Baxter the Redeemer – Part 2
I decided to hell with being socially conscious—I would buy a puppy! I would again go through the joys and trials of raising a puppy. And if this dog developed problems or psychotic issues, they would at least be MY problems and most likely related to MY psychosis and weirdness. I was tired of dealing with secondhand dog problems. But what kind did I want? After vet fees for Petey, and application fees for Fred and several other possible dogs, my doggy fund was no longer flush.
Foster kids always hung out in my agency office, so I asked several to research various breeds and designer breeds—dogs where they purposely combine two breed types to get the best traits. One of the kids discovered a mix called a Cavachon, a combination of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Bichon.
It clicked. I owned a Bichon when my daughters were young and, later, my older daughter bought a Cavalier when she started graduate school. That would be a nice combination. Sweet-tempered, patient, fairly smart, smallish, non-shedding and flexible. One night, I searched online for Cavachons and there, staring me in the eye as if to say, “You’re mine, come get me,” was a three-month old puppy, price reduced, living in Iowa. The pup was white with several light splotches of spaniel brown, had soft eyes and the cutest face you’ve ever seen, bar none. I called. He was still available and he was healthy. I had only to answer a few questions and was informed no sweet rescue dog ladies would come to check my toilet seat!
Baxter, somehow that name jumped into my head the first time I viewed his photo, and I met on a bright, chilly March Saturday in Davenport, Iowa, about one hundred and fifty miles west of our home near Joliet, Illinois. He was a sweet ball of white fur with no idea what to do on the leash I brought for him. I placed him on a towel on the passenger seat to ride. As I started the car, he quickly scrambled across me and tucked himself into the crook of my left arm. He somehow implied that I was expected to drive using my right arm. I was thrilled. He snuggled in and we started to bond. Then we truly bonded when I felt his stomach start to spasm.
At seventy-five miles per hour, on I-80, somewhere in western Illinois, I managed to grab the towel just in time for my sweet ball of fur to barf! Must be nerves, I thought, throwing the towel onto the floor, then trying to ignore the smell, which evidentially didn’t bother him as he promptly fell asleep and stayed that way until we pulled into the driveway.
At first, Baxter chewed, peed and pooped in inappropriate places. But, as the Bible says, “this too shall pass” and it did. Cheryl tried to remain aloof from Baxter and in front of me referred to him as, “That damn dog of yours.” However, when entering the house, I usually found him on the couch lying tightly against Cheryl with Barney on her other side, just as close. She’d fume, “You know what that damn dog of yours did while you were gone?” Then she’d tell me her complaint, as if it was the worst thing in the world a dog could do.
I tried to keep a straight face as I apologized for Baxter’s latest infraction, then watched as she’d jump up from the couch, saying, “Come on Barney, come on Baxter, it’s time to go outside. Be good boys now and I’ll give you a treat when you come in.”
That damn dog of mine.
The foster kids loved him and he loved them. He and I spent most of our afternoons and evenings in the activity center where my office was. The kids would race around with him, or beg for the special privilege of taking him out on his leash. Other times, they sat on the couch or the floor to pet him, read to him, or hug him quietly as they sat alone in their thoughts. He acted so well with the kids, the clinical staff referred to him as the agency’s “unofficial” therapy dog. When he tired of the noise or too much attention he retreated to his cage under my desk; until the toddlers excitedly crawled in after him and interrupted his peaceful nap.
Baxter was by my side for over nine and a half years, through the mauling of a crawling, toddling grandchild, a divorce, retirement, moving twice, a new relationship and more grandchildren. He traveled through twelve states in my little motor home, as the two of us lived on the road for weeks at a time.
When out walking, Baxter approached nearly everyone, expecting their attention. He would stop and wait when kids come by; after all, they were supposed to pet him, weren’t they? In the neighborhoods I lived in, people knew me as the man walking the cute white dog. Usually, they remembered his name—not mine. He rarely barked outside, but inside, when he did, it was usually at dogs or animals he saw on television. Baxter died in my arms from a heart defect undetected until two days before his last breath. He went quickly, sweetly and with no pain.
Baxter…My redeemer from those sick dogs, nosy rescue ladies, and loneliness.
Final note: No! We’re not looking to replace Baxter, though watching the national dog show on Thanksgiving Day was fun. I guess dreaming one day a year is okay…