Friday, June 29, 2012

My tribute to our beloved Baxter Bear

I've been putting writing this off, which is funny because when we lost Topaz I wrote her post right away.  But every life is different, and so is every loss, and this one has been harder because it seemed so much less fair.  If you follow me on Twitter, then you know my Internet quiet has mostly stemmed from a seemingly innocuous incident on May 31st when Thurman and Baxter got a case of the runs, which for Baxter, quickly escalated to major health issues.  After a week and a half of seemingly good progress, lots of drugs and several involved specialist appointments we lost Baxter very, very suddenly on the morning of Tuesday June 21st.  After getting a little bit stressed from a follow up blood test, he had heart failure and within an hour we were saying goodbye.  It was shocking, he had been happy and hearty looking minutes before, and unlike Topaz (who we got to spend nearly 17 years with) Baxter was gone from our lives after only two short years.

Baxter had an incredible personality, and a story to match.  Our beautiful and brawny boy came to us as a foster towards the end of our three years of fostering with Annex Cat Rescue.  He was a trade for a foster we had had for a few months who was the first and only foster who hated our other cats.  It was the middle of a crazy thunder and lightening storm late in the evening of May 7th 2010, when a VW van pulled up outside our house.  The transport volunteer came to our door with Baxter loose in her arms (somehow there was no carrier available and nobody was worried because Baxter was so chill).  I was horrified that he'd been loose in her car and her arms in the middle of a storm that had all my cats cowering in our house.  We live next to a busy street, what if he got spooked?  But he just hung from her arms like he was chillaxing in a hammock on a summer day.

He was beautiful, with long, thick hair and tabby markings with a white skunk stripe and the whitest tummy.  And his personality was even more charming then his good looks.  He strolled into our home that first evening and never once hissed or swatted, not that night or any time thereafter, instead he walked up to Cheddar Cheese (our local Casanova) and started to sniff him and groom him.  Just like that, he was part of the family, there wasn't even a 15 minute adjustment period.  Even Topaz, the very ambivalent senior she'd become, was loved up by Baxter, who would cuddle up against her for long stretches of time. She had never let another cat do that, but she never once got annoyed with him.

We were all very much in love, so it seemed a given when Topaz died that we add him to the family.  I wanted him to be the good thing that came from her loss.  You see Baxter had a very trying start to his life.  Either born on the streets or dumped, Baxter became part of one of Annex Cat Rescues Feral Colonies in the Distillery District (a particularly dangerous feral colony in Toronto  because it's bordered by two major expressways) somewhere along the way. He was a difficult cat for our trappers to be able to catch for his TNR (trap, neuter and release). When they finally did, they realized he was far too sociable to be put back on the streets, unfortunately there were no foster homes available and though he tried his best to stay in the carrier he was released back to the colony and put on the list. A while later he was injured and caught again, and this time he was placed in a foster home. He was skinny and needed to be shaved from all his mattes, but he came around and settled in.

He was adopted, but his adoption was short lived as the woman who took him broke her contract with ACR and surrendered him to the Toronto Animal Services after only a few short months.  At that point in time there was a crisis in animal rescue in Toronto, as the Humane Society had been shut down with an animal welfare and cruelty investigation, and every available rescue in the city was overrun with pets who needed help.  Toronto Animal Services put Baxter on the list for immediate euthanasia, which he was only saved from by the microchip ACR had given him that was still listed to them.  The board got a call them they had 3 hours to pick him up, and my friend, and at the time the president, Gayle had to rush around to their various location trying to find him before it was too late.

Needless to say, our poor bear was a bit traumatised.  He needed a shave from matting, and was pretty slim.  He spent a few days with Gayle, then moved in with a fellow fosterer Catherine and became her first ever foster cat.  In the three months with her, his hair grew back out and he plumped up to the big bear we would always know him as.  In the emails prior to his arrival, Catherine had nothing but glowing things to say "He's a big guy, very laid back (he has added a very calming vibe to my home!) and he loves people- including strangers! He's the first cat that I've fostered and it's been a delight!"

So many dedicated volunteers with ACR had a role in Baxter's life through his trials and tribulations, I've always joked that I was communicating with his groupies.  From the moment I announced his adoption to the day I announced his death, any time I posted a picture or talked about him online, at least one ACR person would chime in to say how thrilled they were to see him so healthy and happy.  I had emails and facebook messages from all sorts of feeders, trappers, and other members asking how he was and wanting pictures.  The hubby and I took such joy from providing his fairy tale ending.

Baxter was one of those rescue cats who was eternally and constantly grateful for his new cushy circumstances.  He went out in our little backyard with the other cats (on his leash and harness), but he rarely stayed long, as his chaise lounge was calling him.  He loved snuggling and tummy rubs, kittens and toddlers (honest to god, he loved them), he greeted anyone who came into our home as an old friend.  He was incapable or simply didn't know how to meow, and instead he'd huff at you while bobbing his head.  Anytime you asked him a question he'd answer.  He had the cutest little provocative sashay when he walked, and he loved laying on his back, with his tummy in the air, at my feet while I cooked.  He was an incredible bed hog, and no matter how many times I shifted him I would always wake up with him taking over the entire bottom third of my side of the bed.

I've spent a lot of time sick this past year, and Baxter loved every minute of taking care of me. Sick=lots of long cuddles, and he would lay down on top of me and insist I don't move for as long as humanly possible.  With the hubby he liked to sit up in his arms like he was people.  They often read or watched movies this way, but I was never able to get it quite right so he'd just hunker down on me.  He was especially fond of the steroid tummy I developed over the past 8 months and was always very into standing on top of it and needing it vigorously.  I used to joke that he was helping me digest, it was desperately uncomfortable ( he was a big boy!) but he would purr loudly and I didn't have the heart to stop until he'd had a good 10 minutes or so.

He was a ray of sunshine that the hubby, me and the fuzzy kids will miss greatly.  Unlike when Topaz passed away, I'm unsure what to do.  Maybe we'll foster again, or maybe we'll adopt (kittens are totally therapeutic, and their own ray of sunshine as well), but for now we're all just trying to get used to our new quieter household. 

If Baxter's story pulls your heartstrings, then I would suggest considering adding Annex Cat Rescue to your list of charitable donations this year.  If it wasn't for their tireless work, and dedicated volunteers, Baxter would have had a considerably less happy outcome.  We may only have had two years with him, but they were great, and he was a very happy boy.

16 comments:

  1. Crying now. My Maddie was only with us two years as well. Not enough... So sorry.

    <3 the Baxter...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sara, I know how special he was to all the ACR people who were involved with him. Maddie and Baxter were such bright stars, it's hard to lose them.

      Delete
  2. I am deeply sorry for your loss. It's never easy losing a beloved pet.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It isn't is it? Thanks so much Kathy Ann

      Delete
  3. I'm so sorry for your loss. Baxter was a beautiful kitty! I could just tell from the pictures that he was sweet and lots of fun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Bekka, he really really was, a total joy.

      Delete
  4. Hi Rhiannon! This was such a beautiful tribute to Baxter. He was so loving. And I loved him very much too. Reading his story makes me feel so bad for those abandoned animals. I want you to know I've made a donation to Annex Cat Rescue. It's not a big one, but maybe someday I'll be able to make a home for one of these cats! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jenna, that's wonderful, and so good of you! Baxter loved you too (you were totally his girlfriend). You'd make a great kitty momma.

      Delete
  5. I stumbled on your blog while perusing images of the Hemingway Cats. When I clicked to read your latest post, it seemed serendipitous. I had just posted on my blog (http://ecocatwoman.blogspot.com/) about losing my 13 year old Chandler on Friday night. I am so sorry for your loss and understand how much more tragic it is because you had such little time with him. However, is there ever enough time? Baxter knew what being loved and returning that love was all about - you and your family gave him that chance against all the odds. I hope you can peace in that - saving and caring for one special life.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Connie, you're right, there is never enough time. I'm so sorry about Chandler, he was a beautiful cat.

      Delete
  6. I'm so sorry that Baxter is gone, such an amazing cat. He'll be missed. It's great that he had at least a few happy years with your family though!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I'm sorry for your loss. We adopted a kitty from the ACR last June ... she's been a joy!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm sooo sorry for your loss Rhiannon! Baxter was such a joy!!
    Thanks so much for sharing this tribute! It brought back so many of my own memories of Baxter. From his adorable incessant needing, to how he would hop onto the bed at night and 'claim his space' before I had a chance.

    And I too remember that night when he was delivered to you. We were a bit perplexed about how to transport him when we realized we didn't have a carrier. But then, in classic fashion, Baxter calmly walked up to the Transportation Volunteer and introduced himself. And so she carried him in her arms to her van, and he was perfectly content.

    You provided him with such a loving home!! Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm so sorry Rhiannon :( I've got tears coming down now too! What a great boy he was - he's sure lucky he found you and his forever home, even if his time with you was too short.

    ReplyDelete