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Goodbye to Baxter, a Loving Dog

It’s said that a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child. Because Son and Daughter 2 (aka Daughter-in-law) and their three children said goodbye to Baxter, their 13-year-old Boxer, I’m sad. Baxter was family. My Grand, four year-old Neil would say, “There are four boys at our house. Me, Daniel, Daddy and Baxter.”

When Husband and I visited Son and Daughter 2’s home, Baxter welcomed us first. I braced myself for his full-force hug as he leaned against my legs. When I sat down, Baxter lay his head in my lap, his tongue licking my hands, my arms. It took a while for me to learn to say sternly, “Baxter, go away,” as Son suggested. That sounded cruel. Surely he’d understand, “Baxter, I love you, too and you are such a good dog and I’ll throw a ball with you later, but right now I want to hug my Grands.”

These three Grands, ages 6, 4, and 2, have only known life with Baxter. He’d be asleep, even snoring, on his mat in the corner of the family room and one of them would pet him or sit beside him or lay face to face with him. When Baxter awoke, he’d lie still or stand and walk to another room, another mat, or his crate. I wondered if he hid in his crate for peace and quiet.

Although all three Grands loved Baxter, two-year-old Ann turned to him for comfort. When we visited recently, Ann was unhappy that she couldn’t do what she wanted. She ran across the room and said, “I need my Baxter!” Baxter, sound asleep, didn’t flinch when Ann slung herself across his body.

It’s Daughter 2 I’m saddest for. Baxter was given to her as a young pup and he kept her company, especially when Son travelled on overnight business trips. She wrote the following tribute.

Baxter — my sweet, people-loving furry boy. My baby before I had a real baby.
He was a leaner, a licker, and a lover. As long as he was getting loved on, he was happy (even at the vet). You could see it in his short, wagging tail and feel it as his entire body weight leaned against your legs, and he licked whatever he could reach.
His ears were velvety soft, and he had a small white spot on the back of his neck. He had one black toenail, and his paws smelled a bit like corn chips. (One learns these things when an 85-pound furry boy shares your bed, occasionally). He loved peanut butter and would eat almost anything, including small stinky socks.
He lived a long, happy life. I’m grateful to have had him by my side for so long – in four different states and numerous homes, along for the ride in life’s big and small moments. His absence has left an almost tangible void in our house.

So Son, Daughter 2, and Grands, know that others are sad with you. Baxter was one loving dog.



Overnight with Grands

searchSon asked, “Think you and Dad could handle our three for 24 hours?” Translation: Will you stay overnight at our house with our three children?

            “Yes, we’ll be glad to!” I said. We grandparents are happy to have Grands to ourselves. So Son and Daughter-in-Law planned a one-night, mini vacation. The main concern for Husband and me was we don’t know our Grands’, ages 1, 3, and 5, routines and likes and dislikes since Son’s family lives 1,000 miles away and we don’t see them as often as we wish.

Thankfully, their mother wrote good notes. Snacks: apples cut in slices. (Peeled for Dean. Unpeeled for Neil.) Strawberries and white cheese sticks. (Whole for Dean and Neil. Small pieces for Anne.) Details for meals, rest and bedtime routines, phone numbers, even a letter giving Husband and me authorization for medical care. Our Grands’ parents thought of everything. Well, almost.

The only mention of Baxter, their ten-year-old, ninety-pound boxer, was about his food. About 5:30 p.m. – 1½ scoops. Morning – 2 scoops. Baxter knows Husband and me well. Before the Grands were born, he was first to welcome us. Baxter still hangs his head over our laps when we sit down, and he brings us his raggedy Oscar the Grouch stuffed toy to throw. We know when he stands by an outside door he needs a potty break and where he sleeps.

Baxter is a well behaved, loving dog and practically cares for himself, but that night he didn’t understand the plan. So we’d be close to our Grands during the night, their parents insisted we sleep in their bed. At bedtime, I awoke Baxter from his nap on his blanket in the den. He stumbled, half-asleep, out the backdoor and drank water after he came inside. Husband called for him to follow us upstairs to our one-night bedroom and his every-night room. He turned his head from side-to-side before slowly going up the steps.

“Get on your bed, Baxter,” Husband said. I closed the bedroom door. Baxter stood next to his bed on the floor and then walked around the bedroom. “Maybe he can sleep in his crate tonight,” I suggested. He refused to go into his crate in another room and followed Husband back to the bedroom. “Let’s get in bed and maybe he’ll get on his bed,” I said. Baxter stared at Husband and me as if to say, “You shouldn’t be here.” We didn’t leave and finally Baxter lay down.

Whew, everyone in bed. I prayed that all slept through the night. And everyone did, except Husband and me. Baxter’s snoring and scratching and thumping against the wall were sounds we weren’t use to.

When our Grands’ parents came home, Husband and I reported that we had fun and all went well. Just as planned. The children ate well, played happily, sat in our laps for bedtime reading, brushed their teeth, and went to bed just a little later than their normal time. And I rocked one-year-old Anne longer than usual at bedtime. Everyone ate a good breakfast: fruit and yogurt.

Later, I told Son that Baxter didn’t go to bed as expected and woke us during the night. “Oh, yeah,” Son said, “We don’t always keep him in our bedroom with the door closed anymore. He makes a lot of noise. Maybe we should’ve told you it’s fine for Baxter to sleep on his bed in the den.”

Yes, maybe. But Baxter’s nighttime noises were my excuse for an afternoon nap. Why else would I have been so tired?