But when Gabbert left to serve his deployment, he had to leave his 3-year-old Shiba Inu and best friend, Baxter, behind. Gabbert trusted his girlfriend to care for Baxter, or if she could not, to place Baxter in the care of Gabbert’s family. He never could have anticipated what would happen next.
For reasons unknown, rather than bring Baxter to Gabbert’s relatives, Gabbert’s now-ex-girlfriend sold Baxter to someone else. When Gabbert heard what had happened, he was devastated, wondering if he would ever get to see Baxter again. The worried soldier turned to Craigslist, hopeful that the person who bought Baxter would see his post and come forward.
“I am currently deployed and my ex sold my dog,” Gabbert wrote. “I just found out and I am trying to find the people (person) who bought him. I will pay anything to get him back. His name is Baxter and he is a Shiba Inu. I do not have my phone with me. You can email me. The phone number is my mom’s she is helping me locate him. If you have any information PLEASE give us a call or an email.”
When news broke of Gabbert’s story and his desperate search for Baxter, Gabbert’s friends, family, and supporters from around the world mobilized. One supporter created a Facebook page, “Help Bring Baxter Home 2014,” which in only a few short days had earned more than 2,000 Likes and raised $700 in reward money towards Baxter’s safe return.
Supporter Nancy Wallace says she is one of many devoted to reuniting Gabbert with the dog he’s raised since Baxter was just a puppy.
“That’s just not something we should let him sit over in Afghanistan worrying about, his dog,” Wallace explains. “He should be doing the job he’s there for and not having to worry about that. He should know that his dog is home and with his family and will be waiting for him when he gets home.”
A Colorado rescue organization also stepped in; the Colorado Shiba Inu Rescue offered the family who purchased Baxter from Gabbert’s ex-girlfriend $1,400 to relinquish Baxter, and even offered to help the family find another Shiba Inu of their own.
It didn’t take long for the people who purchased Baxter to reach out. But rather than offer to immediately return Baxter, the family — another military family — said they did not want to give Baxter up. Baxter had spent a month as a family dog in their home, and their children had bonded with Gabbert’s dog, they said.
“They keep saying they have children that are attached,” Gabbert’s mother, Karen, tells KOAA News 5. “Well my child is attached to the dog. Just because he’s older doesn’t mean he’s not my child.”
Gabbert’s parents are avoiding placing any blame, focusing solely on bringing Baxter home for their son.
“We don’t want to get the girl in trouble or anything. We just want to get Baxter back. He is part of the family and we just love that little dog,” says Gabbert’s father, Bob. “He means so much to my son.”
Gabbert’s supporters weren’t willing to give up hope that the family would decide to make the right choice.
“Now that they know about it, they can do the right thing,” Wallace tells WRCB. “They can teach their children, ‘Yeah this is very difficult, but we do the right thing.”
Well, according to the Daily Mail, Baxter will be coming home. Gabbert and his supporters have reached a deal with the family in exchange for Baxter. Part of the agreement included deleting the “Help Bring Baxter Home 2014” Facebook page.
“I think the people that bought the dog and read the stories felt bad,” Bob says. “I guess, there’s been so many people supporting Robbie, that the family came forward.”
Baxter should be arriving at Gabbert’s parent’s home in Ohio in the coming days. Meanwhile, Gabbert will continue to serve overseas for at least the next six months.