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"Moments with Baxter," by Melissa Joseph, is a collection of 36 touching, true stories between Baxter, a 19-year-old therapy dog, and the hospice patients and their families and friends to whom he brings comfort and love.
A fan of Harry Potter, one of Mo's wishes was to see the most recent film in the series -- which she did, with Baxter accompanying her in his own little padded red wagon.
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"Baxter is with Davide on several occasions. Dennis [the author's husband] and I have no conversations with him other than his nodding 'yes' to indicate he wants Baxter in bed with him. He connects with Baxter like a child connects to his Teddy bear. Baxter becomes his link to the childhood that has slipped away."
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Baxter comforts a despondent patient who declares: "You're like an angel. You have angel ears. I love you. I want to marry you."
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"Baxter's eyes never leave Joan's face as she curls her tiny, frail body around Baxter. She takes both of her arms, spindly as they are, and cradles him."
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Thelma "takes off her hat and places it on Baxter's head. He understands this is a playful gesture of love and innocence, and raises his head, his mouth slightly open. Baxter doesn't try to shake off the hat; instead, he poses for Thelma and makes her laugh."
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Baxter wins over a reluctant patient. "I put Baxter next to Wee, and [Wee] doesn't move away; instead he curls up to him the way he would a body pillow...A couple of times Baxter changes his position, but only to move closer to Wee, who embraces the moment by not moving away."
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"Paulita is all over Baxter, fondling him and flicking his ears with his I.D. badge and his business card. He's completely agreeable to whatever this little girl does. She pulls his tail, pats his head, rubs him, and hugs him. She gives him kisses several times. She looks at her mother, who is holding her upright. Paulita smiles big, laughs, and high-fives with her mother. Paulita has found a new friend, and so has Baxter."
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Marguerite's spirits were lifted by a new headscarf -- and by a visit from Baxter.
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As a Hospice volunteer, Baxter qualifies for free acupuncture and massage therapy. Something his aching joints appreciate.
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"Only Baxter and love are in between Donald and me. We hug for many moments. I'm not sure what I'm feeling, but I know it's something special. We're both grateful for this moment."
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On this occasion, Baxter chose a room to enter on his own. Once placed on the bed, he offered some welcome toe tickling.
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One Thanksgiving, a 92-year-old patient asked that Baxter be placed alongside her on her pillow. "He's right there in her face and, though her vision and hearing are not sharp, he's so close that none of this matters. She can see all of him, and what she misses, she can easily touch."
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"Sue loves animals...all animals. She lives on a farm and adores every living creature, from squirrels to pigs. Baxter knows this. As he curls up to Sue the grimace on her face grows softer, smoother, more peaceful. It's what I call a 'Baxter Moment.'"
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"Verl and Baxter live in the moment. They have a trove of both sparkling and dull memories, which carry both of them to this venerable place in life. They have wisdom."
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Alone on New Year's Day as her husband prepares for surgery, Patricia enjoys a visit from Baxter
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With Melissa and Dennis
Author Melissa Joseph has been volunteering alongside Baxter for over four years. She and Baxter currently volunteer at Palomar Pomerado Hospital in San Diego. She is also an adjunct teacher of writing and literature. Photos here and in the book are by Joseph's husband, Dennis Bussey, left.
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Moments with Baxter
With fuzzy ears; a cold, wet nose; and black eyeliner around his deep, brown eyes, Baxter wants nothing more than to cuddle with those who need it most.
All proceeds from the sale of "Moments with Baxter" will be donated to charitable causes. To learn more about Baxter, visit momentswithbaxter.com. Get more information about therapy dogs.
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