Sunday, November 15, 2009

Farewell, Baxter

It has occurred to me that I have left a significant piece of information escape the blog. Baxter is no longer with us.

Before you mourn, know that she is most definitely in a better place. She is happily residing on a farm in Texas with a child-free retiree, likely chasing chickens and reveling her restored status of Queen Bee.

Here's how it all happened: a few months before Christmas last year, James was leaving for work. Ever since she was a puppy, Baxter had shared our bedroom and snored happily at my feet on my side of the bed. Towards the end of my pregnancy, however, mama needed her space and Baxter was banished from sleeping on the bed. Then along came Baby Liam and while Baxter was still allowed to sleep in our room, things were getting crowded.

Baxter was an excellent guard dog. I always felt safe at home by myself with her near - she never let anyone come to the door without a hearty welcome (whether Liam was sleeping or not...guests had to be announced, and loudly!) She also had a habit of "protecting" me in our bedroom after James left for work. When James would leave in the morning (VERY early), he would shut the bedroom door behind him and leave Baxter, Liam and I to sleep until the sun finally came up. If he should happen to forget something in the bedroom after Baxter had already settled herself in front of the door, well, that was just not all right with her! She'd snarl and bark and wake everyone up...but hey, she was just making sure her precious mama and baby were safe!

One fateful morning, James left his keys in the bedroom after he shut the door and came back in to get them. Baxter, as usual, prepared to protect her family and jumped to attention. James, ready for the barking, quickly bent down to shush her. It all happened so fast...all I remember was James bolting upright, holding his face and saying in shock, "She bit me!"

I jumped up and followed him to the bathroom and we assessed the damage...sure enough, Baxter had caught James right above his lip and it wasn't pretty. Not a huge "rush to the emergency room" kind of gash, but it definitely should have had stitches. He still has a scar.

Baxter was hiding under the bed and was very, very sorry. But the damage was done. What if that had been Liam in a year or so, coming into our room after a bad dream? The thought of having Baxter put down never entered our minds. She was a wonderful dog, it was an accident, and who could blame her for protecting her family?
A couple of days went by while we anguished over what to do. The obvious solution would be to find a new home for her without children (she was not a fan of anyone under 4 feet tall except Liam...I suppose she assumed they were a threat to her position in the pack). But who was going to want a 50-lb, 5 year old slobbering ball of wrinkles and muscle?

The answer came so quickly it could only have been planned above. A good friend of ours called (she didn't know of the incident) and asked out of the blue if we ever thought of finding a home for Baxter. Most of our friends knew we had some reservations about how Baxter would do with Liam as he grew, so this wasn't of line at all. Our friend had a co-worker who was looking for a trained English Bulldog as a companion for her mother on her farm in Texas. Within the week, they had come to meet Baxter, were informed of her protective nature, and decided it would be a good match. Arrangements were made to fly her to the ranch. Surprisingly, I was not that upset...babies outrank dogs in the family order any day, and NOTHING was going to hurt my baby if I could help it. I had always called Baxter my "practice baby", but nothing could have prepared me for how much I could love another person, and sadly, we bid Baxter farewell.

We received an update that Baxter was happy and loved watching the goats on the farm and sleeping at her new master's feet. Our bedroom is now much less crowded with Liam in his own room now, and no chainsaw-decibel bulldog sawing logs at my feet.

I still miss her, and I'm sad about how things happened, but I'm happy that she has a good home where she can be loved and bring someone else as much joy as she did for us.

Farewell, sweet friend.

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