Rest in peace, furry little friend
He was my husband's dog for years before I entered the picture. My husband used to walk dogs at the Humane Society on weekends, and after walking lab after lab, he met this 25 pound mutt with big ears. He loved him right away and adopted him.
I, however, did NOT love Baxter right away. As I've mentioned many times, hubs travels extensively for work. That means that Baxter didn't have a consistent care giver, which means he didn't have consistent discipline. When hubs would be home on weekends, he would spoil him rotten to make up for the time away. This doesn't make for the most well behaved dog, right?
We didn't live together until after we got engaged and he got transferred to Texas for work. My plan was to stay in Minneapolis through the end of my lease before joining hubs down in Texas, but it was a particularly awful winter so after one conversation with hubs, one call to my landlord, and a two week notice at work, I was en route to Texas! I had both Baxter and Otis in the back seat of my very crammed little Audi A4. It took less than a week to realize Baxter needed some boundaries set if we were going to get along.
"Hey, so it's pouring out and Baxter doesn't seem to want to pee. What should I do?" I asked hubs while he was away on one of his many business trips. "Oh, just walk him until he goes. He'll go eventually!" "Um, sweetheart, did you hear it's pouring out? I'm not walking him until he "goes" he needs to learn to pee, pronto!" See, I had trained Otis to immediately recognize water. He'd step his paw out, look at me with a "oh hell no" face and lift his leg on the nearest bush. Baxter would have to get on board with this plan, too.
It was a rocky first few months together. I didn't think I had signed up for dog training when we moved in together. Baxter is a shedder and I specifically got Otis because he doesn't shed and I HATE hair everywhere. He was an excessive barker and I can't stand dogs who bark endlessly. There was a learning curve for both of us. But I was the constant caregiver since hubs was gone so regularly, and that provided me the chance to be consistent with him. And I tell you what, despite that dog being some 12 years old, he took on to my training and ways fast! He was a smart dog. Whoever said you can't teach an old dog new tricks never met Baxter.
We got to mutual understanding, Baxter and I did. He learned that bathroom breaks are quick and efficient, doorbells don't require 10 minutes of straight barking. I learned that he was happiest playing ball.
He and Otis got along immediately. They loved each other from the start. When we first moved here, we had a town home with an attached dog park. I'd take the dogs there after work like many other residents and let them run. If any dog got too close or played too rough with Otis, Baxter would be on them in a second! One resident even asked me, "Um, is that dog friendly?" To which I responded, "He sure is! But your dumb lab just sent my Morkie tumbling barrel rolls down the hill, and this dog looks out for him. Baxter didn't like that and neither did I."
I really struggled after we had Henry. I quit my job and lost my "professional identity", had a baby in a way completely different than my birth plan and suffered from real sleep deprivation for the first time in my life. We moved into a terrible rental home that was hot all summer and freezing all winter. Hubs still traveled and since we were new to Texas, many nights I was solo with the baby. Not to mention those long, long, long days spent adjusting to my new SAHM role. I regularly spent 72-96 hours a week as a "single married mom" without a single break from Henry. By 5pm each day, I'd be so mentally exhausted I'd sit on the couch and stare into space while Henry hit his "witching hour" and got super fussy.
Baxter would come out of nowhere at that time, and bring Henry a ball. Henry got such a kick out of throwing it and having the dog return it! They'd play together and eventually Otis would notice there was a game going on. That got Henry really excited! Watching those two dogs chase after the ball got him through the 5 o'clock slump. As funny as it sounds, I started to look forward to this time of day. It was my half hour break. Yes, I let Baxter babysit the baby. And he was good at it too.
When I was pregnant with Otto, it was mostly summer here. I would be so tired by 5pm after running after Henry all day, going on play dates, etc. Henry was walking and getting into everything. Yet again, Baxter would get one of his dog toys and play with Henry so that I could put my swollen feet up. Baxter taught Henry how to throw a ball, play tug of war, and I think he even taught him how to run. I know my big pregnant self wasn't the one who taught him!
When I was too tired, or more frankly - mentally unstable - to do my job as a mom, Baxter would show up and do it for me. He knew I needed help and was smart enough to figure out a way to help me.
He was also my resident bug killer. All I had to do was get a certain pitch to my scream which signaled there was indeed a real bug to be killed, and that dog would get the job done. I mean, this dog scaled walls to get at bees, June bugs, roaches, you name it. We only had one roach and it was in that disgusting rental home, actually, and it was so big and I was so grossed out I left Baxter in the bathroom I found it in. When I went back, there was a blood trail the dead Texas-sized roach and a dog with a proud look on his face, wagging his tail like "all is well mom, got the job done!"
I'm sure going to miss this sweet little dog. Otis has been depressed since he took sick, and I know he misses his brother dearly. I don't know what I'm going to do without my 5pm helper and babysitter. I don't know what I'll do next time my hands are full with two kids and there's a bug that needs to be killed. But I DO know that I'm looking forward to throwing a ball with this little guy once we're all reunited again with The Big Man.