The History of Paul V. Hartman - An Autobiography

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December 7, 1991 to March 23, 2006

Baxter died tonight. I will bury him in the morning.

He was certainly old enough to do so - 14 years and 4 months, an age a lot longer than his breed of Silky Terrier tends to live. That is "age one hundred" in human years. In his final year he was plagued by a variety of medical problems, chief of which was an enlarged heart (from hypertension) which pressed on his trachea, causing him to cough vigorously whenever he awoke from a peaceful sleep. There was no satisfactory remedy for it, only palliatives. He was on no less than nine daily medications. There were several times during the past 9 months I thought his end had come, but he always rallied. This time he did not.

When he entered our home he was just a little dark ball of hair. When he barked, the power of it caused his little body to bounce backward. As he grew, his colors lightened into those typical of the breed: black, gray, and tan. He was a dog with a hundred wonderful qualities, like loyalty, unconditional love, faithfulness, reliability, dependability, devotion: things that our best friends don't usually have. He did not know he was a dog, but thought he was a small person. He was determined to be with us, all the time.

What is it that makes for a "Good Dog"? It is love without reservation. If you must discipline him, he immediately comes to you to "make things right". A good dog is one who needs to be in your presence: where you go, he will follow. A good dog respects your things. All dogs like to chew things, but Baxter never chewed anything we did not give to him. When given to him, he evidently recognized that this new thing was "his". Baxter never chewed the furniture, the carpet, or anything lying on the floor: it was not "his".

A good dog has a personality that makes you laugh. He has habits and quirks that are amusing and fun for you to watch being repeated. A good dog is gentle with children, even the ones whose act of "petting" is a slam on the head. A good dog is obedient, and responds promptly when told to "come here". A good dog is embarrassed by an accident he causes, puts his tail down, and indicates he wants to make amends.

A good dog wants your company constantly. He wants to ride in the car, go for walks, romp around the grass, eat when you do, take a nap when you do, go to bed for the night when you do.

A good dog is protective. He guards his turf against interlopers or anything he believes might threaten You. A good dog is at your beck and call. If he is sleeping but you want to go for a walk, he jumps up, tail wagging, eager for the companionship.

A good dog is a faithful friend. Baxter has been the best of faithful friends. Which is why he is more than a "pet", more than an animal, more than a dog. He is an integral part of our family, and there is not a time during our day when our littlest family member is out of mind.

For me the best times were when he would see me gather up a book and my glasses and head for the Great Room to read. He would follow quickly, jump up on the sofa, climb into the crook of my crossed leg, squirm into a perfect position, and go to sleep. If I were in the library, Baxter would get one of his cookies, bring it in near my desk, and chew it there, "sharing it with me."

Bed time was his favorite part of the day. All of us were in the same bed, Baxter at the foot of it, finding a place between our legs where he would not be kicked. At bed time, all was right with the world.

When we took our daily walk, I did not need a leash. He would walk in the gutter and follow it the entire trip around the neighborhood. He loved the beach at Hilton Head, probably for the numerous exotic smells along the sand dunes, and he was an excellent Beach Ambassador that beach people were compelled to examine closely.

It was Cyndy who fed him, Cyndy who bathed him, Cyndy who brushed him, Cyndy who took care of all his needs, and he followed her around everywhere, "like a puppy". Even in the final year of his life, with his hearing close to shot and his vision greatly compromised, he would not let Cyndy out of his proximity, searching the house for her if she moved while he was sleeping.

On his final day I took him for our daily walk like I did all the time, except that in recent months he could no longer walk to the end of the street and back again, but he could make the second half of the trip if I carried him the first half, and when I did so, I would talk in his ear, telling him about the woods and the creatures who lived in it, about the beauty of the day, about the sun on our backs.

On this day I reminded him how much he meant to me and Cyndy. I told him repeatedly that he was a greatly loved dog, a good dog, a member of our family, and that we were grateful for every extra minute he lived in our presence.

He had to struggle to return to the house that day. It was a very slow return. He knew things were turning badly for him and that this day was worse than the others - dogs know those kinds of things. As for me, I thought he might once again rally.

Cyndy had opportunity to love on him that day in a similar way. She carried him around - he was most content when she did this - and she talked into his ear about how he was loved and what a great pleasure he had brought to our lives over the years.

I have wrapped him in his favorite blue blanket - favorite because he regarded it as his girlfriend - and he fits nicely into a special wooden wine box (I think it is cedar) which I saved for this purpose years ago. I will bury him on the property at a place where we both walked by each day for more than 14 years. I have cherished this dog, a full member of our family. I grieve his loss like he was my child.

Baxter, a Silky Terrier. 12/7/91 - 3/23/06

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