Saying goodbye to my heart dog Baxter – 2008-2023

Sep 26, 2023

If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you are familiar with the love of my life. My brown-eyed blonde sidekick, Baxter.

He is the entire reason I started my business in 2010. So many of you have loved him and asked about him over the years.

My best boy is gone. My heart is shattered. I knew saying goodbye to my dog would be hard, but I still wasn’t prepared for the searing pain in my chest.

photos of a family with three kids and their dog
Our celebration of life for Baxter by Jennifer LaGrange Photography

While I have shared the news on social media, I’ve only been able to do it in short snippets. The pain has been unbearable. So many of you in the Tara Lynn & Co. family have walked this road of grief. I have had the honor of capturing you and your best pup(s) over these years and crying along with you. All because an injured, abandoned puppy came into my life 15 years ago.

So if you’ll indulge me once again, I thought my boy deserved a proper eugoogoly (thank you Derek Zoolander).

Baxter wasn’t a remarkable dog in the popular sense of the word. He didn’t save anybody from a well. He didn’t paw at anybody to let them know they had cancer or stop them from having a seizure. He didn’t immediately bond with each baby we brought home or sleep by their crib. He actually didn’t like kids. Like, really didn’t like kids, thanks to the scars of his first family. 

When I went through a bad depression in 2012, he would jump off the bed and go to another room when I cried. I think that also came from being in a loud house in his previous, but very short life before us.

No. Baxter wasn’t a superhero. But he was faithful. And he loved me in a way that I could understand and accept even when I didn’t love myself. I’m not sure who grew and changed more in our 15 years together, but we grew alongside each other, step by step.

Adoption day – September 2008

We adopted Baxter in 2008 when he was three months old. He had lived with a family that had seven kids. They moved out of their rental and left him in the backyard. Somebody heard him howling at midnight and took him to a rescue. He was ours a few days later. While he was supposed to be my husband’s dog (he was finishing law school at UNC while I lived in Charleston), Baxter chose me around the age of two.

In the early years, he loved to go for walks, sleep on the sofa, jump up on our super tall bed, and sleep by my side every night. When I worked as a news reporter overnights at WRAL, he would snuggle me on the couch during my very unhealthy daytime sleeping schedule.

I became pregnant with our first child in 2013. I remember so many parents saying how Baxter would take a back seat now that we were having a “real baby.” I was always so offended and felt like it was a challenge. Realistically, would things change? Sure. But would I love him less or not care about giving him the medical care, medicine, and daily attention and exercise he needed? No. Some of those things may have looked a little different (more ball tosses in the backyard vs an hour-long walk around Lake Johnson), but he would be cared for and loved as he always had and as he deserved.

One of the main rules I had for our family was that we would create an environment for Baxter and the kids to be safe and respect each other. The kids were not allowed to sit on Baxter. If they did, he would probably have bit them. Brandon and I needed to understand his zone of comfort, help him learn to trust our tiny humans, and teach our kids to give Baxter the space he needed.

As infants, he wasn’t much bothered by them. They just laid there and he could sit next to me while I held the baby. He was always nervous once the baby started crawling or walking. His eyes would dart around watching them to see where they were going or could go next. At that point, we set up baby gates and reward systems. It took a lot of time and effort. But, with each kid that arrived at the house, Baxter could enjoy being around them at a younger and younger age.

By the time Sawyer arrived in 2019, Baxter could mostly free roam around Claire and Emerson (ages 5 and 2.5 at the time) and feel at ease. He began to curl up on the bed with them during bedtime stories. He sat for them, shook, and loved training with treats. His favorite activity was a pack walk. When we were all together, he was in Heaven.

As Baxter got older, it wasn’t as easy for him to get up and go. Sawyer started walking when he was just nine months old and then only had one speed, sprinting. Again, it was time to reestablish some boundaries and give Baxter a space where he could relax while Sawyer tested out his new talents. I would see Baxter watching Sawyer from the side of the room. Some days, I could tell he was cautious. On other days, I think he was jealous that he couldn’t get up and run with Sawyer. 

The kids LOVED Baxter. Almost as much as I did. They helped wrap his presents every Christmas and cheered him on to find them under the tree. Every birthday, they would pick out a special toy or treat and we would sing “Happy Birthday” to him.

One of my favorite memories is watching Sawyer take his own blanket and lay it over top of Baxter each morning during the morning TV. and snuggle time. Baxter would be sleeping on the floor by my feet. Sawyer would climb out of my lap to cover Baxter up. He would slip a pillow under Baxter’s head and then…set a book in front of him to read. (insert ugly cry)

One of my final photos of Baxter

We said our final goodbye to Baxter July 9, 2023. I’ll share more on that in another post soon. 

For now…our hearts are all so heavy. There is an emptiness in our house with three noisy kids. His leashes will stay hanging on the banister. His food bowls are at the bottom of the stairs.

My son summed up how we all feel when he put a note of green scribbles in the mailbox and told me it’s “to send to doggy Heaven to tell Baxter he can come home now.” If only he could.