Heavyweight Heart: Roxie the Boxer

Grand-dog, teacher’s pet, and “medical miracle” – a tribute to Roxie the boxer.

Having fought the odds most of her life, Roxie passed away peacefully during an afternoon nap on March 17th, but not without leaving a loving legacy among family members, neighbors, and grateful schoolchildren. Leslie Levy, of Time Out for Pets, describes Roxie’s well-lived life.

In February of 2004, seven-week old Roxie, became the adored pup of medical student Christina Hillson and her boyfriend. Since the boyfriend, an Olympic rower, travelled frequently, Roxie grew up with “two mothers,” the second being Christina’s mom Barbara, who’s lived on Indian Queen Lane since 1984 with her husband Bob.

This became Roxie’s primary home when Christina and her boyfriend split in 2008 and Christina moved to California for her OB Fellowship. However, whenever Dr. Christina Hillson called, she knew she would get a Roxie update; she was far away, but Roxie was always etched in her heart.

Barbara grew up with a German short-haired pointer and a Weimeraner, so she eagerly welcomed what she knew would become a large grand-dog. She quickly saw that Roxie’s ebullient personality fit right in with her pre-school students. Barbara is owner and head teacher of Little School On the Hill, an East Falls gem — its reputation solidified by a two-year waiting list.

At four months Roxie was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy (50% of Boxers are predisposed to the condition), and the vet made a sobering prediction — Roxie would probably not live more than a year. She started on heart meds, her loveable personality unaffected, and with every passing month she eagerly interacted with Barbara’s preschoolers. One of Roxie’s favorite activities was to jump in the sandbox and wading pool, and so both children and dog were silly together.

When children fell, Roxie kissed their boo-boos and they seemed to feel better faster,” said Barbara with her warm-hearted smile. “Over the years, children sat next to Roxie and read to her.”  Studies have shown that children learning to read often feel more relaxed when reading to pets because they are kind, noncritical listeners.

Roxie’s cardiologist, who has seen her about four times a year, dubbed her the “miracle dog,” because despite needing more heart medications over the years, she survived a spinal embolism at 9 years that left her paralyzed for a few days. After that she began wearing a special harness called, “Help Them Up” by Blue Dog, which enables owners to more comfortably lift and support their dogs at the shoulder and hindquarters.

Roxie also thrived because of the Lechtenberg’s longtime neighbors, Kate and Tony Wigglesworth, who fell in love with Roxie from the get-go. For many years, after morning activities with the children, Roxie went to the Wigglesworths for her long afternoon nap, so she got proper rest without being distracted by the little ones! Kate and Tony doted upon Roxie and gave her a special Victorian loveseat. In the summers Roxie chilled on their deck, and when it was icy, their side alley had the dirt and grass she needed.

Roxie was happier when adults or children sat next to her or on one of her numerous, strategically placed beds so she could see what was happening. (One was under the loft where the children play.)

When pet-sitting Roxie, I can attest to her snuggling as close as possible, and her love of napping along side, as long as we placed the pillows right next to her! Roxie also appreciated every bit of massage to her old joints. “It’s easy to fuss and do anything possible to make an old dog comfortable when you see how cheerful they are. They are so happy to be with you, regardless of their aches and pains,” says Ted.

Though nearly 13 years old, Roxie continued to walk on sunny days to McDevitt field to see more neighborhood children. She tried after the snowstorm in March, but it was too slippery.

One of the students once said, “Barbie, going to kindergarten would be OK if Roxie could come along.” Roxie’s spirit undoubtedly crossed the minds of many children as they deal with the new changes of a bigger school. “Roxie made many children happy,” Barbara says proudly.

Time Out for Pets

Leslie Levy, with her partner Theodore Sheridan, are highly experienced pet-sitters who provide your pets with the love, attention, and exercise they need. Check out Time Out for Pets. For more info, call 215-588-5627

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