19-Year-Old Therapy Dog Gives Meaning to Terminal Patients

Life With Dogs is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.


7.18.14 - 19-Year-Old Therapy Dog Gives Meaning to Dying Woman

Baxter is a living teddy bear – he looks and feels like one, and brings as much comfort as one.  This 19-year-old therapy dog can no longer get around for himself, and has to be wheeled around in a wagon, but that doesn’t stop him from bringing happiness and a little love to elderly and terminal patients in the hospital.

“This is Baxter, my 19 ½ -year-old certified therapy dog, who works at San Diego Hospice in the Institute for Palliative Medicine,” explained author Melissa Joseph.  “It’s an in-patient care center where people are at the end of their life.  Baxter enters a room in his little red wagon because he can no longer walk, and he bonds with patients, many of whom cannot walk as well.”

Melissa hoists her 37-pound teddy bear onto patients’ beds if they would like him up there.  Sometimes he just snuggles, and other times he gives smooches that seem to last forever.  Some patients have no one else to visit them, and Baxter is a beacon of light in an otherwise dreary stage in their lives.

7.18.14 - 19-Year-Old Therapy Dog Gives Meaning to Terminal Patients2

“There is an uncanny congruity that develops – Baxter, at the end of his life, the patient, at the end of their life,” Melissa said.  “Baxter truly is the perfect, world’s best therapy dog.  When he gets in bed with a patient, or with a family member on the sofa, something happens in the room.  The pain of this race, the tears, dry into smiles, and all of a sudden, for a moment, you would think, that everybody was alive.  Really alive.”

“Baxter just seems to know how to provide the care that people need, and he started licking the patient’s face.  Licking, licking, licking, and didn’t stop licking, for, I don’t know, maybe half an hour or more,” said Lisa McCollough, the chaplain of San Diego Hospice.  “The family was so touched, and so moved, and cried and laughed, and the patient died later that night.  So in his last hours, Baxter provided the kind of care he needed.  The best care he gives.”

“I’m happy to say that though Baxter is the age he is, he still has this ability to bring comfort and love at the end of his life,” Melissa concluded.



5 thoughts on “19-Year-Old Therapy Dog Gives Meaning to Terminal Patients”

  1. Baxter has a beautiful soul. I am just sad that he can no longer walk but very glad that he is still able to give so much happiness to people in their final days. I wish I could pet him and hug him.

  2. It’s nice that he can comfort those in the last stages of their life. But, I feel sorry for him too, as he looks so tired. I’m not sure I would consider it much of a life for a dog that cannot get around without being carried.

  3. This owner truly needs to show the same compassion for her dog that she expects him to do for others. This poor dog needs to be shown the same love and be put to rest himself…..this is cruel. This is no quality of life for this poor boy!

    • When my 17 year old dog could no longer walk, he was also in pain and distressed. We had to put him down. We knew that one day very soon we’d come home and find that he’d passed away in a puddle of his urine. THAT would be horribly cruel. I hope this dog isn’t suffering mentally or physically.


Leave a Comment