Baxter, The World’s Best Therapy Dog

By isak, October 19, 2009

I pay respect to a dog that gave comfort to people at the end of their lives. I pay respect today to Baxter who passed away Friday, October 16, 2009. May you find your many friends in heaven.

From Baxter’s own website

Baxter, the world’s best, most devoted, and oldest working therapy dog, 19 years and 6 months, eased peacefully from his life on Friday afternoon, October 16th.

Baxter began volunteering 7 years ago at San Diego Hospice. In a place created for making goodbyes gentler, Baxter comforted everyone who crossed his path. 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. He would take his body and curled himself next to a patient for hours, making this intense eye contact that penetrated the human spirit in everyone, proving his undeniable loyalty, love, and sensitivity. Everyone loved Baxter!

I took in Baxter after he was rescued from a life threatening circumstance. He was 2 years old, and it took me 6 weeks to make him mine. It was not much longer when he became my heart. As I socialized him more and more, I realized Baxter was not like other dogs. He had a gift and everyone who met him witnessed it. Though perhaps difficult to believe, to meet Baxter was an experience. And, you never forgot that experience. He touched everyone he met.

When my husband, Dennis, and I went through the volunteer orientation at San Diego Hospice to become volunteers, Baxter accompanied us because he went everywhere with us. During those many hours, he spread his magical spirit throughout the room. And, in the end, the knowing staff exhorted: “You must get Baxter certified. He’s magical, and he would make the perfect hospice dog!”

What they recognized was Baxter’s special ability to bring light to darkness, smiles to downturned lips, respite to tear swollen faces, and comfort to pained hearts. His mere presence brought joy to rooms that were filled with tragedy and imminent loss.

He was the perfect love affair. His love never ended, he was true to the bone, and his companionship was invaluable. Baxter taught me many of life’s lessons. And when I forgot one, he reminded me in the subtlest of ways. He was consistent, reliable, and predictable. He was always in a good mood, prepared to volunteer, and full of love, kisses, and devotion.

There has never before been a dog like Baxter in my life. And there will never be another Baxter. He truly was the world’s best therapy dog.

Though Baxter is gone, his legacy lives on through his book, MOMENTS WITH BAXTER, a series of 36 true stories and photos that demonstrate the magical connection Baxter made with individuals at the end of their life. Visit Baxter at his website.

–Melissa Joseph, Baxter’s mom and author of Moments with Baxter


  1. What a touching story and such a sad loss. My best friend had a poodle that visited our local VA hospital regularly for years. Last month, she passed away after a lengthy illness. Only a few weeks after she passed, her owner was presented with an award for her years of service to the aging veterins. She too is dearly missed.

    • isak says:

      These are very special “ambassadors” for sure. It’s incredible the amount of communication between a person and an animal when no word is ever even spoken. Maybe we, as humans, would communicate better with fewer words, huh? Just cold noses and warm snuggles.

  2. Susan says:

    I am so sorry about Baxter, but what an incredible gift he had. The video was so moving. Bless you botj for what you have done for this incredible dog and what he has given others.

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