Therapy dog goes missing

Therapy dog goes missing »Play Video
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — His name is Baxter, and he is a small white schnauzer who disappeared from his home on Magnolia and La Cresta streets in northeast Bakersfield on Dec. 22.

But, this is no ordinary dog. Baxter is a therapy dog who can help disabled children with learning difficulties, as well as give aid and comfort to the elderly. In this case, Baxter was doing both duties.

His owner is Tamara Van Dam, a speech therapist who works with disabled children at Edison School District and with the elderly at Delano Skilled Nursing Facility. Van Dam has been using Baxter to help children with such conditions as autism and Down syndrome learn how to start speaking.

"He will be their very first intent to communicate, they will go to him and pet him and talk to him before they will talk to people," said Van Dam.

And, at the nursing facility, elderly patients placed there don't have their pets anymore, and Baxter is the surrogate dog whose job it is to provide comfort and companionship.

Van Dam said she and Baxter had just gotten home from a day's work in Delano and she removed his tags while Baxter played in the front yard. But, somehow, the dog managed to get out.

A neighbor told Van Dam she saw a woman in a small light-colored four-door SUV stop, and a young girl picked up Baxter and put him inside the vehicle. Van Dam believes the woman and young girl most likely thought Baxter was lost.

Van Dam is anxious to get Baxter back home and back to work with her students and elderly residents.

Anyone who has seen or thinks they might have seen Baxter is urged to call Tamara Van Dam at (661) 871-8444.