Not all origin stories are as simple as walking into an animal shelter and meeting a forever friend. Sometimes, we have to seek out the ones we need, even if that means going the extra mile (literally). Galen Sylk, who’d been searching for a companion, might understand this more than anyone else.
One day, Galen drove 14 hours to meet Baxter, a black, mixed-breed pup, after spotting his picture on a website. And it’s safe to say all of that effort paid off as their bond was immediate.
“When she handed him to me, it just kind of felt like he was already mine — like from the beginning, he was supposed to be mine,” she said. “It was one of those moments where you don't know what you're missing until you get it. I feel like the light outside even changed color.”
Galen adopted Baxter just 3 weeks after the COVID-19 shutdowns began. Not only was most of the world grappling with the uncertainty of the pandemic, but she had recently lost her job and was going through a tough time. However, Baxter helped give her a sense of purpose.
“I truly and genuinely can say that I don't know what kind of mental or physical state I’d be in had I not gotten Baxter. It was a really hard time in the pandemic, first having the career change, then trying to figure out what to do, and then also kind of just being trapped in the house,” Galen recalls. “Being able to have a companion and someone that’s giving you just as much love as you're giving them really helps pick you up in those dark times.”
Spending so much time together — whether walking or socializing — allowed the duo to develop their routines. One of their favorite activities was people-watching along the waterfront where they used to live. And it turns out that people gave Baxter that same level of attention back, often stopping to accept kisses or give him pets. At two nearby pet stores, the staff would yell Baxter’s name when he walked in and even followed him on Instagram.
Even though Baxter is a social butterfly, Galen immediately noticed that it was challenging for the pup to walk from place to place. Initially, she thought it was because he was so small and had shorter legs. However, when he had a growth spurt and started going to Pandemic Puppy Club, which is a dog daycare, Galen noticed that Baxter couldn’t chase other pups, and after the hangouts, he refused to walk home. He had long fur, and it was hot outside, so she figured he was just exhausted.
However, months and months passed by, and it was still difficult for Baxter to walk normally. “Chasing other dogs was a practical impossibility,” Galen said. “He just would try, and then it’d make me nervous because he'd fall over. He stuck out like a sore thumb. That's what I would say. He's totally stuck out like a sore thumb in a pile of puppies.”
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Galen brought Baxter to their vet’s office to see what could be causing this abnormality. She wondered if hip dysplasia, which is when one or both of a dog’s hip joints becomes loose, could be to blame. Galen’s brother’s Bernese Mountain Dog struggled with the condition and showed similar symptoms as Baxter. However, the vet believed Baxter was too young to have hip dysplasia and couldn’t confirm a diagnosis.
The University of Pennsylvania offers PennHIP testing, which uses radiographs to determine if a dog has hip dysplasia and Galen thought it’d be a great opportunity to get to the bottom of Baxter’s condition. The only downside was that the testing could be super expensive.
Luckily, Galen made a decision that would give her the freedom to get Baxter the care he needed. “I started with Fetch by The Dodo pet insurance immediately when Baxter was 10 weeks old,” Galen said. “I signed up, and I'm so happy that I did because having Fetch is the reason I could say, ‘No, I need this X-ray to be done right now.’”
Baxter got the tests he needed to get the correct diagnosis. At 6 months old, it was official that he had bilateral hip dysplasia, and Galen wasted no time signing him up for treatments to make him feel more comfortable. The pair moved to Colorado, where they found a rehabilitation facility for dogs. Baxter started receiving ultrasounds (which helped with his back tension), acupuncture and hydrotherapy. Walking on the underwater treadmills is actually Baxter’s favorite activity, just like another Fetch-protected pet we've featured named Reuben.
“We have significant improvement, today even, but every week, and it's all thanks to the treatments that are covered,” Galen explains. “If Baxter didn't have these treatments, I don't think that he would be able to walk at this point. I don't think he would be able to run or jump or do anything. And thanks to these treatments, we get to go on hikes.”
So far, Baxter’s treatments have cost around $15,000 and Fetch covered around $10,000 of those expenses. But it’s all worth it to ensure Baxter is comfortable and living life to the fullest (plus it means more hikes for the duo!).
“I'm grateful to Fetch for giving Baxter his best life,” Galen says. “Because as much as I want to take responsibility for it, I wouldn't be able to do any of these things without Fetch. And that's just the truth.”
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The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo.
Photo by Galen Sylk