Today we said farewell to one of our five canine companions.
Although he was small, Baxter occupied a big space in Cloud 9. And in our hearts.
Unlike our other dogs, Baxter had a bed of his own that took up floor space under the table. We thought it was a better alternative to him jumping onto the floor from the U-shaped dinette, where the other dogs tend to sprawl out. As Baxter got older, his joints just couldn’t take the impact of the jump.
Now, after eight years of traveling with him in close quarters to places far and wide, our camping life is quieter, emptier. He was always excited to go on an adventure. As he drifted away from us in a small room at the animal hospital, Jon whispered to him, “It’s time for your next adventure, old boy; it’s time for you to run free.”
Baxter came to us 16 years ago, after Cliff’s niece Erin saw him running free in College Station. She posted flyers around the neighborhood, but no one claimed him. So, with Cliff’s sister Teresa serving as intermediary, we made arrangements to meet Baxter halfway between Dallas and Houston, at a gas station in Centerville, to pick him up and welcome him to our pack. At that time, the pack consisted of Buddy, Gunny, and Teacup.
Although we appreciate the sentiment behind the popular “Rainbow Bridge,” we actually do find comfort in imagining that Baxter has somehow rejoined his original pack, now gone from us, across the rainbow bridge. It is fitting, perhaps, that he passed in the month of rainbows.
Over the next decade, Baxter would make room for Ranger, Bella, Maya, and Duke. Through it all, he remained fiercely independent. Yet he never lost the urge to bolt through the gate or pull at the leash so he could run free. The sight of two middle-age guys running up and down the street calling his name, or driving through the neighborhood hoping to discover the little escape artist on the lam, was something friends and neighbors had come to expect.
As he grew older, he developed a cantankerous “get off my lawn” attitude that put the other dogs in their place. Whether Baxter was sitting next to Jon in the Airstream for hours on end or on his lap at home, wherever he settled was his “lawn,” and no one else could come near.
He loved the sensation of warmth on his bare belly, so he would often lay on the backyard’s sun-drenched pea gravel or the driveway’s hot concrete until one of us had to save him from himself and bring him inside to cool off.
During his last days, we caressed him and held him in an attempt to comfort him, but we knew the end was near. Despite his obvious pain and discomfort, Baxter still managed to take one last long walk with the other dogs around the entire camping loop.
Today, as we drove to the animal hospital, he found comfort in Cliff’s arms. Then, in his final moments, he refused to close his eyes, choosing instead to pass from this life while gazing at his daddies, laying in the little bed we had gotten just for him.
A poem by an unknown author captures our thoughts about Baxter.
They Will Not Go Quietly
They will not go quietly,
the pets who’ve shared our lives.
In subtle ways they let us know
their spirit still survives.
Old habits still can make us think
we hear them at the door
Or step back when we drop
a tasty morsel on the floor.
Our feet still go around the place
the food dish used to be,
And, sometimes, coming home at night,
we miss them terribly.
And although time may bring new friends
and a new food dish to fill,
That one place in our hearts
belongs to them…
and always will.
There is a place in our hearts that belongs to our beloved Baxter, and always will.
Farewell, old boy.