After a career of bringing peace to critically ill children and adults, Baxter, the oldest known working therapy dog, “eased peacefully from this life” on Friday, according to a posting on his Web site. At 19 years old, the senior pup was the subject of owner Melissa Joseph’s touching book Moments with Baxter and had been certified with Therapy Dogs International for more than five years.
Despite suffering from arthritis and chronic bronchitis for 10 years, Baxter spent several days a week volunteering at the San Diego Hospice, comforting patients. Joseph first met Baxter in 1991 after a friend rescued him. At just 6 months old, the Chow/Labrador mix showed signs of abuse, was infected with heartworms and his teeth were in bad condition. As Baxter got the care he needed, his personality emerged and he soon became her heart, Joseph wrote on her Web site.
In a profile featured on PEOPLEPets.com just two months ago, the life-long dog owner said Baxter was “the most well-behaved, socialized and compliant” dog she’d ever met.
Moments with Baxter, written by Joseph with photos by her husband Dennis Bussey, is a collection of 36 stories of the dog and the patients whose lives he touched. On July 21, he was honored by San Diego County with his own holiday – Baxter Day.