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A Goodbye Letter for Baxter

At the beginning of July I have a tradition of writing a letter to Baxter to celebrate his Gotcha Day. However, this year it’s a letter of goodbye. Baxter died at the end of May. I can’t write this letter without talking about another death that I haven’t shared here yet. My husband, Matt, died in November.

That Mutt is a website. But it is also a community of caring, helpful people. I appreciate how so many of you have read along, shared your own experiences and offered advice as I’ve posted updates about Baxter and our family. Thank you for joining me in saying goodbye to him today.
– Julia

Baxter at sunset

Dear Baxter,

You joined our family July 7, 2013. You are always a special, special part of our family, even if you are not here physically.

I appreciate so much all of the things we got to do, from hikes to working outside at the farm to quiet nights in front of the TV. We had fun and enjoyed being together.

As I was thinking about this letter and looking back over our almost seven years together, I thought about all of the things you taught me.

First is toenails. Not how to cut your toenails. That part was easy. How to show you it was okay for me to cut your toenails. That was hard.

There were times that I thought I’d never be able to cut your nails without stressing us both out. But we figured it out and grew to trust each other.

Baxter and Julia

You taught me to not doubt others, to be patient, work hard and that there are no limits to what we are capable of.

I never thought you’d be able to be off leash. Then off-leash hiking became one of our favourite things to do. You definitely had a big comfort zone and made me nervous sometimes, but I trusted that you would find me.

I never thought you’d be comfortable around Ellie. Even when she was first born and you weren’t sure about her, you knew she was important and you watched out for her. And you built on that until you were able to go along with whatever was happening. The lessons you taught her are invaluable. Her love of animals, her gentleness with them is because of you.

Dog with a toddler

The greatest thing you taught me was acceptance. No matter what we were doing, you came along. If you had to wait for our walk or playtime, you were patient. If it was noisy and busy, you were tolerant. You were calm and easy in all situations, and we got to do so many things together because of that.

I try to remember to be open to different experiences because the experience itself may be valuable.

Your acceptance reached a new level during Matt’s illness. I know you didn’t like the long days when we were away from home and other people were here with you and Ellie, but you didn’t make it difficult for anyone. No matter how tired I was, it was always nice to take a moment outside with you when we finally got home. And having your warm furry neck to cry into when we were alone late at night helped me. I could always talk to you when I couldn’t talk to anyone else.

I’m so, so grateful that I was able to bring him home at the end for you. I wanted you to see him and try to help you understand. Though I know you knew. Thank you for all of the nights you spent watching over him. Your love for him is special, and I’m so glad to think of the two of you together now. I imagine how happy you were when you saw him again, and that gives me a lot of peace.

Baxter and Matt

The final lesson that you taught me, Bax, is that I’m a dog person. You were my first dog. And I know you won’t be my last. You will always be special. But I know that love lives on and it’s bigger than any one of us.

Love is what got us through nail cuttings, a baby… who turned into a toddler, melanoma, long days, late nights, early mornings, hand feedings, 3am bathroom breaks… and 4am and 5am–all of the hard, the good, the routine and the unusual. Together, they are all special. Thank you.

Love forever,

Previous gotcha letters:

Family photo with our dog Baxter

Julia Preston writes for That Mutt about dog behavior and training, working dogs and life on her farm in Ontario, Canada. She has a sweet, laid-back boxer mix named Baxter. She is also a blogger at Home on 129 Acres where she writes about her adventures of country living and DIY renovating.

Angela F.

Tuesday 28th of July 2020

Thank you for sharing this beautifully written letter to Baxter. You can tell how special he was. I know he feels blessed to have been part of your family. I always enjoy coming to your Blogs and reading what you have to share and learning a lot along the way. Both you and Matt have worked so hard and have done so much beautiful work over the years to create a loving home for Ellie, Baxter and Ralph. Words can not express how saddened I was to read about the loss of Matt and Baxter. I am so terribly sorry for your loss Julia.

Julia P.

Thursday 30th of July 2020

Thank you for your kind comment, Angela. We have a beautiful home and a beautiful family, even if it's not quite what we envisioned, and that is our greatest blessing.


Monday 13th of July 2020

So sorry for your losses! This letter is so touching to me.

Julia P.

Tuesday 14th of July 2020

Thank you for your comment.

Carol (Mattie's Mom)

Thursday 9th of July 2020

My heart aches for you, Julia! To lose your husband and Baxter in a few short months. Thank you for sharing. What a wonderful tribute to Baxter. I love the idea of celebrating his life in your yearly letters to him. In June we celebrated our Mattie's 1st 'gotcha day'-I will attempt to capture the highs and lows of the past year. She too is a rescue from Kentucky.

Julia P.

Tuesday 14th of July 2020

Congratulations on your first year with Mattie. It's really nice to look back at the letters--and in our case all of our blog posts--and have those memories of our times together. It's worth the effort to capture those highs and lows.


Thursday 9th of July 2020

Hi Julia, I always enjoyed reading your gotcha letter to Baxter every year. Although I have no kids, I was very interested in the series you wrote in the run up to Ellie being born and how you prepared Baxter for the new arrival. He was a great buddy to you! Its amazing what dogs do for us in hard times. My thoughts are with you and Ellie x

Julia P.

Tuesday 14th of July 2020

Thank you for following along. I appreciate your kind thoughts.


Tuesday 7th of July 2020

Oh my. I'm so sorry for your losses. I can't even imagine how hard it has been. My thoughts and prayers are with you.

Dawn with Maya and Pierson

Julia P.

Tuesday 7th of July 2020

Thank you for your kindness.