After just over a year, Dakota started saving Lingenfelter’s life. He developed the ability to detect when a certain enzyme is secreted by Lingenfelter’s body indicating an imminent heart attack. Dakota alerts Lingenfelter, reminding him to take his medication in time to avert major problems. Dakota has also alerted two of Lingenfelter’s co-workers, warning them of imminent heart problems.

Lingenfelter says Dakota’s enthusiasm, helpfulness, companionship, and ability to alert him to heart problems gave him the security and motivation to restart his career and become an active member of society again.

“Dakota gave me back my life,” Lingenfelter says. “I never thought angels came with brown eyes and a furry tail, but this one did.”