Lessons from Baxter the Wonder Dog

Morning light creeps into my bedroom, and the first sound I listen for is the flap-flap-flapping of Baxter’s ears as he shakes them out.  Then he does a perfect adho mukha svanasana (downward-facing dog) followed by urdhva mukha svanasana (upward-facing dog).  He is a better yogi than I, as he practices these two asanas several times a day.  When he is certain that I’m awake, he begins the ‘breakfast dance,’ which consists of a lot of tail wagging, prancing, spinning, and cattle herding movements designed to communicate that I must get to the kitchen and feed him now.  So begins another day in the life, and I’m grateful for every single one I get to spend with this wonderful canine.

Baxter the Wonder Dog

I adopted Bax four years ago after seeing his profile on Petfinder.com.  I must have scrolled through a hundred pics of homeless dogs, but I kept going back to this adorable Brittany Spaniel/Cattle Dog mix with funny ears–one stands up and the other flops down.  Really, who could resist that?  I got in touch with his rescue organization, Mostly Mutts, and they brought him to an adoption event so I could meet him.  All of the dogs were barking and seemed overly excited or stressed…except for Bax.  He was rather calm and composed, but his eyes clearly said, “Get me out of here.”

I spent some time with him, walked him around a bit, and decided that yes, he was coming home with me for good.  He was long past the puppy stage and already knew how to sit, lie down, and stay, and he was house trained.  Being a new and naieve dog owner, I thought most of my work had already been done.  Had I researched spaniels at all, I would have learned that they are one of the most sensitive breeds.  Their docile, trusting nature makes them feel everything quite intensely, and it soon became obvious that I had a depressed dog on my hands.  Having lost his original home somehow, he had been shuffled from a shelter to a rescue group to a foster family and now to me…all in the space of two months.  Losing one’s foundation and security in the world tends to affect the root chakra in both humans and dogs.  His digestion wasn’t ideal, and I sensed that he had a wheat allergy.  I switched him to a grain-free food, and he began to put on weight and grow a healthier coat.  I was pleased with his physical improvement, but he still seemed to be in deep mourning.  Having lived through short bouts of depression myself, I knew that he needed to find himself again and remember the joy of being a dog.  I had no idea how long that would take, but I was committed to seeing this through.

So I provided consistency and routine–meals at the same time every day, exercise, comfort, and a promise that I wasn’t going to leave him.  After a month of working with him and wondering if he would ever come around, he greeted me one afternoon with his Kong toy in his mouth as though he had always done this.  I threw the toy, he fetched, and I was speechless.  It was the first time he had shown any interest in playing, and I was overjoyed that he had finally healed from his physical and emotional trauma.  He was going to give it one last shot, and I was determined to make it count.  I had never been needed as much by anyone or anything in my life.  Taking care of this four-footed, brown and white-furred being really changed my priorities and my outlook on many things.  For starters, my time wasn’t entirely my own anymore.  I had to weave my own activities in between Bax’s feeding and walking schedule, which is still the case.  He needed playtime with other dogs and spaces where he could sniff and follow trails to his heart‘s content, which I still provide as much as possible.  He has been with me through two moves–one that was across town and another that spanned 273 miles.  He even gained a pack member when I finally settled down with the right guy–one who grew to love him as much as I do.

I often say that Bax and I rescued each other, and there is much truth in that statement.  What I did for him seems very small in comparison to what he has given me and what he continues to teach me on a daily basis.  Here are just a few of those lessons:

  • Sniff the wind and be alert to changes.
  • Bask in the sun.
  • Follow interesting trails–you never know where they might lead.
  • Roll around on your back and act silly once in a while.
  • When someone you love returns home, greet them as though they’ve been gone for years…even if it has just been 15 minutes.
  • Accept affection when it’s offered.
  • Approach new people and situations with an open heart and mind, no matter how much you’ve been hurt before.
  • Sometimes it takes a while to find the right home with people who really love you, so don’t give up.
  • Take naps.
  • Play as often as often as you can.
  • Love deeply, forgive easily, and sleep soundly.

Woof! and Blessed Be

Baxter crossed over the rainbow bridge on July 15, 2017 from a hermangiosarcoma (heart tumor). He was about 14 years old. I know his gentle spirit is still with me, and I’m grateful every day that he picked me to be his human. 

2 thoughts on “Lessons from Baxter the Wonder Dog”

  1. Bravo! I couldn’t have put it better. They are amazing teachers and friends. I am so happy you are able to share that kind of love as there is no other like it. I have a magnet on my fridge that reads, “The only thing I want in life is to be the person my dog thinks I am”. He is my best friend, my love bug, my “Pooper”.

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