Dogs are amazing animals. They’re smart, friendly, and loyal; it’s not for nothing they are called “man’s best friend.” They can also be trained, and not just for fun things. Working dogs have taken on tasks as diverse as herding sheep, guiding the blind, sniffing for contraband, and serving as therapy dogs.
Baxter worked as a therapy dog at the San Diego Hospice and Institute for Palliative Medicine, a facility where patients receive end-of-life care. Baxter would be brought into a patient’s room in his wagon: like many of the patients he visited, the 19-year-old dog was no longer able to walk. He would then be placed on the bed next to the patient, providing some much-needed comfort, helping them and their families get through a very difficult time.
Baxter and the people he provided care for actually formed very strong bonds in the short time they were together. As the author of a book about Baxter explains, “There’s an uncanny congruity that develops: Baxter at the end of his life, the patient at the end of their life. Baxter truly is the perfect, world’s best therapy dog. When he gets in bed with the patient or with a family member on the sofa, something happens in a room. All of a sudden, for a moment, you would think that everybody was alive, really alive.” The hospice’s chaplain sums it up nicely: “Baxter just seems to know how to provide the care that people need.”
We’ve posted a video biography of Baxter below. It’s sad and heartbreaking and yet at the same time, inspirational, celebrating the life of the best, most devoted, and oldest therapy dog in the world. Sadly, Baxter had to be put to sleep soon after this video was made, but he helped a huge number of people during his lifetime.