February 10, 2022

A Bad Dog but A Good Boy.

Baxter was one of a kind. I say that with a wink and knowing smile, because I will be the first to admit he was not a very good dog. He bit people, screamed instead of barked, was stubborn as hell and ruined many, many a rug in his time. But he was such a good boy. He had a human quality to him, an understanding and ability to sense things most dogs didn’t. I swear he could read my mind. I’d silently hide his heartworm pill in a big piece of chicken in another room- feed him non-medicated pieces and then when I’d pick up the one with the pill in it he’d look at me, turn his head and RUN. It was uncanny. He also gave the very best hugs. Like, real hugs with his scrawny little legs wrapped around your neck.  He’d turn his head almost completely sideways if we told him he was going to Nana’s house (his favorite) and wag his tail and make these little monkey noises of happiness. So with the bad, was the good. As is with all of us.

Bax had pretty severe anxiety, and if anyone understood that it was me. He had his own Xanax prescription (that we had to have compounded into liquid, chicken flavor form because of the above mentioned ESP with pills). He hated going for walks, but loved a good party at the house. He didn’t want to be touched, unless he really wanted to be touched and then he wouldn’t get off your lap. He once ate an entire block of cheddar cheese off the coffee table, but also was literally a bag of bones covered in fur and could go days without touching his food (and yet once chewed a bottle of Ambien in HALF and ate two, resulting in a stomach pump). He loved me to death, but I also would have to wear oven mitts to get him out from under the bed to go to the vet, lest he rip my hands off. He was a dog of many contradictions.

He was also all about the DRAMA. And I get this too, as I too can have a flair for the…uh…. theatrical.  One time I couldn’t find him after coming home from running errands in our JP condo, and after looking for half an hour everywhere,  I called Andrew in tears and told him Baxter had been dognapped. He was absolutely NO WHERE in the condo. He was like, who would want to kidnap Baxter he’s such a punk? And I yelled ” He sits in the window all day and is SO HANDSOME! Of course someone would take him!” Andrew came home and after about an hour of looking I finally discovered him INSIDE a black suitcase under the guest bed, just chilling. I was both irate and relieved.  And then a couple summers ago he escaped from the yard and went on a 6 hour walkabout in Newton on a 95 degree day. Henry was a baby, and I was a mess- actually a bunch of followers in IG helped me find him and went out in their cars looking for him. I kept getting messages from people like “He’s by Pure Barre!” “He just ran through the five way intersection in the Center!” “He’s being chased by a cop down Hammond Pond Parkway!” . I was convinced he was a goner after several hours, but decided to put Henry in the stroller and go look one more time before dark and as I turned around from strapping Henry in, there was Baxter. Trotting up the driveway like nothing had happened. That dog literally drove me nuts.  We were certain Henry’s first words were going to be “Shut the f*ck up Baxter!” ;)

When I was pregnant with Henry I was legitimately worried I could never love a child as much as I loved Baxter and Oliver (even Oliver had a rough start when he joined the family as I had such a bond with Baxter).  And while I obviously learned that you CAN love children more than dogs, he WAS my first baby. The first thing to teach me about truly unconditional love and in a way prepared me for motherhood. He was there for me through lots of trials and tribulations with all my pregnancies- lied in bed with me while I cried and healed over losses, and learned to love (ok, perhaps simply tolerate) Henry and eventually Emma too.

The past 6 months he became a different dog though. He spent most of the day sleeping under the bed, he lost half his body weight, his liver and kidneys were failing, he was losing vision, acted very disoriented a lot and was in a diaper. But we just could NOT bring ourselves to put him down until this week. He just seemed miserable and lost. And while he was still eating and sometimes coming out to say hi, I knew he wasn’t happy. But nothing could have prepared me for the gut wrenching process yesterday. The sedative either made him feel really strange or he was dreaming, but he started crying so loudly as he laid there until they gave him his overdose. It was truly traumatic, a noise I will never forget. And it made us really sad and feel like he was scared. It wasn’t the way I had wanted his last moments to be. But I was holding his head and kissing him and telling him he was such a good boy and I loved him and I hope that’s all he heard.

Henry took the news incredibly well, I think the fact the Baxter was reclusive the past few months probably helped create some emotional distance. But just this morning when leaving for school he looked at the leashes in the mudroom and said “But Mommy, we still have two?” He’s also very concerned about Oliver and how much he’ll miss his brother. He’s such a sweet kid, and so emotionally intelligent.  Loss is such a hard lesson for us all and I’m so proud of him- and I’m proud of all of us for doing the hard but humane thing, and also for loving Baxter for so long (almost 15 years).  We all have our quirks, contradictions and difficulties, but that doesn’t make us any less lovable if we’re pure of heart. Baxter taught us that.  We are so grateful you were ours, Bubs- and we will miss you always.