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