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Jessamine wolf-dog finds new home

Dakota, the wolf hybrid dog that made headlines in July when she took a 3-day-old infant from a crib and carried him into some woods, has been placed in a new but undisclosed location.

Michael Smith, Dakota's previous owner, declined to say where the dog was placed because he didn't want "media trucks and everybody pulling up" to the site. He said the new site is not a sanctuary but a private home. He would not say whether the adoptive home is inside or outside Kentucky.

"I was able to talk to them today," Michael Smith said. "In a brief 24-hour period, they said, Dakota has completely blended in. They said she's an absolutely wonderful dog, and they've really enjoyed her so far.

"She's around a bunch of other animals, and she's on a big area where she can run," he added. "It's just a pretty good environment for her. It just felt like it was the right fit."

Jenise Smith, director of the Jessamine County SAVE Center, the Nicholasville shelter for dogs and cats, also declined to disclose the new location.

"I can just say that she's left the shelter, and she's fine and starting a new chapter in her life," said Jenise Smith, no relation to Michael Smith.

A new posting Thursday on the SAVE Center's Web site said: "After a lengthy stay at the SAVE Center, Dakota has moved on to start the next chapter in her life. She has been moved to her new home.

"We heard from them today and they are thrilled with Dakota," the posting said. "She is doing very well and getting ready to enjoy a chicken dinner. Dakota has already discovered the pond at her new home and enjoyed splashing around to cool off."

"Although Dakota was quite an interesting guest, we are happy to see her move on to a loving and permanent home."

Dakota became the subject of nationwide TV coverage on July 20, when A.J. Smith had just been laid down for a nap at Michael and Chrissie Smith's home north of Nicholasville. The female wolf hybrid, who had a habit of taking objects from the house, took the baby from a crib and carried him outside before eventually setting the 3-day-old down in some woods behind the house.

The baby suffered a cracked skull, cracked ribs, a collapsed lung and a partially collapsed lung. After several days at University of Kentucky Hospital, A.J. returned home.

A.J. now weighs 9 pounds and is behaving as a normal baby, Michael Smith said.

"He has a pretty good-sized scar, about a 3-inch scar on the back of his head, but his hair has already grown over that. He's got a little 1-inch scar on his cheek, but really every day it looks thinner and lighter. Other than that, there's nothing visible on him."

Michael Smith said during a news conference July 21 at UK Hospital that he hoped Dakota could be adopted by another owner.

"Obviously, Dakota is not coming back into my house," Michael Smith said then. At that time, the dog was at the SAVE Center, and people from all over the country were calling the center seeking to adopt her.

"The hits to our Web site jumped to about 300 a day, which was a huge increase," said SAVE Director Jenise Smith. "It did give us a lot of attention that we would never have gotten. I mean there was one day that I had Inside Edition at the door."

Later, in mid-August, Jessamine County Attorney Brian Goettl and others said that Michael Smith indicated that he wanted the dog returned. That spawned a new round of interest in the case that has now been resolved with the dog's adoption.

Michael Smith acknowledged Thursday that he had "considered taking her back" because his wife and his two children from a previous marriage were attached to the 4-year-old Dakota.

"We'd gone through — it had to be 200 e-mails — and responded to a lot of e-mails as people wanted Dakota. After we got down and shook everything out, we just thought it was best to place her where she is right now," Michael Smith said.

Michael and Chrissie Smith still have Dakota's sister and a black Labrador.

"It's a completely different house. Dakota was the leader of the pack, so the other two dogs are much more mellow," Michael Smith said.

Michael Smith said he has taken security measures such as deadbolts and new doorknobs in place that he had hoped to install on the day A.J. was taken from crib.

"We replaced the doorknobs on the doors so that they're round" and so that Nikita, Dakota's sister, can't grasp and turn them. The doors previously had lever handles instead of knobs.

In the meantime, Jenise Smith hopes residents will check out about 80 dogs and nearly 100 cats still available for adoption at the SAVE Center, located near City-County Park in south Nicholasville.

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