“Well he is never going to win Crufts is he.” This was the first thing the vet said when he saw Baxter for the first time.
He was right about that. In front of him was a lanky, wire haired rough Border Collie with a large overbite and very questionable parentage. But I didn’t care. Baxter was my first dog and to me he was perfect. Baxter would be the reason to turn me from having a casual interest in dogs to becoming a full blown dog obsessed maniac.
Thinking about it now I cannot recall what made me pick a Border Collie. I remember I wanted a big dog. Something that would be able to walk for miles with me and play a decent game of fetch. I wanted a dog that would be able to protect our house and would be devoted to my family within that house. With Baxter I got all of this and so much more.
Right from the off Baxter proved to be astoundingly intelligent and had a calm and gentle way about him that would sometimes show almost human qualities. Maybe I am looking back and only seeing the best in him but I swear he needed very little training. He never messed in the house, he picked up basic commands right away and he could leap and catch a ball like a test cricketing fielder.
That’s not to say there were never any incidents in that first year or so. Puppies after all will always be puppies. These days when we get in from work it is not unusual for Tommy to have chewed a book or two and maybe some of the post. A couple of times spring to mind when we returned home to find that Baxter had literally destroyed EVERYTHING in sight. The contents of the bookshelf, the bookcase itself and anything else that might dare to be in his field of sight.
On another instance we had to evacuate the house for an evening after returning home from work to the strong smell of gas. Whilst we were out Baxter had managed to turn the gas on the cooker hob on and filled the house with gas the whole day. I think we were all lucky to come out of that one unscathed.
One Bonfire Night he escaped and bolted with fright in the middle of the night. Cue a huge search and rescue that involved half of the village, including a couple of Policemen! I have always been a bit cynical of Facebook but that night it helped reunite us with Baxter after my wife put out an SOS which spurred so many people into helping with the search, which eventually resulted in him being found. This was one of the main reasons I wanted to use this site and the Tommyno Facebook page to try and go some way to helping reunite families with lost dogs as I know first hand the panic and worry knowing that your beloved dog is out there alone.
Apart from a few speed bumps along the way Baxter was the perfect dog. He devoted himself to my family in a way I have never known. With me, he was my best friend. He followed me everywhere, we did everything together. If I was in a room without Baxter, I knew that when I opened the door, he would be there waiting for me. I think I have had some of my most and deep meaningful chats with that dog. He matched my personality completely. I am not the most sociable person and he mirrored this when we were out walking. He never bothered with any other dogs or dog walkers, he would just walk right pass them, all the while never taking his eyes off me.
To Baxter I was the God, the Leader, the King. After me I think he put himself. This made him utterly and unconditionally loyal and protective over Emma and James. He would go to Emma if he wanted a cuddle and a fuss which she always gave him. With James I think he had a strong bond with that was comparable to the ties Baxter had with me. Only it was a far different relationship. He saw James, who was quite young at the time and believe it or not used to venture outside from time to time before he discovered X Box, as his playmate. They grew up together and was the person who would play endlessly with him and would let Baxter sit on him and smother him with kisses to the point of suffocation.
Despite his faultless temperament he would protect the house fiercely. He was big dog with a big bark and would terrorise the window cleaner, postman or anybody that dared look to come into the house uninvited. Most of it was for show, he was the daftest dog you could ever meet. I always thought he would have made a good therapy dog. A few of our family members or friends of James that were scared of dogs would go on to to have their phobia cured after spending time with Baxter. From a young age Baxter always had kids and babies hanging off him or crawling over him and not once did he ever show any annoyance with this.
He had too many skills to mention, his intelligence often surpassed that of some people I meet. He remembered everything. If we went out in the car to any of our regular dog walking haunts like the park or the beach, he would leap out of the car (for he was rarely on a lead) and run out of sight until I eventually got to within sight of him I would see him often about 200 yards away sitting patiently in exactly the same spot every time, waiting for me to catch up with him. A bomb could go off around him and he would not move from that spot. Until the last year of his life he was as agile as any dog I have ever seen (he probably would have won that category in Crufts Mr Vet). He never went anywhere without his football. He would crouch as if herding sheep until I kicked it, once in the air he would track it and leap elegantly to catch it and would proceed to trot calm back to you and drop it at your feet for another game. A couple of these balls Tommy has inherited, he definitely has potential. He first needs to learn that he actually needs to let go of the ball before I can kick it. Brains weren’t dished out to everyone!
Baxter had always been a strong and healthy dog, apart from the odd trip to the vets to have socks removed from his stomach he had never shown any signs of any medical problems. That is until one Sunday in May of last year when he had his first seizure.
During his normal walk through the country lanes and fields that surround us Baxter became a bit slow and lethargic near the end of the walk, almost to the point where he almost slowed down to a stop. I took this as a sign that he was tired and made my way home. As we were walking through an alleyway about 100 yards from the house he stopped dead, backed up like a rearing horse, wide eyed looking at something passed me and then collapsed and fitted for about a minute on the floor. Panicked and shaken I carried him home where Emma met me with the unconscious dog in my arms, her first thoughts that he had been hit by a car. I explained what had happened and that is when he had his second fit. Distraught, we took him to the vets where after a lot of tests they confirmed he had idiopathic epilepsy. This is a genetic disorder that affects a percentage of his breed, unlucky for Baxter he fell into this category.
Now I won’t go into depth on the subject of what it is like to live with a dog with idiopathic epilepsy as I could go on and on about it. All I will say is that it is horrendous, more so for the people witnessing there loved one go through it than the dog itself who on the whole is pretty much unaware of what is going on. But what I will say is that both myself, Emma and even James became experts on all aspects of the condition over the next year. If you are reading this and you have a dog which suffers from a similar condition and would like any advice or help then please get in touch. This is something I actually do know a little about.
By February of the next year (almost a year ago today) Baxter had had enough. Throughout the year he had deteriorated rapidly. Going from have one fit a month to having twenty plus seizures in his last weekend. He was on so much medication that he could barely stand or function and the chances were if you stopped the medication to ease the side effects (which I considered on more than one occasion) he would just go into a huge seizure and never come out of it. His quality of life was not good, he could barely manage to walk around the block let alone catch the ball. And this was only a five year old dog that a year would have romped home with the agility medal at any dog show.
There aren’t many feel good or funny tales to tell about this period in Baxters life. Although I will share with you one incident that happened that amazes me even to this day. Our cat Hulk secretly loved Baxter. Although he would torment him terribly. After Baxter had a fit he would quite often lose his sight for a while and would pace around our coffee table for an hour or so until he would recover. During this time Hulk would sit in the middle of the table and whack Baxter on the head every time he passed him. One early morning I was getting ready for work, it was dark and raining outside. I had just let Baxter out and I was just thinking he had been outside longer than normal when Hulk came to the window meowing which normally means he would like to be let in (we live in a bungalow) but this time he did not come in he just continued to meow and then darted up the garden into the darkness. Thinking this was strange I went out to investigate only to find the cat stood over Baxter who had collapsed and fell into a bush whilst fitting and had got himself tangled up. I carried him in and he was fine once he came round. To this this day I know for a fact Hulk (a cat who is notoriously selfish) alerted me to go and help Baxter and to even go as far as to tell me where he was. I will never forget that.
Devastated and our world falling apart we made the decision to have him put to sleep. For anyone that has a dog reading this or has ever owned a dog then I don’t really need to explain how heartbreaking this is and how it fills you will sadness, guilt and emptiness. I don’t know about any rainbow bridge or any doggy heaven but all I do know is that we lost a member of the family that day and I lost my best friend. And that in case you are wondering is why Baxter has his own page on Tommyno.
I think you might be able to tell that Baxter was incredibly special to not just me, but everyone that came into contact with him. I am not a writer by a long way but with my last posts I have given it a good go. But this has been by far the hardest part to write. I think that is why I have been putting it off for so long.
Tommy has some huge shoes to fill I think you will agree. When we lost Baxter there was such a void left in our lives, something that Tommy has filled in earnest ever since he came to live with us. Tommy could not be more different then Baxter but I wouldn’t have it any other way. A dogs love is all encompassing, each dog just shows it in different ways. I like to think Baxter is still around the house in some form and is helping Tommy out – or telling him to do all the naughty things he does!
Every dog is special. Every dog owner has countless stories of how amazing and perfect there dogs are. Every one who has owned a dog had their own ‘Baxter’. Whether their dogs are still with us or have passed on. I wanted Baxters Page to be a home for these stories and pictures a place where you can share everything that is incredible about your own best friend.
We want you to showcase your awesome dog and tell us or show us how your dog is wonderful. If you would like to join in then please get in touch you can email me directly on firstname.lastname@example.org or go to the contact page.
Tommy and I cannot wait to read about what makes your dog so special.
Thank you for reading, please Share, Like and Comment.
Tommy and Rich
P.S – The goodwill between Hulk and Baxter did not last. A week or so after Baxter passed we sprinkled his ashes under a plant we bought. A day later Hulk proceeded to take a wee on Baxter plant. Cheeky bugger. Tommy has since eaten this plant. Animals are weird.