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Goodbye dear friend

February 23, 2010 10 comments

Baxter when we first brought him home

This month our little family faced yet another deep and difficult loss. Our precious dog, Baxter, passed away on February 18, 2010 at about 1:00 am. Words can’t explain the bond we felt with Baxter “BB”. He came into our life unexpectedly in June 2004. He had been abandoned by his owner and was being kept at my cousin’s house. They didn’t really have space for him and so we offered to bring him home. From that moment on, he was our first baby. I had never known immediate love before. I didn’t realize that it was even possible with anything other than your own children. But we did. We loved him deeply from the moment he came home. I remember he wandered off that first night and I was in tears. I was crying over a dog I had only known for about 5 hours. That was how instant it was. We got him home, cleaned him up, removed ticks, and fed him. We spent hours snuggled up with him. He was so sweet and easy to love. He burrowed his way into your heart and you just couldn’t let him go. He made an impact on everyone he met. I don’t know many dogs that have their own theme song, but our BB did.

Baxter the week we lost him

Baxter during the last week with us

We made it our mission to give him all he had missed in life and to make up for the pain he had suffered. He went with us hiking, canoeing, camping, traveling, shopping at Lowe’s, boating, and visiting family and friends. He LOVED to get dressed. He would prance around so proud. I think it was all the attention he received. He wandered off quite often… he loved to catch a scent, but always came home to us.

Baxter gave an immense amount of love and companionship. We joked that he was an equal opportunity lover. There will never be a dog like him. He was the best gift we could have hoped for. Several years ago, at a routine checkup we discovered he had a heart murmur. Over the next 4 years it progressed until the last year when it was as bad as it could get and he began coughing. The coughing turned to hacking and then to a distressed breathing. It was heartbreaking to watch our best friend deteriorate, especially when his mind and spirit were so strong and sharp. We don’t know for sure how old he was when we got him, but the vet guessed 5. So, he would be almost 11. Until the end he seemed so much younger than that. On the evening of the 17th we knew it had gotten bad. He had already had 2 bad days and a bad night and was now stressing to breath constantly. We called our vet at midnight and told her that this was it. We were not sure that he would make it through the night and we didn’t want him to go into distress. We knew it was coming, since she had told us a week ago that it was really up to us at this point as to when would be best, but we just didn’t expect it so soon. But we knew this was it. We met her at the office and spent an hour crying, sharing stories of him with her, snuggling with him and finally, saying goodbye. His weak heart only had 5 beats left in it and he was so peaceful. And in that moment our hearts were shattered.

Never would we replace Baxter. This was a truly special dog that had a place in our heart that will never belong to another. We cried and cried. On Friday, we brought home his ashes and felt some peace knowing he was home. More times than I count I would expect him to be there. Split seconds of forgetting he was gone. His loss has been unmeasurable.

So, a few days later, yesterday in fact, we did something we never thought we could or would do. We rescued another dog. Yes, less than a week later, we have invited a young puppy into our home and our family. We NEVER thought we would find ourselves here. We had wanted another dog many times, but always decided not to because Baxter needed to be an only dog. We were happy to make that sacrifice for him and his happiness. When the end of his life was nearing, we were in agreement that it would probably be a long time before we got another dog. Yet, here we are. How did we get here? How did we come to this decision for our family when we always felt it would only be proper and necessary to wait for a while after losing a pet?

Anyone that has lost someone very close to them will tell you that each day without them in the beginning feels like an eternity. And that has been so true. We have tried to just be open with our emotions. The first few days we cried as we shared stories and memories. We cried as we looked at his picture. But we started to realize something. We realized that we will be mourning him for a very long time. We realized that no dog will ever replace him. He has a place in our heart that will always belong to him. We realized that loving another animal doesn’t diminish him, doesn’t take away from him, but to us it honors him. It is a way to pay it forward. He gave us so much, we want to give to another dog.

We also realized how many dogs there are without homes that love them and commit to keeping them happy, healthy, and safe. It was heartbreaking. We realized that not everyone can rescue, but we can. So many insist on pure breeds for a number of reasons; always had a certain breed, wanting to “know what they are getting”, etc. But that isn’t true for us. When we started seeing this and realized this, it suddenly didn’t make sense any more for us to not give a dog a home as soon as we could. We will be mourning regardless, why not be loving and supporting a dog who needs us too? When someone has two dogs and one passes, they don’t stop loving the other dog. They mourn and learn and grow. There is enough love to go around. And that is what we learned. We are only limited by ourselves. We are capable of mourning and missing Baxter and wishing he were still with us at the same time that we learn about and love a new member of our family.

We never imagined ourselves here, but yet here we are. I am processing the loss of Baxter and remembering all the joy he brought, while Reagan is sleeping next to me. I think Baxter would be proud. He would be happy to know another dog has a chance at a home that will give him anything and take the time for him. And Baxter will always know his place in our hearts, we are confident that we did a wonderful job of loving him during his time with us.

Reagan on the way home

So, here is the new member of our family. Reagan Gold. He is a four month old Schnauzer, Yorkshire, Beagle mix. His mommy got pregnant unexpectedly and the owners surrendered the 3 pups. He was the last to go and we knew the moment we met him that he was meant to be a part of our family. Aaron is still sleeping with Baxter’s collar in his hands. I still cried as I wrote about Baxter. Our family has a lot of healing to do still. But we have also laughed and smiled many more times in the last two days. We have something positive to focus on if we feel stuck. And with all of the loss we have faced this year, Reagan is a gift for which we can’t even begin to say thank you enough.

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