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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Farewell to CavDog

If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, or the Office of Admission page on Facebook, you already know that we had to say goodbye to CavDog, my beloved Baxter, just over a week ago. Posting the news on those sites was relatively easy, though heartbreaking. A photo and a short caption were all that was needed.

A photo posted by Dean J|UVa Office of Admission (@uvadeanj) on

The idea of sharing the news on my blog was a little more daunting. Writing a short caption is one thing and composing a post is another. It took me a while to be able to do this, even though we've known this was going to happen since the beginning of June, when Baxter was diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, a type of cancer.

I've been overwhelmed by the support I've gotten from the UVa community in the last week. The kind comments and notes have been wonderful. My original thought was to highlight some of the lovely comments people made about meeting CavDog, but I think I'll share some of Baxter's quirks instead.

1. To teach him not to bark whenever he wanted, we trained Baxter to bark for specific words. The word set evolved over the years from just "squirrel" and "kitty cat" to the names of our athletic rivals. The day we debuted his bark for that state school in the upper mid-west that beat our basketball team a couple times, we had students cheering.

2. Baxter loved everyone, but he especially loves Allegra, one of the women at our front desk, and Jane, a former admission counselor here. Allegra says Baxter must remember she was holding a doughnut the first time she met him, but I think he loves her because she's just a lovely person. Jane had an office near mine and Baxter used to sneak over to her when I wasn't watching. The day she left us, he seemed to know it was her last day.

3. Baxter would go completely bananas when he saw CavMan. If I wanted to get a picture of them together, I'd have to wait for Bax to run in a massive circle a few times so he'd be calm enough to sit for the camera. I know the people inside the costume changes, but Baxter seemed to know that they put good people in that position!

4. He could identify a "to go" box from the dining room in Newcomb Hall and a bag from Bodo's Bagels. He was not subtle about his interest in them if he saw them.

A photo posted by Dean J|UVa Office of Admission (@uvadeanj) on

5. He loved your little brothers and sisters.

A photo posted by Dean J|UVa Office of Admission (@uvadeanj) on

6. Days on the Lawn were Baxter's favorite days. He loved to come to work with me, but when he realized it was a DOTL day and not a regular day in the office, he would get so excited. In his early days, he would do tricks during the welcome talk. It was a little random, but it was a way to start the day off with some laughs.

April 2008, Baxter's first Days on the Lawn
Playing "dead" doesn't see funny today, but it was at the time.

7. He despised the sound of Facebook notifications. It got to the point that he would get up and leave the room over Facebook Messenger alerts. There's a certain irony that a dog who had been all over social media would find notifications of new activity annoying.

8. While he was extremely happy on the UVa Grounds, there were a few things at UVa that unsettled Baxter: the steam grate behind Monroe Hall, the black floors in the Peabody Hall stairwell, and the squirrels. The UVa squirrel was his greatest nemesis.

A photo posted by Dean J|UVa Office of Admission (@uvadeanj) on

9. His selfie game is strong thanks to a few of the Virginia Ambassadors. They taught him to take selfies during their office hours. We used treats at first, but he got the hang of it pretty quickly.

10. One of Baxter's sisters is a Hokie and I think they exhibit the perfect Hoo/Hokie relationship. They each wanted to "win" when they were playing, but when playtime was over, they were great friends, as siblings should be.

I hope you enjoyed to getting to know Baxter beyond his "CavDog" role. Back in 2008, I thought including him on the blog was risky and that I'd have complaints about a dog being on the blog. That worry seems so silly now. These days, if I post a few entries without a CavDog photo, someone usually points it out. Last week, I told a student that Baxter was gone and they said something like "is it really Days on the Lawn if you don't get your picture with CavDog?" It'll have to be, but it'll be a little bit different.