Tag Archives: Westies

Baxter

BAXTERJBOYBaxter, the last of my original Westie clan, is gone. Truth to tell, all the qualities that had made him such a distinctive personality and entertaining companion had vanished long before I took him to the vet. He wasn’t even a shadow of himself, but I wanted him to hear his name and feel loving hands stroking him right up to the end. I could do that much for him.

Among the original members of Clan Westie, Baxter was the instigator, always up for a tussle or a game. If things got too quiet, he was happy to get something going. His signature move was to walk slowly through the living room with a squeaky toy in his mouth, dropping it every now and then, looking around before picking it back up, getting the other dogs wound up as he made it clear he was holding the greatest toy in the known dog world. It almost always worked. When it didn’t, Baxter made his own fun. On several occasions I saw him leaping and lunging around a treat or a toy, pretending it was trying to get away from him.

Sadie, his consort and sparring partner, preferred to tussle outside, usually from underneath a chair where she could leap out and snap at Baxter as he ran past. (Ever the strategist, she knew that out in the open Baxter would roll over her through sheer momentum.) That was during the day. At night, Sadie could turn the tables on him. Many a night I would step onto the back deck and see two little white blobs dashing back and forth through the yard, occasionally coming together, then splitting up and running circles around each other. This was their pattern right from the start. When we were deciding if we should get them, we went into a playroom and from the second their paws touched the floor they were scrapping. Baxter would chase Sadie, Sadie would chase Baxter, lather, rinse, repeat.

Baxter was funny even when he was demanding. He had a way of pushing his snout at people’s ankles or hands that became known as Baxter Bumps. One of my oldest daughter’s friends thought Baxter Bumps were so cute, she would deliberately interrupt a petting session in order to get a few.  His round black eyes communicated innocence, even when he shredded rolls of paper towels that had been left on the floor or deck.

And yet, for all his scalawag ways, Baxter was the sweetest, most even-tempered dog you could ever hope to meet. I don’t think I ever saw him bear his teeth at any person. He really did want to be everyone’s friend. Once he broke away and trotted to the sidewalk to greet a woman walking her dog. When it turned and snarled at him, he was so upset he needed three days to recover his usual happy-go-lucky demeanor.

But he was a Westie, and that meant he was a hunter. A very ruthless one. We only knew a nest of skunks had been established under the tool shed when dead kits started turning up. When he spotted a snake crawling in the neighbor’s wood pile, catching that snake became his obsession. One afternoon in the back yard, a friend squinted and said, “Wow, Baxter sure loves his snake toy.” He loved it so much I had to collect it with a shovel for disposal. I was relieved to see it wasn’t a poisonous snake, but sorry to see it was a pest-catcher — a garter snake, maybe. It was hard to tell.  

Baxter was seventeen years old. He outlived Sadie by a year or so, but his decline was shockingly abrupt. He had been chugging along as an old campaigner, slower and a bit fatter but still game, always on patrol in the yard. Then something happened. Some switch was thrown, and Baxter was gone. No more bumps, no more grand morning entrances to demand to be carried downstairs and then served breakfast. The round eyes turned squinty, and when he wasn’t napping he was wandering around the house like a little lost soul. When I picked him up I could feel his muscles jumping. Pain? Probably, but Baxter was a stoic. He never complained.For two days he ignored his food and water. Even when I placed some liverwurst in his mouth and held it shut, he didn’t swallow.

Even on the table at the animal hospital, Baxter didn’t seem aware of his surroundings. The vet administered a sedative as I held him, and after a few seconds he slumped heavily against my arm. “Go to sleep, little man,” I whispered to him as the final shot was administered, and his body unclenched. The curled forelegs relaxed and his head fell limp. The Baxter I had known was already gone, but at least now the pain was gone, too.

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Sadie

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My dog Sadie, founding member of Clan Westie and endless source of delight to anyone who knew her, is gone. After years of steadily declining health and mobility, she reached the point where a dog of her age (she was sixteen in dog years) could only look forward to more pain, despite the meds we had been giving her for the past year. Last night I petted and soothed her as the veterinarian gave her a sedative, waited for her to fall asleep, then administered the final shot.

In the comedy troupe that was Clan Westie, Sadie was the bossy one. She would fix you with her piercing black Westie eyes and subject your eardrums to a series of imperious yips that demanded instant obedience and delivery of whatever service she wanted at that moment. Late in the life, that usually meant she wanted to be lifted onto the couch. 

Her biggest problem in life was that Wee Laddie, the Westie who came home with her, was a bit heavier and a lot more rambunctious. When he decided to open up a can of whoop-ass on her, she gave as good as she got, but she would use strategy. When he started charging around the back yard, she would stand under one of the lawn chairs — not to hide, mind you, but to keep her opponent from triumphing through sheer momentum. Whenever he slowed to look for a way in, she would  spring out and scrap with him.

Sadie was the nicest birthday present I’ve ever gotten, given to me in the nicest way imaginable. My wife at the time came to get me, ordered me to wear a blindfold, then told me to wait in the parking lot, still wearing the blindfold. After about five minutes, a soft weight was placed on my chest and Sadie covered my face with the first of many kisses.

Sadie was the scourge of squirrels — or would have been, if only one had fallen from the trees. She would stand at the foot of a tree, tail held high like Cyrano’s panache, barking warnings of certain doom to the squirrels looking down from branches about twenty feet up. She also had cat issues, but since she wasn’t stupid, she only chased them when the Wee Laddie was beside her. This happened early on, when she and the Wee Laddie staged almost weekly jailbreaks from the back yard until I instituted Stalag 17 security measures.

She had a soft, silky coat, not as coarse as the other dogs, and it was very hard to stop petting her. I can feel the texture on the palms of my hands as I write this.

Her decline was terribly sad, because she had been so funny and scrappy. Her hind legs grew all but unusable, and she suffered spells in which she wandered, dazed, making little screeching yelps. The screaming stopped once we put her on meds, but she was only conscious long enough to eat and do her thing outside. Near the end, her hindquarters never stayed up, even after we lifted them and held her steady for a few beats.

When I gave the go-ahead, the veterinarian placed Sadie on the floor, on a warm thick towel, so she wouldn’t feel anxious about being on the high metal table. As she relaxed into her sleep, the lines of her body softened. She looked like her old self again. She had been in such bad shape for so long, I’d almost forgotten what she looked like in her prime. She went to sleep with hands soothing and stroking her, with voices she knew and trusted speaking her name and telling her she was a good girl. The doctor administered the final dose, then listened to her heart through the stethoscope. “She’s gone,” he said.

We bring these little souls into our lives and look after them, and after a time we realize that they are looking after us, as well. Sadie was one of my best and smallest friends, and I’m confident she spent every waking moment of her life certain in the knowledge that she was loved. That’s a comforting thought right now as I blink at this blurry screen, missing her terribly. When I’m done here, I’m going to grab the Wee Laddie and give him a belly rub he’ll never forget. Because what would be more appropriate?          

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The Wednesday Westie

January morning idyll, taken in 2009. I hate using flashes — it’s natural light or nothing, for me. Sadie’s usual look of indignation contrasts nicely with the dreaminess of Dances With Mermaids.

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Friday finds

How about this one-woman band?

Cloud formations over the Canary Islands. Hypnotically beautiful.

The Battle of Point Judith, a U-boat engagement that happened after Germany surrendered. Makes me want to re-read Shadow Divers.

Has the incidence of swearing in John Sandford’s hard-boiled Prey series gone up or down? The numbers don’t lie.

How much would you bid for H.L. Mencken’s beer stein collection?

“Imagine a man who buys a chicken from the grocery store, manages to bring himself to orgasm by penetrating it, then cooks and eats the chicken.” No, dude, how about you imagine it and leave the rest of us out of your sexual fantasies. That sentence, penned by NYT winger columnist David “Babbling” Brooks, is only one of a selection of genuinely weird observations taken from Brooks’ new book, The Social Animal.

Westies playing tag, singing along with Maria Callas, discovering snow, and taking a lap nap.

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The Wednesday Westie(s)

In honor of those ceaselessly vigilant guardians of our household . . .

. . . sleepless in their zeal . . .

. . . always ready to spring into action.

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The Wednesday Westie

Bennie, a frequent visitor here at Villa Villekulla, takes a well-earned rest after a hard day on squirrel-patrol duty.

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The Wednesday Westie(s)

Call it The Magnificent Seven Minus Four.

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The Wednesday Westie

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Check-out-the-seat-covers edition.

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The Wednesday Westie

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Dogs-can-get-comfortable-in-the-oddest-places edition.

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The Wednesday Westie (Bed-In edition 1)

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How about a nice morning breeze with that doggie bed?

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