Welcome to our page! Here I will share the life of Baxter, an 8-year-old mixed breed dog that has a degenerative neurological disorder, and MacKenzie, a 7-year-old mixed breed that is deaf. In dealing with life’s challenges, we have done a lot of research and met a lot of wonderful people. We hope that these pages can help others living with special needs dogs.
I found Baxter on PetFinder in 2002 when looking to adopt my first dog. He was listed as a sato from Puerto Rico with “special needs” – he was emaciated and had a noticeable neurological twitch that shook his tiny body. He was the only surviving puppy from his litter and was definitely a fighter. We battled this unknown illness for almost two years, and during that time he blossomed into a strong, energetic dog – his twitch slowly disappeared, he put on weight and even participated in recreational agility! He likes nothing better than a walk in the neighborhood, or a ride in the car with his muzzle out the window. It is the simple things in life that Baxter appreciates most, forcing the humans around him to stop and appreciate those things as well.
In November 2008 signs of a physical problem began to appear. During the next six months his condition deteriorated rapidly as his puppyhood illness seemed to reappear, limiting the strength in his hind quarters which affected his mobility. After dozens of tests, a diagnosis could not be found. On his 7th birthday he received his mobility cart from Eddie’s Wheels and he quickly regained the freedom he had lost. Daily we meet people that have never before seen a dog in a cart, and Baxter shows them that life does not stop because of a disability – we must still have our daily romp in the neighborhood, and his “wheels” help him do that with ease.
Today we have a team of people that love and support us as each day brings new challenges. Baxter’s unyielding energy, happiness and willingness to accept life’s challenges inspire me to continue to find ways to help him live with his disability, and to greet each day with love and patience. We have come a long way together, and I am so thankful to share my life with this brave little dog with a big heart who shares his enthusiasm for life with all that meet him.
MacKenzie was rescued from a courtyard in Puerto Rico by a kind person passing by that saw a group of young boys cornering her and throwing rocks at her. She lived in constant fear of humans and male dogs for about 2 years, a small and completely deaf unspayed female looking for love and protection. Her body bears the scars of her life on the streets, and she is still recovering emotionally from what her life once was.
We met Kenzie in February of 2005 – looking for another dog, Baxter and I met several dogs as possible companions for him, and I gravitated toward large dogs, however none of the dogs we visited in shelters and foster homes were able to keep up with Baxter and his energy. We saw a sato named Carmella on the Northeast Animal Shelter’s website and decided to go visit her. I was completely shocked when out of the cage came this tiny little girl, she looked a lot bigger in her shelter photos. I thought we would simply take her out to play since we were already there and continue our search for a dog that matched Baxter’s energy and personality, a big dog.
It had been snowing a lot and volunteers at the shelter made a trail of paths in the snow for the dogs to run around in, so we brought Carmella and Baxter into the yard to play. Baxter started off in a flash and began to chase her, but within minutes the tables had turned and this little 15 lb. dog was chasing him! This was a first, and she actually managed to wear him out!
The shelter had concerns about her living in a household, and were cautious in placing her because she is completely deaf. We made arrangements to have her come and stay with us as a foster to see how she would do in a home and with another. larger dog. This was the start of our great adventure!
Within days I knew that Carmella (renamed MacKenzie) belong with us. We learned a lot about working with a deaf dog, and began hand signal training right away. Baxter was her main teacher, she would watch and respond to him better than me. Because he was already trained, I simply went through his commands verbally, asking him to sit – giving a treat – repeating this over and over as she watched. Very quickly she learned that if she copied what he was doing, she was also rewarded. We added hand signals over time, and we continue this method of training even today. Kenzie’s list of hand signals include sit, stay, down, come, stop, look at me, ball, drop it, leave it, etc.
Today MacKenzie enjoys chasing tennis balls (the only toy she likes) and sitting in laps. She still has difficulty sometimes relating to the outside world, but receives much comfort, love and protection with Baxter and I.
Baxter and MacKenzie both ride aboard fire engines with Hillside Fire Apparatus, participating in community service events and parades. Recent coverage of their adventures can be seen here -
Baxter and MacKenzie have also appeared in the end credits of the Firehouse Dog movie, the Dog Each Day book by Larry Merrill and were in The Bark Magazine and their book DogJoy. Baxter is “Mr. July” in the 2011 Eddie’s Wheels calendar!