ALBANY COUNTY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — An Albany County K9 who died of cancer continues to have a lasting impact on his handler and the community. K9 Baxter saved dozens of missing and distressed people, and his life’s work is honored by his best human friend who worked by his side for four years.
NEWS10 first met Baxter in July 2019, when he successfully tracked down a vulnerable adult in Cohoes on a windy, rainy day. All the odds were against him, but he found her.
She was just one of many people Baxter saved. He helped police piece together a bus route taken by a missing person, and tracked down a missing 12-year-old in Coeymans. Paris said even when he didn’t want to believe Baxter’s instincts, he would regret it eventually.
“Every time I have not been faithful to the trust, I was wrong as the handler. Baxter was right,” Paris told NEWS10.
Paris and Baxter were inseparable for years. Though they belonged to the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, they assisted towns and cities all over the Capital Region. When departments were hitting a dead end, they’d call and ask for Baxter.
He kept a smile on everyone’s face at the sheriff’s office too: getting into antics, and wandering the halls to say “hi” to his favorite officers.
“Baxter was a Houdini. He could get out of his crate, he could open my gate in my cubicle and he knew how to open doorknobs,” Paris explained.
As soon as Baxter got home from the station after a long day of working, his collars came off, and he knew it was his time to just be a dog. “Baxter basically got the run of the house, had his own recliner. The only piece of furniture he was allowed on.”
But when duty called the next day, Baxter would use his massive paw to wake up his Dad and get to work.
In June, Paris noticed Baxter was moving a bit more slowly than usual. Like a good dog parent and partner, he took him to the veterinarian. After many tests that came back normal, one showed his white blood cell count was rising.
Then came an August Sunday Paris will never forget. “He walked up on the hill on the back of my house and laid in the trees. I started getting all choked up,” Paris recalled. “I was like, he wants to die.”
Monday morning, Paris had to carry Baxter to the car to get him to the vet. Doctors found a big mass in his chest, pushing on his colon.
Baxter had cancer. Certain types affect bloodhounds more than other breeds. After four years together, a time that Paris describes as too short, he made the decision not to let his friend suffer any longer.
“They brought him back in, he came over and put his head on my lap, and I just said to the vet, ‘Put him down.’ I miss him so bad,” Paris said through tears.
That was K9 Baxter’s end of watch. August 16, 2021.
“My fire family, when we had the annual dinner where they talk about deceased members in each fire department for the year, they ring the bell. At the very end, they give their condolences to the sheriff’s office, Sheriff Apple, myself, and they rang the bell for Baxter. As one of their own. As one of their people. That really touched my heart, that he touched that many people,” Paris said.
The day after Baxter passed, the sheriff’s office offered Paris K9 Casey, another bloodhound in the department, but it was too soon. Even now, more than 3 months later, Paris still finds clumps of his hair in the car. There are reminders of Baxter all over the house.
His heart remains broken for his buddy. Filling that void with a new work partner wasn’t the answer, so Paris thought smaller.
Paris picked up two bloodhound puppies and named them Bunker and Hank. He said he’s going to train them both up when they get older. One may turn out stronger in the field. The other could potentially grow up to be a therapy dog.
Both have some personality traits of Baxter, but they don’t look like him. They don’t have the same coloring. Paris chose them on purpose.
“I’ll never replace him,” Paris explained, “and I don’t want to compare Baxter to them.”
Paris has found ways to keep Baxter’s memory alive. He makes t-shirts and hats to bring awareness to the way cancer impacts all of our lives, through our human and furry friends.
If you happen to get a hold of any K9 Baxter merch, Paris has a rule: Wear it with honor and pride, because those were his partner’s values.