Dog Rescue Groups Come Together to Save Baxter, a Special-Needs Dog

The Poodle mix with spinal issues needed a lot of help on his road to adoption, but it worked out in the end -- he now has his forever home.


Baxter, a Poodle mix with spinal issues, found his forever home with the help of a number of dog rescue groups and loving people in the Northern California area. Baxter’s last stop before finding a family was the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (HSSV). Dr. Cristie Kamiya, chief of shelter medicine, helped us understand Baxter’s journey and the people and places that helped him.

Maddie’s Fund, a foundation working to achieve and sustain a no-kill nation, was working to help get Baxter placed in a foster home. Sheila D’Arpino, director of Maddie’s Animal Care Center and a friend of Kamiya, reached out to her via text. D’Arpino explained to Kamiya that an HSSV employee had seen Baxter on its Facebook page and was interested in fostering him. Since Baxter was going to be fostered by someone who worked at the humane society, D’Arpino suggested it made sense for Baxter to come to HSSV for care, and Kamiya agreed. That conversation happened in the evening. By the next morning, Baxter was with his new foster mom at her work.

At his new location, Baxter took the sometimes hard and time-consuming steps necessary to one day get adopted. His foster mom, HSSV finance employee Farinaz Khatabi, brought Baxter home. As a special needs puppy whose medical needs required that he limit his activity, Baxter came to work with Khatabi every day. “Being four months old, he was pretty difficult to contain. He was supposed to be confined to a crate for four to six weeks, and that is pretty difficult for a puppy,” Kamiya explains. She describes Khatabi as being very patient with Baxter, which was, at the time, what he needed most.

Baxter definitely showed signs of spinal issues. If you picked Baxter up and supported him, he could stand, but when he tried to walk he would fall over. According to Kamiya, it was unclear at the time if Baxter’s problem was caused by an injury, infection, or even a congenital defect. The rescue that took Baxter in had taken him to a neurologist for consult, and the doctor determined where the injury was — in the middle of his spine — but couldn’t determine what the cause was. Since a diagnosis was still unclear, the best thing was to give him time to rest and heal. During the 10 days at the shelter, Baxter did seem to show improvement and HSSV hoped that trend would continue.

Lucky for Baxter, there was another group willing to help in his rehabilitation. HSSV has a partnership with Scout’s House, a rehab center for animals and self-described champions of special need dogs and cats. Through its nonprofit entity, Scout’s Animal Rehab Therapy Fund, Baxter was able to get additional treatment. With the help of donations, Scout’s Fund is able to underwrite the cost of physical therapy for animals with special needs. Kamiya describes HSSV’s relationship with Scout’s Fund as “wonderful” and gives it credit for helping provide an extremely high level of care to some of its animal patients, whose treatment would have normally been cost prohibitive.

Baxter visited Scout’s House once to twice a week for physical therapy. He spent time doing exercises to strengthen his back and legs, including utilizing the underwater treadmill. His work wasn’t limited to his time at the rehab facility. He also worked with his foster mom, Khatabi, on his homework. With everyone’s help and his hard work, Baxter continued to show signs of improvement.

One day a couple came to HSSV looking for a companion dog for their shy hound mix, Kipper. They had in mind another Poodle mix they knew was up for adoption, but they never got that far. Christian Lawler, Inna Cheong, and Kipper met Baxter and his foster mom in the hall. When looking back at this meeting, Kamiya says, “There was an instant connection between Kipper and Baxter. They had just met and they started play bowing. We couldn’t let Baxter play as quickly because he wasn’t done with his treatment, so it was a little bit of controlled play, but it was perfect.” Lawler and Cheong had their name put in Baxter’s file as an interested adoptive party.

Several weeks later the couple returned to take Baxter home. Baxter has settled in nicely with his dog brother. The two are described as best buds. Kamiya explains this doggie connection, “Baxter provides support to Kipper, who is a little bit shy, and through play and running around Kipper provides an opportunity for Baxter to get stronger and stronger.”

“He will probably never be a marathon runner or an agility champion,” Kamiya says, “but as far as regular everyday life goes, he is perfect!”

Baxter can thank his new life to a network of animal rescue organizations and dedicated animal lovers. Seventy-five percent of the animals who came through HSSV’s doors last year required medical assistance. In order for the organization to continue the work it does, HSSV, along with the other groups that helped Baxter, rely on the donations of time and money. If you’d like to help, visit the Human Society of Silicon Valley’s Facebook page and website for more details.

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About the author: Wendy Newell is a former VP of Sales turned Grade A Dog Sitter. After years of stress, she decided to leave the world of “always be closing” to one of tail wags and licks. Wendy’s new career keeps her busy hiking, being a dog chauffeur, picking up poo, sacrificing her bed, and other fur-filled activities. Wendy and her dog, Riggins, take their always-changing pack of pups on adventures throughout the Los Angeles area, where they live together in a cozy, happy home. You can learn more about Wendy, Riggins, and their adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

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