This is the sixth installment in our series on the dogs of casa de canine – my house. Previously, you’ve met Pudg, Lily, Riko, Buster and Peanut. Today we’ll focus on our Maltese/Shih’tzu who arrived on this earth February 26, 2007.
At that time, Pudg was our only dog and nearing his second birthday. We began to think it would be a good time to consider a second dog, in order for Pudg to have a full-time playmate and someone to do dog stuff with. Besides, Pudg had provided so much enjoyment, laughter and companionship, we figured a second dog could only make for more to go around.
We came across Baxter quite by accident.
Where I work, there is an online bulletin board that faculty and staff use to buy/sell/trade personal items, as well as post notices regarding things that might be of interest to others. It was there that I saw a posting that included a picture of a small dog and information about the local breeder who would soon have puppies available.
At the time, I must admit, Sandy and I had not become so intimately involved with local shelters and the problems associated with pet over-population which, in part, is contributed to by backyard breeders. We were, however, cautious in our approach.
I spoke with the person who had posted the information and learned that the breeder had been using the same male Shih’tzu and female Maltese for the past five years, because the offspring were always healthy and with excellent personalities. Plus, she only allowed one litter per year and was very selective about who could purchase one of the pups.
We made an appointment to visit the breeder, once the pups were born, and immediately fell in love with the little guy who would become Baxter. Of course, we had to wait another four weeks before we could bring him home but, we appreciated how attentive and protective the breeder was in regard to these precious little lives.
While I now feel that adoption should be the only option, I cannot look at either Pudg or Baxter and wish they never existed.
When Baxter finally came home with us, he immediately took his place as part of the family. Pudg took him under his wing, played with him and taught him the ways of the household, including where to do his “business”. Pudg seemed to be the first to know when Baxter needed to go outside, and would make sure we kept our end of the bargain, by getting a door open before it was too late.
It didn’t take us long to see the marked differences between the two boys. Pudg was a natural leader and very attuned to everything going on in the household. Baxter, on the other hand, was very passive and easygoing. Pudg, a Lhasa, enjoyed his position as the “top dog”, while Baxter could care less as long as there was a ball to chase, food and water, an affectionate touch and a soft place to sleep. At night, Pudg would take his place between the pillows and be watchful, while Baxter would curl up on my pillow and next to my head and never stir. During the day and while I was at work, Pudg kept an eye on everything going on in the house. Baxter, during those first few months, could usually be found napping with his head on my slippers.
Although Baxter has always been playful and energetic when the mood struck him, he also had a sort of Zen-like quality to him; an overwhelming peacefulness that spread to anyone near him. He takes everything in stride, doesn’t get upset and is happy all the time. He loves getting belly-rubs and giving kisses. He also loves chasing a tennis ball—for hours, if you’ll let him. But, during that first year, the thing he loved the most was our Miss Daisy the Cat.
Daisy was getting on in years at that point and trying to make sense of this little furball that kept following her around. But, she got used to it and, invariably, you’d often find Baxter curled-up next to Daisy on the couch or the bed.
When Daisy passed away in ’09, Baxter was right there next to her on the couch, while Sandy held her in her arms. I think Baxter missed Daisy nearly as much as Sandy and I did and, although he can sometimes seem like a dim-witted goofball, there is a heart of pure compassion beating in his chest.
As our gang has grown over the years, Baxter has always been the first to welcome and accept each new member of the family. As each new addition infused the household with new energy, personality and dynamics of play and affection, Baxter would seem to slip into the shadows by himself, on the periphery of activity, watching as the others soaked-up the attention.
Being so undemanding and easy going, it would sometimes feel like Baxter was becoming the forgotten boy of the family. Whenever it seemed like Baxter was a little too withdrawn and invisible, Sandy and I would make it a point to draw him in and show him the extra attention he never demanded, lest he forget that his is a precious member of our family: a car ride to the store, a game of fetch without competition or, his favorite, an off-leash walk around the neighborhood.
While all the “kids” are extremely good while off-leash on our woodland walking trails, Baxter is the one who is the most trustworthy when off-leash walking along the neighborhood streets. He immediately comes when called, doesn’t wander into yards and is always friendly when meeting another walker or another dog; his tail never stops wagging.
While I sometimes joke that he is a cross between the class clown and the village idiot, the truth is that he is our precious prince. Calm, quiet, undemanding, reliable, intelligent and with a heart that beats with the purest of love, he is our Baxter.
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