Baxter was born with great expectations. His mother was an Australian Shepherd that belonged to Charles and Betty Rosson, and his father was a blue tick hound, Labrador retriever mix that roamed the neighborhood. What more could anyone want in a cow dog? Clearly the genetics were right. The hound gave him the ability to track down cows. The shepherd gave him the aptitude to herd, and the retriever the skills to bring the cows back. He even looked the part, his long black hair and white markings making him look very much like a stout, tall, Border collie.
Baxter’s domain was the area inside the invisible fence that circled the yard. As a result, he never did get the chance to fully express his potential as a cow dog. He did okay on the rare occasions when calves or cows got in the yard through a gate that had been left open. He had enough instinct to listen and usually got in the right place to help funnel the wayward bovines back through the gate. He herded cars and trucks down the driveway and would bark and spin along side the vehicle until he approached the buried wire that activated his collar. His favorite toy was a rubber inflator tube that was part of the milking machines that came from Grace Spring dairy. He would retrieve it as long as someone would throw it, or until his black coat made him too hot. Then he would take his toy and find a shady spot to rest.
We brought Baxter home about six months before our daughter Hannah was born to be company for our older Great Pyrenees dog, Jason. As Hannah became a toddler, Baxter began to view her as one of his responsibilities. When Hannah was outside in the yard, Bax was not far away. If you wanted to find Hannah, call up Bax and he would show where she was. He always greeted visitors with what appeared to be a smile and a wagging tail. Sit in a chair and he would try to climb into your lap. Ever alert, nothing seemed to escape his attention.
As Hannah grew up, Baxter grew older. His muzzle grew gray, and he became less inclined to retrieve his inflator. Cataracts clouded his vision and his hearing grew weaker. It became harder for him to keep up with Hannah, and he would spend his days near the back door of the house waiting for excitement. A trip to the vet for a rabies shot revealed swollen lymph nodes and other ailments common to older dogs. His excitement was still a car or truck to herd. Even in his final weeks he would arouse himself and chase the departing vehicle down the driveway to the edge of the invisible fence.
Baxter died in his sleep the other night. He never became the great cow dog that was expected of him. But he was mighty good at chasing cars down the drive, and knowing just when to stop. And he was a mighty good friend. Good by Ol’ Bax, I'll miss you.