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Memorial service held for Baxter, therapy dog

Pets Hospice DogA memorial service was held this week for Baxter, the California therapy dog who, though losing much of his fur and the use of his legs, continued to bring comfort to the dying up until his own death this month at age 19 1/2.

The service Wednesday at the San Diego Hospice and The Institute for Palliative Medicine drew nearly 100 friends, family and staff, according to an Associated Press report.

Baxter’s owner, Melissa Joseph, pulled the dog — a chow-golden retriever mix — from room to room in a red wagon and would lift him onto patient’s beds for a visit. (If you haven’t seen the video of Baxter, click here.)

“He licked tears from grieving faces, gave hugs to those at a loss for words, and warmed the hearts and souls of those who were making their transition,” Joseph wrote in her online eulogy. “Everyone loved Baxter.”

Lisa McCullough, spiritual counselor for the inpatient care center, said some patients who refused to share their life stories with staff would talk freely if Baxter was in the room. “And sometimes they opened up about the end of their life’s journey,” McCullough said. “I think Baxter made them feel safe and valued. He has helped just countless patients discover purpose and peace and connection in the last phase of their lives.”

Joseph and her husband, Dennis Bussey,  released a book in June called “Moments with Baxter,” a collection of 36 stories about Baxter and his work. Proceeds from the book to go to the hospice and charities that support animal causes.


Comment from chair
Time October 30, 2009 at 1:10 pm

Such a touching story.

Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time October 30, 2009 at 6:01 pm

After first learning about Baxter in your blog, I bought without a thought 6 copies of the book, for me and for 5 dog-loving friends’ Christmas. Deeply touching and personal and inspiring. For decades I have witnessed the surprising, unique instinct and desire of dogs to comfort any being, animal or human, when needed. Dogs are incredibly demanding and needy beings themselves! — but they reciprocate when they sense true need in whatever their immediate companion. Get the book, support the cause!

Comment from Michael Blott
Time November 17, 2009 at 10:39 pm

As wonderful a gift of love Baxter is, the written portion of the book is not discussed and it should be. The prose is inspired.

Comment from Giovanni
Time October 21, 2011 at 9:23 pm

I just watched a video of Baxter today for the first time. It touched my heart. God Bless!