In Memory of Baxter Michael Knight Bolles

In tribute to Baxter AKA Boo, my faithful friend

My 10-year-old German shepherd, Baxter, taught me more about friendship, forgiveness and faithfulness than I’ve ever known, and for that, I am forever indebted to him. He was my friend. He was there beside me, never leaving me not even when I was sick. If I had a nightmare, I would call for him, and he’d be there immediately. He guarded the house. He lay at the top of the stairs, patrolling. Once, on a nightly walk, a wild animal lunged at me from a bush, and Baxter never hesitated. He jumped in front of me to protect me from harm, and to scare the animal away. A stranger tried to hurt me once, and Baxter became the definition of scary. There were times he and I walked together, and I’d share with him any thoughts I had at the time that were bothering me. He listened, tilting his head to the side the way he did. It made me think he was processing what I shared. Sometimes, I’d stay quiet, and he would rest beside me. He would cuddle, offering a paw, leaving it on my foot or my knee, just barely resting it there to let me know, he truly cared.

His first biopsy, his nose bled all night long. I kept checking to make sure that the bleeding didn’t get worse once I brought him home. The blood would pool and cause irritation. Through the night, I kept blotting his nose, and suddenly, I started crying. He got upset, because I was visibly upset. Because of the swelling, he started to choke; he struggled to breathe, so I stopped crying. I told him that I was fine. I was able to calm him down. I was nervous when I found out he was diagnosed with lupus. His second biopsy, the tumor was 85% malignant. It grew aggressively though he was responding to treatment for lupus. I was heartbroken. I stayed with him by his side until the very end. He tried to get up during the life-ending procedure, forced his eyes open and began to move towards me. I swallowed the tears, and I gently coaxed him back down, and then, I helped him to leave me. I told him he needed to go, and not to worry, because I would be okay. Baxter taught me what it meant to be a true friend, and on that day, I showed him I had learned that lesson well as I kissed him on the forehead and helped him to gently pass away from this world, and from me, though what I wanted to do most was hold on to him and never let him go.

Whenever Baxter and I didn’t agree, which was sometimes frequently, as he liked to lead and rarely follow, he was the first to come to me to offer a paw of apology. Sometimes I was late to accept it, but I was wrong for that. Forgiveness should be offered freely, and accepted quickly. I understand that now, because of him. He aggravated the cats, some more than others. He ate their food when they were trying to enjoy it. He showed little to no remorse for doing that. But if one or more were in need, he was the first to offer comfort. He was sensitive like that. And when he got sick, terminally so, one of the last things he did was offer me his paw in sorrow as an apology for the grief. I remember him there beside me, his paw on my arm and my hand on his paw, intertwined, and I quickly told him, “There’s no need to be sorry, Baxter. None of this is your fault. I love you now, I’ll love you always.” Baxter taught me it’s important to forgive and he taught me that forgiveness means you’ve loved with a full and open heart. And that should be a good thing. Even when it hurts, I try to remember that, even now, it’s a good thing to love that way.

Faithfulness comes from believing in what you cannot see. I cannot see Baxter in my daily life anymore, but the effects of that happy soul are evident as I continue to value the lessons he taught me. I continue to try to be the person he would always expect me to be. I push forward each day, hoping the choices I make for those he’s left behind, honor that memory. In tribute to my boy, Baxter, I believe that in this world, there is no greater success you can have in life, than having loved faithfully, having been forgiven and having been the one who gave forgiveness willingly, and finally, there is no greater gift than true friendship. To you, Baxter, my true and faithful friend, I loved you then, I love you now, and I will love you, always!

On one of our last walks together, a rainbow appeared in a cloudless, clear sky. It appeared right before our eyes as I was weeping in a garden not far from our home. The rainbow reached from earth to high overhead, in the sky to the heavens, or so I believe. I didn’t know about the Rainbow Bridge at that particular time. That moment has been a comfort to me, now that Baxter is gone. Never will he be forgotten, and each time I see a rainbow in the sky, I will think of the happy shepherd that graced my life with so much love and laughter, who was a force of nature, from beginning to end, as he walked in that day for his appointment, greeting all who had gathered, going from person to person, to be sure he was leaving me in good hands. And because of what Baxter taught me, I am fortunate, as sometimes a pet comes into our life and changes things. Baxter not only changed my life, but he changed me, for the better. I now value so much more the gifts in my life that are true blessings, and each one has a name.