By Joseph J. Mazzella

On a cold, snowy day in March my cat, Dixie died.

I walked into the bathroom to find her lying motionless. I stroked her head, and gently held her in my arms. Then I carried her to the woods behind my house to bury her. I tried not to cry as I walked. She had lived sixteen years, after all. I knew her health was fading too. Always a skinny cat she had been eating less and less lately until I could feel her bones through her gray fur when I petted her. Still, the tears fell.

Dixie like most cats was quite a personality. She enjoyed napping in the sunshine on top of my desk by the window and after I would make dinner I would often find her sneaking a snooze on the still warm kitchen stove. She loved attention but only on her own terms. She didn’t like to be picked up but would climb on my chest when I was in bed, curl into a ball, and fall asleep. She would walk off if I tried to pet her but would later curl into the crook of my arm and purr while I read in the evenings. She would never meow unless she would get food out of it and sometimes she would sneak in like a panther on the prowl and steal the food right off our plates. She disliked our house full of dogs and spent her time either irritating them or hiding from them. Yet, she will always have her own special place in my heart and I know I am going to miss her.

I have lost so many dogs and cats in my half-century of living. It is one of life’s cruel ironies that we get to live so many years and they get to live so few. In spite of the loss, hurt, heart-break and tears, however, I couldn’t imagine myself living without them. They have taught me again and again that you have to live this life with an open heart. You have to love and keep loving even when it hurts and even when you lose the ones you love. You have to know that the love and joy are worth the pain. That may be one of the greatest lessons that God has for us to learn here. I am just glad he gave us dogs and cats to help us learn it. Keep loving then, always!