, July 04, 2009
Moments with Baxter is a collection of true stories that showcases how Baxter, an amazingly cute 18-year-old therapy dog, brings comfort, joy, and peace to hospice patients during their final days – perhaps because Baxter, with his share of advanced age ailments, seems so relatable.
Author Melissa Joseph shares that she was initially surprised at the important role Baxter has filled for the last four years, as he was initially skittish when she got him. At only about two years of age, Baxter cowered if Joseph had something large in her hand, or if he heard loud noises. Obviously, this chow-retriever mix had suffered at the hands of at least one human.
And yet, after years of Joseph’s loving care, Baxter blossomed to become an angel in fur, if you will, attracting many fans with his calm, friendly, and empathetic demeanor.
In Moments with Baxter, Joseph uses the 36 chapters to share how Baxter chose to interact with individual patients, whether by snuggling or licking. Readers are drawn in by the back-story of each patient, as well as by Joseph’s honest reactions to each encounter. Joseph wisely included full-color photos, some of the patient’s face, some of just their hands, as they cradle Baxter. It’s hard to study the photos, as they so clearly depict the frailty of life, yet the book wouldn’t be nearly as effective without them.
I was particularly drawn to the chapter in which Baxter is introduced to Paulita, a little Hispanic girl still well enough to be cared for at home. Hooked up to a ventilator, Paulita gets to know Baxter from the support of her mother’s arms, as Baxter is placed next to them on the family couch.
“She pulls his tail, pats his head, rubs him, and hugs him,” writes Joseph. “He remains attentive to her every move and never flinches. He’s like a stuffed animal, there for her needs, always obeying.” Baxter even remains calm during the times Paulita’s mom turns on the loud suction device that clears Paulita’s trach tube.
“Baxter’s silence is a loud voice,” Joseph further pens. “a voice that speaks to anyone, of any ethnicity, in any language. It knows no boundaries. Baxter’s magic is pervasive and palpable.”
How ironic that this big-hearted mutt was nearly euthanized by his previous owners because they couldn’t afford to treat his heartworm condition!
Sharing Baxter’s “magic” is why Joseph wrote the book. Captured by her first-row seats to Baxter’s performances, she wants us to be wowed as well. To fall in love with Baxter, yes, but to also fully appreciate, as she says, the “unique and inextricable bond between human and dog.”
This raw, honest, and moving book is for anyone who loves canines, is connected to the healthcare industry, or wants a closer glimpse of how others courageously face death. A very special thanks to the patients who allowed themselves to be included in Moments with Baxter.
Author and Reviewer