Baxter Finds a Brief Nine Week Haven At Small Animal Rescue on Canal Road
Four-year-old Baxter, a boisterous and tempestuous cairn terrier, found himself on a journey last Christmas Eve that would take him from a familiar family home in New Hampshire to an unfamiliar 53-acre sanctuary for dogs in Griggstown, New Jersey.
The original owners who loved their shaggy-haired white pet had grown concerned because Baxter was given to unexpected nips at visitors and strangers, especially small children.
When their infant grandchildren were planning to visit for the holidays the difficult decision was made by the elderly couple to give their beloved, but irascible, Baxter up for adoption.
Through intervention by Katie McDonough at Cairn Rescue, an organization dedicated to assisting cairn terrier adoptions, Baxter found a temporary home at Small Animal Rescue on Canal Road until a suitable permanent home with a family could be found. He could not have found a more idyllic place to stay.
Immediately Baxter was given special living privileges inside the main house, apart from the assorted mix of dogs that lived outside in the big red barn. For nine winter weeks, everyone who came in contact with Baxter was enchanted with his playful antics, but none more than Emmett Wilson, a retired child psychiatrist and hands-on founder and caretaker of more than 100 dogs who call Canal Road home. The sanctuary, funded largely by Emmett himself, has become the center of his life ever since his wife passed away six years ago.
Baxter met every criterion guaranteed to gain admittance. He was small, homeless, and exhibited some behavioral issues that would make adoption challenging. He was friendless except for the one friend who mattered most Emmett Wilson.
While Baxter exhibited an outsize personality for his small cairn frame, and could frighten even the most steadfast dog lover with his bark and growl, he could also be gentle and entertain himself and others by tossing a Frisbee onto his head and balancing it there as if he were a celebrated circus performer. It was his special trick. He was special and he knew it. Emmett knew it too.
And so, when Emmett received a call from a middle-aged couple without children on Riverside Drive in Princeton who had learned about Baxter and expressed an interest in adopting him, it was with some ambivalence that he invited them over.
When the prospective new owners arrived, Baxter let it be known that he did not want to leave Emmett's safe care and he nipped at the middle-aged woman three times. Instead of being upset, the woman said she was familiar with the passive/aggressive personality that sometimes characterized cairn terriers. Her reaction reassured Emmett that she understood and would be sympathetic.
After an interview and a review of the contract agreement, Baxter left Canal Road and headed off on another leg of his uncertain journey. One of the key clauses of the agreement stated that should Baxter not suit the needs of the adoptive family for whatever reason, he should be returned to Small Animal Rescue with no questions asked. The contract was furthermore unambiguous that, should there ever be a need to euthanize the dog, Emmett would be contacted first. When Baxter left on March 6 it was the last time Emmett would see his newfound friend.
Shortly after adoption Baxter was taken to a dog groomer and he growled and nipped at the groomer. The groomer scolded Baxter and told the owners that he would be trouble. A few days later a similar incident repeated itself when a vet in Hopewell was examining Baxter.
The new owners were advised that Baxter should be quarantined for 10 days so that he could be further evaluated. When Emmett called the new owners he was advised about the situation and assured that Baxter was being well cared for.
A few days later the new owners, believing they were acting in good faith and in the best interests of the dog, decided to put Baxter down before leaving on a two week vacation. But despite the requirements of the adoption agreement, Emmett was never called by the owners to advise him of their decision.
It was not until the owners had returned from vacation that Emmett discovered that Baxter had been euthanized one week after leaving the sanctuary.
Emmett doesn't feel it was a vengeful act, but he does feel the need to defend Baxter's life and to ensure that this never happens again.
The little dog who traveled from New Hampshire in search of a new home never found one, except in the heart of Emmett Wilson.
In honor of Baxter, tax-deductible memorial donations may be made to Small Animal Rescue, 943 Canal Road, Princeton, NJ 08540.