Dogs have long been called man’s best friend and for good reason. Humans have used dogs in a variety of functions for as long as history can recall – from personal companions to law enforcement partners to therapeutic comforters.
Of course, their most frequent use is as companions.
Of course, their most frequent use is as companions. Friends. Family.
In some cases, dogs have combined their therapy and companion roles into one highly-needed job! One such dog was Baxter Bussey, the world’s oldest recorded therapy dog.
Baxter lived to be an impressive 19 and a half years old and worked as a therapy dog until his very last moments.
Baxter worked at the San Deigo Hospice and Institute for Palliative Medicine several times a week, despite no longer being able to walk due to severe arthritis.
Baxter was rescued from an abusive situation when he was just two years old by Melissa Joseph, who remained with Baxter until the very end.
Joseph recognized Baxter’s innate ability to connect with others quickly and vowed to assist him in his task as a companion dog, even wheeling him around in a little red wagon when he became too frail to walk himself.
Baxter’s sole purpose as a therapy dog was to comfort people in their last moments; sharing a moment of caring with those in pain and approaching the moment of death. His presence seemed to bring hope, happiness, and a bit of peace to those who had come to the end of their lives and were simply waiting for the inevitable.
But, the people Baxter visited weren’t the only ones affected by his companionship.
The families of the hospice residents were also touched by Baxter’s affectionate personality. While falling in love with Baxter was easy enough to do just by being in his presence, it was the joy he brought to the patients that seemed to resonate the most with their loved ones.
Seeing the tears stop and the laughter flow made the experience with Baxter transcendental for everyone in the room – even the nurses.
Baxter proved time and time again that canines truly are man’s best friend. What do you think?