Dakota, the loyal bichon frisé of former Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., whose presence on Capitol Hill led to his nickname the “101st senator,” died Wednesday from complications of lymphoma. He was 10 years old.
Adopted by Conrad and his wife, Lucy, from a shelter in 2009, Dakota became a fan favorite on Capitol Hill among members of Congress and staffers alike. Where Conrad went, Dakota followed, often eliciting excited shrieks from passers-by and friendly pats on the head from powerful senators. Conrad, who chaired the Budget Committee before retiring at the end of the 112th Congress, has said Dakota’s relaxed demeanor helped wash a sense of calm over his Senate colleagues during particularly heated debates.
And, before Conrad retired, he mentioned Dakota as the “mascot of the U.S. Senate” in his farewell floor speech in December.
“I think he will be missed perhaps more than I am as I leave the Senate,” Conrad said.
Diagnosed with lymphoma in September 2011, Dakota battled cancer for a year and a half.
For the past eight months he had been participating in a cancer research project at the University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center, Conrad told the Grand Forks Herald. The research project helped prolong the dog’s life and, according to Conrad, could help save lives in the future.
“He loved that dog, and the dog loved him back. We should all be so blessed to have a friend like Dakota,” Conrad’s former chief of staff, Sara Garland, told HOH.
— Neda Semnani contributed to this report.