Tire Tracks and Paw Prints on My Heart

In the early Spring of 2010 an incredible little Sato dog and his remarkable owner literally rolled into my life. Baxter and Tracey Goodwin proudly came into my pet supply store and it was on that day that my journey in the animal community took a miraculous turn. A turn that would open my heart, my mind and my soul to sharing one’s life with a cart dog.

I am a person that firmly believes things happen for a reason. It had been barely a month since my own 7 year old Boxer Dozer was diagnosed with a paralyzing disease called degenerative myelopathy. I knew Baxter and Tracey entered our world for a reason but I never knew until now how much they would mean to me, an entire community and to many internationally.

Tracey and Baxter on the beach

Baxter’s life began as a “Sato” dog, meaning Puerto Rican street dog. He came to America and found his way into the heart and soul of Tracey. I’m not sure if either could have been more lucky but they completed each other. I was privileged to meet them, although later in both our dog’s lives, it was poignent nonetheless. Baxter was put on this earth to be an ambassador for handicapped dogs, and with Tracey as his co-pilot, they took the world by storm.

When you are given the devastating blow that your dog will be paralyzed and are told he will be dead in 6 months to a year you find it hard to have hope. That is until Baxter rolls in the room. Seeing Baxter charge around my cramped store with a virility that made me jealous, I started firing off questions to Tracey; all kinds of questions from how she trained him to use the cart to how in the heck did Baxter poop? Tracey shared everything, the good the great and the not-so great. Some of the best advice was convincing me to go with the Eddie’s Wheels cart. There are several other cart manufacturers out there but none as customized and as user friendly as Eddie’s Wheels. It was nice to have that important information so readily available from someone that had been through it.

Baxter was in a cart for unknown neurological reasons so while he had similar symptoms to DM, it wasn’t the same. It didn’t matter what disease Baxter had, as long as he had his cart he was not to be stopped, Tracey frequently had to sprint after him.

Every visit from Baxter and Tracey always left me wanting more and wanting to do more. When you have a dog in a cart you get mixed reviews from the public. Some people will walk by and give you a thumbs up while others are cruel and ask, “why would you do that to a dog, just put him to sleep”. I wanted more people to understand the quality of life that carts give disabled dogs and more importantly I wanted people to see the quality of life disabled dogs got from the use of their carts. This I learned from Baxter and Tracey was best done at pet events. Baxter and Tracey were frequent flyers at all the rescue events, from Save A Dog’s Paws in the Park to Buddy Dog’s Woofstock. So of course I tagged along. It was fantastic to see Baxter’s following, he had his own Baxter Parade. Even my boy Dozer started to build a fan base. It was funny, no one knew me, but when I said I was Dozer’s mom, friends with Baxter every one knew!

Dozer and Baxter at the 2011 Whisker Walk

The inspiration from the rolling duo prompted me to hold the first Wags for Wheels event at Active Paws Pet Supply. It was a massive success, raising enough money to build two carts for dogs that needed them but didn’t have humans that could afford them. Then like a wildfire Baxter and Tracey’s inspiration they had filled me with spilled over onto other people, people that didn’t even have cart dogs. One such person was Elaine Sanfilippo of AdopTee’s. Elaine was so touched by the care I gave to Dozer when she saw me during one of the many events Baxter and Tracey lead me to that she created “The Dozer”. It was a T-shirt in the spirit of Dozer and the likeness of his friend Clancy (another blog is needed to encompass this inspirational dog too).  50% of the t-shirt sales went to build carts for dogs that needed them.



The meeting of the greats

Baxter had an unbelievable life, regardless of his disabilities this dog went to baseball games, yep he was on the field, Tiffany’s in NYC, walked around Walden Pond (not many dogs have considering its illegal!), been all over downtown Boston, has gone to more places and met more people than many people have. Beside him always was his human soul-mate, Tracey.

Baxter at Waldon Pond

Baxter at Tiffany & Co

Baxter had a perseverance that trumped Clancy and even Dozer. The cart dog community lost Clancy in the summer of 2011 and we lost our boy Dozer to complications with pressure wounds 3 days before Christmas 2011. Baxter and Tracey were right there by my side with an understanding and compassion that was like no other. Going through my loss was devastating and while people told me to expect a weird sense of relief, I didn’t. When you lose a cart dog its different then just losing your dog. While I’m not saying it was worse to lose a cart dog then an able-bodied dog, I am just saying it is different, terribly different.

Its this pain, this uncontrollable grief and emptiness that has lead me to the tragic part of this blog. On September 18th 2012, Baxter left this world. His body had let him down but his spirit and soul remain. Baxter and Tracey have left a mark or a print on this world. It was a devastating blow to our cart dog community. He was our ambassador, but it was his time. He left tire tracks and paw prints on all our hearts.

So while Baxter’s journey in his cart has ended mine again begins. Dozer’s father, Tank has been stricken with the same debilitating disease. While I am pleased to share my cart dog with the world again I am sad for the road ahead, its bumpy, challenging, committed but most devastating; it is without Baxter.

To you Baxter and Tracey I can never thank you enough. Tank and I will try to roll in the tracks that Baxter left behind. You two blazed a trail for so many, thank you thank you thank you.

To Baxter, may you rest in peace and journey across the bridge safely

23 thoughts on “Tire Tracks and Paw Prints on My Heart

    • thank you, the photographs were mostly Tracey’s Baxter’s mom, I took them from her facebook page (with her permission!) Tracey was an inspiration to the cart dog community and my heart aches for her loss

  1. Thanks Cara for saying all that could be said about this amazing dog and his caregivers. It’s been a journey helping Baxter, and all the DM dogs – seeing Baxter for the last time just a couple of days before he passed meant so much to Eddie and I – he was incredible at the Pet Expo, transforming people’s stricken gazes to smiles of appreciation for the great spirit trapped in that body……

  2. What a beautiful tribute. I just learned of Baxter earlier this month from Eddie’s Wheels. I was so sad when I heard he had passed. You are right, when you say losing a pet such as Baxter is different. I lost my cart dog (Frankie the Walk ‘N Roll Dog) in June and it is one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. I miss her every day.
    I’m grateful to you and Tracey for the wonderful work you’ve done to bring a positive face to cart dogs. We need more like you. They truly can live quality lives if we give them a chance. I don’t know if you are aware, but I founded a National Day in memory of my Frankie and in honor of all wheelchair dogs. We just celebrated it’s first year yesterday, September . But I’d love for you to come join our community on Facebook, just look for National Walk ‘N Roll Dog Day.
    Again, such a lovely tribute– and stories like these need to be kept being told so others will see and know that should this happen to their pet, they can lead a long, full, happy, quality life.
    PS: And I agree about Eddie’s Wheels– best wheelchairs out there!!

  3. I smiled and I cried! For people to be so cruel as to say ‘put that dog down’, when he had so much life and love to give! Animals deserve the same rights as humans! God bless Tracey and I know Baxter is running free and easy on the other side of Rainbow Bridge. He will be waiting for Tracey to come and run with him someday. God bless our pets! God bless those that know they are more than ‘just animals’!

  4. We were honored to meet baxter at the Whisker Walk this year and then again at Pet Rock.
    He touched my heart and my life, I will never forget him!
    We fully support dogs with wheels and their owners….
    God bless you all!

    Deb and Juno from Juno’s place

  5. This is a beautiful tribute to Tracey & Baxter.
    Traceys compassion knows know bounds. My Boxer,Meatball, was diagnosed with cancer …. a tumor growing on his face.Tracey read his story on Dogster and before I knew it she had set up a website and organized an auction to raise the $3,000 needed to remove the tumor and reconstruct his face. She handled everything with flawless precision so that I could concentrate only on Meaty B.
    Because of Traceys enormous heart I got more precious time with my boy.How do you repay a gift like that? Well, you can try but in Traceys eyes it was never about that. She does things things not for repayment or accolades. She does them because she WANTS to, because she FEELS it.
    The world could use more like her.

  6. Thanks for sharing! I had a dog whose rear legs became paralyzed late in life. I got her a cart and she would ONLY do it for treats. I even had a Shriner’s hospital physical therapist help me evaluate it for fit and comfort :). It finally dawned on me that I wanted her mobility more than she did. The dog will let you know. So those that say it’s cruel don’t know what they are talking about. If a dog WANTS mobility they will let you know as these did. My dog still wanted to live, but in a more sedentary way. We had our own way of getting from room to room and she had a special place (throne?) in each room. She did not want to “just be put down”. When her time came, she let me know that too. No one knows your dog like you do, because no one loves them like you do. I fully support dogs with wheels!!!!!

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