We found "Dakota" living in the parking lot outside the Holiday Inn in Spearfish, South Dakota in October '00. We stuffed this homeless, lean, long-legged, forlorn, desperately in love and very hungry cat into a kitty carrier and put up with non-stop yowling for 20 hours of driving over the next two days, until we reached Chicago

Dakota loves hamsters ... on rye

Neil's beard gets a washing.

This cat had no respect for weatherization.

The stairs have become a soccer field


And then after weeks of too much meowing and yowling came the fateful day ...

Cat gets unexpected
sex change operation

Some news has a way of turning a worldview on its ear, of making one doubt her bearings, forcing her to re-examine everything she ever knew to be true.

My husband and I unintentionally turned our home into a zoo this year, giving shelter to one stray cat, picked up outside a hotel in Spear Fish, South Dakota during our vacation in October. We aptly named her "Dakota." Later, we took in a she hamster. We call her Itty.

Itty lives in a cage and never goes out on the town. Dakota never ceases to work on a jailbreak.

Being responsible pet owners we decided to get Dakota spayed. Being thrifty, we waited for February, the month of love, when because of a county-wide program, you can get a deal at the vets on spaying or neutering your cat or dog.

We took her in a week before so the vet could be sure she was healthy and up to the surgery. Then the operation day came. We starved the poor baby, denying her food and water from midnight on. I wrestled her into her carrier in the morning, apologized profusely to the cab driver when she meowed all the way to the vets, and slinked away like the traitor I was when I abandoned her at the animal hospital where the possibility of any little Dakotas would be forever ended.

I did get a phone message that morning that my vet was worried about two masses near my cat's mammary glands. She wanted to send those for a biopsy because breast cancer is something even girl cats have to worry about.

I didn't get the message in time so the vet went into surgery without hearing from me. At the appointed time, I called to make sure my cat had come out of her operation OK. The nurse summoned the vet.

"There's something unusual about your cat," she said. "She's a neutered male."

Excuse me?

Yes, Miss Dakota is a Mister. My vet said she had heard of such occurrences but never dreamed it would happen to her. She and two other doctors fished around in Dakota's innards for a while in a futile search for her uterus. Dakota having already a different vet at another hospital on a number of occasions, it didn't seem possible but they decided to check for the obvious.

It certainly wasn't obvious, but it was true. Dakota belongs to the other team.

Ah, but there was more. The worrisome tumors? Not breast cancer, but two shot gun pellets. Apparently, Dakota made out better than Wild Bill Hicock did in Deadwood. He's a true son of the Wild West.

I thought I had a sour-faced over-sized female cat that acted like a dog catching bouncing balls on the stairway. I'm learning not to call herů.um, him, "Beauty girl," and "the Princess," now that I know he is a sour-faced normal-sized male who acts like a dog and plays stairway soccer.

Dakota and his balls.