I lost a good friend this week – my 14-year-old Australian Sheepdog crossed with a Brittany.
Baxter looked like he was all Australian Sheepdog, except he got some great color from a Brittany in his lineage.
In his prime, he could leap with the deer and brought down more than a few. But in recent years, Baxter was in retirement. He watched the deer graze in his yard knowing he could never catch them. He spent most of his time lying next to me in my home office, often struggling to breathe because of a paralysis he developed in his larynx. It inhibited his barking, which really frustrated him. Imagine not being able to chase deer or even bark at them.
It's rare when dogs his size live to be 14, so I'm grateful for his longevity.
But it's still tough to lose such a loyal friend – someone always happy to see you.
Baxter was really smart, too. He didn't like to play ball like my German Shepherd or my late Labrador. Games did not interest him. He was a keen observer of his domain, though.
I'll never forget one example of intelligence and deductiveness.
We live on a large lot adjacent to a golf course. Baxter's day would be spent watching golfers come and go. He was such a familiar sight on his front lawn that many golfers would stop and pet him on their way home. Baxter loved people.
But he also had a keen sense of who belonged and who didn't.
One weekend day, I was outside with him and he began barking at some people who were locking the gate to the golf course. Baxter knew it was too early for the golf course to be closed, so he ran over to see what was going on. It turned out some kids were playing a practical joke on the golfers inside the course by locking them in.
Baxter was not amused.
He didn't like his routine being disturbed. Plus, he considered that his golf course.
Walking Baxter was always an adventure, especially when he was young and strong. He was nearly blind in one eye, so it was not unusual for him to bump into you when he was walking or running.
When his old friend Bosco, the chocolate Lab, died, we buried him in our yard. They had been constant companions for years, ever since Baxter was a puppy. Baxter sat at his unmarked grave site for days, apparently waiting for his resurrection – or maybe just wanting to be near his old friend.
He was really a special friend. He got along with our cats. He got a long with the new German Shepherd we brought home. But he especially got along with the people in his life.
Baxter did not like thunder and lightning. For all 14 of his years, he would try to get as close to his people friends and as far away from the noise and flashing lights as he possibly could. He could sense a storm coming hours before.
One day, a few years ago, he was acting like a storm was coming.
He went up to our master bedroom, which was normally off-limits to him.
We just figured he knew something the weather forecasters didn't know.
A few hours later, an earthquake struck Virginia and shook the East Coast from Washington to New York. It cracked the foundation of the Washington Monument. It sent government workers scurrying out of their buildings in the capital. In New York, skyscrapers were swaying.
Nobody expected it. It was a shock. But not for Baxter.
We'll all miss him immensely in the Farah family, especially my 12-year-old daughter who knew him all her life.