AUGUSTA — As first dog, Baxter gets a lot of perks.
Unlimited couch time in the Blaine House sunroom. The ability to supervise important business. Daily visitors, many of whom are children and some of whom drop crumbs within easy reach.
And, now, his own blog.
“He has the attitude. I’m just his voice,” said Paula Benoit, who works as Blaine House director and — since Baxter has trouble typing — serves as the official writer of Baxter’s blog.
Lauren LePage, Gov. Paul LePage’s daughter, adopted Baxter from a Florida animal shelter three years ago. A brown and white Jack Russell terrier mix, he was called “Snickers” then. The family changed his name to “Baxter” because they thought it fit him.
Now 5, Baxter’s move to the Blaine House has been smooth, making him the latest in a long line of first pets that have included over the years dogs, cats and other traditional pets, as well as lambs and, once, a squirrel. In his first months as first dog, Baxter has become a fixture in the public building, where he welcomes visitors and shadows the staff members who run the 177-year-old house.
“Somebody has to make sure the halls are clear and there’s no food on the floor,” Benoit joked.
Good-natured and lively, Baxter is known as a charmer.
“Baxter’s an adorable little dog with a personality larger than life,” first lady Ann LePage said in a prepared statement. “We love him so much and he really knows how to make us laugh.”
He seems to enjoy the attention that living in the governor’s mansion affords. When a group of school children recently visited the Capitol, he caught sight of them during his walk and immediately began prancing across the yard and rolling on the ground for their delight.
“Baxter Blogs” was Benoit’s idea, a way to engage people — particularly children — in the history and current events of the Blaine House. The blog features photos of Baxter lounging in the sun, napping in the kitchen while the staff prepared for guests and being held by visiting dignitaries. Each photo is accompanied by a chipper post on life from Baxter’s point of view.
“You know how sometimes you see a guy on TV who yells, ‘Hear ye, hear ye, make way for The Governor of Maine!’ Yep, that’s what I do without all the yelling. I just work my way through the crowd, grab a couple of compliments and pats on my head, help myself to snacks on the floor while guests balance food on their napkins, then I settle in for the event,” one recent post read.
Benoit also hopes to write a children’s book about the Blaine House, using Baxter as kid-friendly tour guide. Proceeds would benefit the historic house, which is largely preserved with help from a nonprofit group called Friends of the Blaine House.
A dog-lover herself, Benoit sees Baxter as a furry, friendly ambassador for the house.
“He really takes over. He’s really become this personality,” she said.
For more stories from the Sun Journal, visit www.sunjournal.com.