Education effort arises from tragedy

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Margaret Plevak | February 28, 2014

DARIEN--At 14 months old, Daxton James Borchardt had that irresistible combination of a sly grin and a rebel's haircut: a thick center strip of hair that sometimes spiked upright.

On the website, Jeff Borchardt remembers, "People would often ask us if we cut his hair that way. We always said, 'Nooo. We don't cut our (baby's) hair like a Mohawk.' His hair was like that because when he slept, he would turn his head back and forth and rub it off."

Borchardt said his son loved the balloon aisle at the local Wal-Mart, Mickey Mouse cartoons on television and "anything with wheels." There were also multiple trips to Petsmart, where Dax ogled fish, birds and kittens---his favorite.

But while he was at a babysitter's home in the town of Walworth almost one year ago—March 6, 2013—Daxton was fatally mauled by the sitter's two pit bulls.

The attack was horrific: Walworth County sheriff's deputies who responded to the scene described seeing shreds of clothing and blood everywhere, and Daxton's limp body looking like a ripped rag doll.

Borchardt, an area disc jockey, is determined to transform the heartbreaking tragedy into a lifesaving experience for other families with an organization called Daxton's Friends for Canine Education and Awareness.

A launch party and fundraising event for Daxton's Friends is planned from 7-10 p.m. Thursday, March 6, at the Mayslake Peabody Estate, 1717 31st St., Oak Brook, Ill.

"We're really looking to engage with the public, share with them our mission of advocacy and awareness," said Sam Madan, vice chair for the organization.

In an interview with Walworth County Today, Borchardt said he's looking to create a resource of sorts for potential dog owners—particularly for those with kids—focusing on public safety and animal welfare.

The website offers information for those considering a dog, such as choosing a breed that will match an owner's lifestyle, suggestions of where to buy animals, and even a list of potentially dangerous breeds.

A list of "founding friends" of the group on its website includes animal safety advocates from across the country—many of whom personally experienced a dog attack.

"(O)ne of our goals is to help spread awareness of canine-related safety as it pertains to public welfare, with the obvious objective of protecting children, families, and pets from dangerous situations and the potential injuries and fatalities that may result from lack of proper care and education, Borchardt wrote in an email response to questions.

He and his wife have raised a mixed breed of Chihuahua/rat terriers for 15 years. A dog pictured on the group's logo died last summer, he said.

Hearing of past dog attacks spurred his mission. Too often pet owners have little or no knowledge of what can happen when a dog's temperament or personality doesn't match with its owner's home life, he said.

"Many people are not aware of the potential dangers involved with improper care and handling of their canine family members. Based on living situations, familial status, and types of breeds, different forms of care, education, and skills are needed to ensure a happy and healthy life for your dog and your family," he said.

Holding the launch Daxton's Friends on the one-year anniversary of his son's death is a poignant touch for Borchardt.

"We hope people will celebrate Daxton's life, too," he said.

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