A Tribute to the Kindest Dog This World Has Known: Baxter Bussey March 23, 1990 – October 16, 2009

"Dogs are our link to paradise. They don't know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring--it was peace." - Milan Kundera

photo courtesy of www.baxieboo.wordpress.com

About nineteen years ago, Melissa Joseph did something that would change her life, the life of a dog, and the lives of countless others.  She and her husband rescued a Lab/Chow mix from the animal shelter within days from his being scheduled to be euthanized.  His name was Baxter.  Baxter was around two years old when he was adopted, and showed signs of being abused.  He would eventually come around, and be the best dog that anyone could ever hope for.

photo courtesy of www.baxieboo.wordpress.com
After Melissa's husband, Dennis, visited their local hospice care facility, he suggested that they volunteer to bring Baxter in to visit patients who were at the end of their lives.  This led to Baxter being certified as a therapy dog.  This includes a series of tests, which good 'ol Baxter blazed through with success. At the ripe old age of 19,  Baxter, like most of the patients he visits with, was unable to walk and had to rely on Melissa for even his simplest needs.

Seven years after the hospice visits began, Melissa decided to compile her experiences into a book called "Moments With Baxter" and share the experience she and Baxter had with the hospice patients. There is also a video circulating on the web (the one at the top of this post)  that has become very popular, showing Baxter and Melissa in action.  Baxter has his own website and his very own blog, both of which are wonderful!  They have also appeared on a number of talk shows, news broadcasts and have had lots of articles written showcasing their special work.  All proceeds from the sales of the book, or the Baxter stuffed animal are donated to the hospice and SPCA centers.

It brings me much sorrow to say that Baxter peacefully passed from this  life on  October 16, 2009.  His obituary and final photos can be found here www.momentswithbaxter.com.  I had the intention of doing this interview and had given my questions to Melissa only a few days before Baxter's passing, and little did I know that I would also be learning a lesson in the fragility of life, and how we live only one breath at a time. Even while mourning, Melissa was kind enough and gracious enough to get back to me...I was curious what it was that made this incredible woman and her incredible dog so at ease with spreading kindness to others during their times of sorrow, this is what Melissa had to say: 

Me:  How would you describe the way yours and Baxter's kindness has affected the lives of the people in hospice? 

Melissa: Baxter's kindness and mine, too, gave us the opportunity to experience patients, family members, and friends that otherwise we would have never known. Baxter's presence, his golden mesmerizing aura, would open
the door, allowing us to walk in at a most vulnerable time in anyone's life. He enabled me to tap into a gift that I didn't know that I had, the ability to connect with others when sorrow is all that they can see through
their puffy wet eyes. It was 
Baxter, through his undeniable love, sensitivity, and devotion, who turned those floodgates into powerful smiles, often laughter, and complete distraction. In that distraction, we were able
to go places with others and connect, leaving a life long impression.

Me: How has that affected your life? 

Melissa: Wow, this is a big one....My life has been affected on numerous levels. First and foremost, I am a better person because of this experience of volunteering, writing the book, and promoting the cause of hospice
care, pet therapy, and other animal causes. I discovered that I have a talent to speak to large audiences, to be engaging, and, even in the depths of sorrow, to make people laugh. Baxter taught me that what
makes a true hero is the 2 for 1 punch: forgive...and forget. Remove sour memories from your life and you will be better able to make way for golden ones.

Me: What has made you decide that helping the hospice patients and their families was right for you and for Baxter? 

Melissa: Perfect fit. Baxter and I are a perfect team and he was the perfect hospice dog. I know that's an impossible word to believe, but it was true. Baxter was an older dog when he became an in-patient care volunteer. He was 12, almost the age most dogs die. He was calm, present, obedient, patient, and completely loving. He was already at the point that he could no longer get into the car by himself. As he became an even older volunteer, his presence match that of each hospice patient. The identification between Baxter and each patient was palpable as soon as he entered a room in his little red wagon. All of a sudden, his
condition became their condition. It was an uncanny congruity.

Me: What has been the most rewarding part of certifying Baxter as a therapy dog and visiting the hospice? 

Melissa: The most rewarding part....well there's more than one for sure. Selfishly, the most rewarding part was the bond that I was forging with Baxter with each visit, each patient, each family member, each friend....each moment.

Me: How do you think your life would be different had you not rescued Baxter from being euthanized? 

Melissa: I don't play "what if " games. They just aren't realistic for me.

Me: What advice would you offer someone interested in certifying their pet as a therapeutic animal? 

Melissa: Do it!

Me: What have been your largest hurdles on this adventure, and how have you overcome them? 

Melissa: My largest hurdle was processing all these experiences which is why I began journaling them. Then, translating them into a book was even more challenging, but ultimately a wonderful tribute to my little guy who died Oct. 16, 2009. MOMENTS WITH BAXTER can be purchased on Amazon and at your local bookstore. ALL PROCEEDS DONATED TO CHARITY in honor and memory of Baxter.

Me: What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you and how did it change your life? 

Melissa: The kindest thing done for me was done by my husband, Dennis Bussey. He brought home the application to volunteer at hospice.

I would like to thank Melissa for being so kind to me, especially during this difficult time and giving me a chance to get this blog off the ground.  I have learned a lot from both she and Baxter, and I hope that you can too! Please share this story, both Baxter's and my own, with as many folks as possible.  It is a scientifically proven fact that just witnessing or reading about acts of kindness will diminish, if not eliminate, the hormones that make us feel depressed or unhappy.  Do your friends and family a favor!!!!  Thanks to you all for taking the time to read, and share this story! 

Please feel free to leave comments below, and follow my blog if you'd like to see who I will be interviewing next. Until then, friends, keep spreading the kindness!  Namaste. 


scarlett knight said...

oh this makes me so sad....I posted Baxter video on my site....so many folks were touched by it!! He was truly a special dog and Melissa seems like an amazing, giving person. Thanks for the post...even though it broke my heart to hear of his passing :-(

Anonymous said...

Ce sera une page web terrible, pourriez-vous être intéressé à faire une entrevue concernant à quel point vous l'avez créé? Si oui e-mail moi!

Anonymous said...

وكان هذا حقا للاهتمام. كنت أحب القراءة

The Kind Ones