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The Best of Dogs

As many of you already have heard, our darling Baxter is no longer with us, having died on Friday morning. Although I was known to often say, Baxter was the perfect dog, I now prefer how Tom put it in a text to us on that fateful day. "He was the best of dogs." Oh yes he was.

Over the years I took quite a few photographs of Baxter and I guess what this post is meant to do is to show him at his best. Somewhat like a slideshow that is now common at funerals. There were many adorable shots of him, but maybe none so much as this one taken in 2008.
Something happened on Thursday afternoon that reminded me of an incident regarding my mother. I can still remember it as clear as if it happened yesterday, although it was more than 13 years ago. For months she'd been having a litany of vague symptoms that the doctors seemed to either ignore or not understand. One day at work I said to Dr. Quinn, something is really wrong with my mother. After describing her symptoms, he asked me if she still had her ovaries, the answer to which I did not know. He said, if she did that I should bring her to the hospital immediately. Calling her I learned that indeed she did still have them, left in place during her hysterectomy. I told her I'd be coming to pick her up right away to bring her to the emergency room. And so I did. When we arrived, because the hospital was small at the time and I knew most of the folks working in the ER, they treated her like family. Everyone said things like you look so great, either to imply that she was not sick or make her feel as if she weren't. Either way, it was a welcome diversion. The outcome of that fateful visit was learning that she had Stage 4 ovarian cancer and within six months she was gone.
Thursday I stayed home with Baxter, watching him like a hawk. After a rainy morning, the sun finally broke through the clouds, and I took him down to the park, hoping he would finally do his business. He was surprisingly lively, looking cute as a button. People noticed and one woman even asked me if he were a puppy? I told her he was 14, although actually he was closer to 15 years old which in dog years is very, very old. All day, after multiple attempts to have him go outside, he did not feel like doing so. We went to bed as usual, although of late we've been shutting our bedroom door to keep from roaming around at night. Several nights prior he'd woken us up from his pacing around the room which I am now learning is a sign he might have been in pain. I explained to the vet on Wednesday that the only way I know how to describe his behavior of late was that he was agitated.

Bruce always said he was giving us a "doggie smile" when he looked like this:
About two or three weeks ago, Bruce admitted to me that he was hoping that one morning we would wake up and find Baxter had passed away in his sleep. Not that he wanted that to happen of course, but in our hearts we knew he was a diminished dog with the tumor in his groin making his back foot go sideways, poor eyesight due to cataracts, as well as poor hearing. We would call him and he would never even turn his head towards us. Neither bladder, and more recently bowel control. In hind sight, just as it was with my Mom, the clues were there, we just needed to be able to read them better.

I've always loved this photo of Baxter, taken in 2010, for loads of reasons, one of which is Bruce's Mom's little Coke wagon is in the shot.
Although he was never much of a walker, even when younger, he wore that harness, morning, noon and night. When he did like to walk, he prefferred the curb, something that amused Jonathan to no end, so much so that he once took a video of him doing so.
Around midnight Thursday, Baxter woke Bruce up with his pacing around the room, so he began putting his clothes on to take him downstairs except he was too late. It was the final clue we needed to know that we were making the right decision to put him out of his misery. After Bruce cleaned him up, he curled up on his bed and never budged until around 9 on Friday morning and only then to lift his head, look around, and curl right back up. I had called the vet's office and at first they said to bring him in at 2:00 to which I agreed. We were hoping to just have it all over immediately. Lo and behold, she called back within about ten minutes saying they'd had a cancelation for 11. Better. Bruce picked him up wrapped in his blanket and just sat with him on the couch. Never did Baxter even try to get down for water, he just stayed snuggled in Bruce's arms.

For so many years, while Bruce traveled extensively, as soon as Bruce's car would pull up in the driveway, Baxter would be at the door barking to be let out to greet him.
He was quite the barker for most of his life, alerting us to everyone who even came near our home. Since we've been here he's rarely barked, preferring to sleep if I think about it. He'd also get into things, especially open luggage or laundry piles. I have no idea how we managed to get those cabinets painted without him grabbing every tool on the floor!
Cuddling Baxter in his blanket, Bruce and I walked the eight or so blocks to the office, stopping along the way to pray for strength for us and kindness from the vet, both of which happened. Not that I wasn't sobbing so much that I could not watch, but Bruce held onto him till it was over (very, very quickly), the vet was kind and something else happened that was so special that I think all of you who loved Baxter from afar will appreciate.
When I began doing the market all those years ago, several people suggested that we bring Baxter  to entice people into my tent. After all, he was hard to resist. Although that advice sounded good, in reality, Baxter barked at everyone who came near the tent. It was a failed experiment, however, we did get asked so many times if he was really a Yorkie because his ears were floppy rather than shaved and pointy. As some of you know he was Bill's dog for the first two years of his life so we went to the source. Why are his ears not pointy Bill? Turns out, although they tried to make them go up, his ears were destined to remain floppy, resisting all efforts to make them do otherwise. One thing that he could and would do over the years, is raise those floppy ears when he was happy, or excited.

Out of our eyesight the vet had inserted a catheter and a sedative, bringing him back into the room still wrapped in his blanket. He lay on his side and just before the final injection he raised his one ear as if to wave goodbye. Perhaps he was thanking us? We don't know, but to the end, "he was the best of dogs."

yours truly,

Gail


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