Baxter & Family. Click image for more photos!
Left: Image by Laura Olsen Right: Image by Tara Lynn
Baxter & Family. Click image for more photos!
Baxter & Family. Click image for more photos!
Lacie, Baxter's feline friend

A Stolen Heart

What is it about four paws, perked ears and a wagging tail that capture my soul? I honestly thought I knew what love was… that is until I adopted Baxter. I’ve always grown up with cats and didn’t think I would be much of a “dog person.” Poop to pick up.  Jumping up on you. Licking you…and heaven forbid dog drool. Now my biggest worry: leaving Baxter home alone for more than 30 minutes.

This dog-owning adventure of mine all started more than two years ago when my fiancé’s dog Ginger passed away. She was a beagle the size of a pot-bellied pig and every bit a part of the family. Immediately, I wanted to find a dog for Brandon. I started visiting Pet Helpers and we fell in love with a lemon beagle named Hunter, but weren’t able to foster him through his heartworm treatment out of state. We moved our search to the web. It was very important to us to rescue a pup that needed a loving home. We stumbled upon a photo of a three-month old beagle mix that looked a lot like the Pet Helpers dog we wanted. A family with six kids moved out and left him in the backyard. The woman at the shelter didn’t usually take puppies, but made an exception after somebody found him howling all alone in the middle of the night. It was meant to be! We both drove 2.5 hours (Brandon from Chapel Hill, I from Charleston) to a shelter in Florence. We waited anxiously outside the front door as the woman brought Baxter out to meet us. He shook as she plopped him into Brandon’s arms. In an instant, we knew: he was “the one.” Thirty minutes later we had a curious puppy ready to join our lives. There was no turning back.

Baxter soon made Chapel Hill his home and law school books his teething rings. I made sure Brandon sent me videos of his progress learning to sit, stay and roll over. I always had gifts and treats waiting for him when I saw him. I couldn’t get enough of him or show him off enough. One fall day during his visit to Charleston, I ran backwards for thirty-minutes while Brandon walked him just to capture the perfect picture to earn his spot in Lowcountry Dog Magazine (he made it!). Overnight, I had become a crazy dog-lover.

Being abandoned, Baxter had some separation anxiety and never wanted “Dad” to leave. I remember being so hurt when he didn’t have quite the same reaction when I left the room, but it didn’t take long for him to feel the same way about “Mom.” There’s no better feeling than walking in the door after weeks apart and seeing him do his “happy dance” knowing Mom is here! And once I’m there, he never leaves my side. Now Brandon can be the jealous one.

This adventure has now turned full circle back to where it all started: Pet Helpers.. I’ve always been a pet advocate, but not having Baxter around everyday quickly made me realize I needed just as much if not more love from dogs than they did from me. I eagerly signed up to walk dogs as a volunteer with the shelter. Later, I fused my love for photography and animals and started taking photos of the dogs to help people search for potential pups online—after all that is how Brandon and I found Baxter.

What began as weekly walks quickly turned to falling in love all over again. Not once, but now twice! I became a mentor for a pup named Chancy and spent an hour a day with her four to five days a week. I cried all weekend after she was adopted even though I knew that was the goal. Then I fostered my first pup, Rudy. I kept him for a month and visited him everyday for weeks until he was adopted. Another tear-jerker.

After meeting dozens of dogs that walk through the shelter doors, I understand the magic of meeting your “soul pet.” You just know which four-legged friend is meant for you and after that feeling, you’re forever changed. I know I’ll have other “Chancys” and “Rudys” that I’ll love and prepare for their forever homes, but it won’t be any easier to let them go. My world is all the brighter knowing I had a part in their new lives.

As I look up every two minutes from writing this blog to sneak a peek at my adorable dog, I know without a doubt that it’s not so much the dogs that need us, as it is that we need them. I’m a dog-owner and I will never be the same.

Tara Lynn


Pet Helpers Volunteer


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