A Small Creature, But A Great Grief

To say the end was unexpected hardly would be true. For months there had been signs of age taking its toll; in past weeks there had been increasing restlessness; discontented murmurings; howls in the night.

Still, that it would come so suddenly took me by surprise. After our usual morning routine — I always drank my first cup of coffee while brushing her into a state of purring contentment — I arrived home in early afternoon to find Dixie Rose staggering and in pain, suffering from  partial paralysis.

Within half an hour we were in her veterinarian’s examining room. Still unable to walk, totally non-responsive to the probings of the vet, and showing no signs of her usual combativeness, she seemed exhausted. Possible causes were outlined, but certainty would require testing, or more invasive procedures. In the meantime, she would continue to suffer.

The decision, of course, was mine; it was more than a little comfort that the veterinarian agreed with the wisdom of the decision. After eighteen years of healthy and happy companionship, it was time to let her go.

How the loss of such a small creature can leave such a large hole in a home — a heart — is a mystery, but as so often happens, Mary Oliver offers words to help fill that gap, from her time “In Blackwater Woods.”

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars
of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,
the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders
of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is
nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned
in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side
is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it
against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.


Comments always are welcome.

212 thoughts on “A Small Creature, But A Great Grief

  1. That is sad to lose a friend and companion. It doesn’t make it easier knowing it would happen one day. Peace to you, friend.

  2. Linda, Oh… I’m so very sad for your loss. How is it … that loss of any loved one… can create such a heavy feeling in one’s heart? Take care, — Janell

    1. I’m so happy to see you, Janell. I was at Kitty’s Purple Cow a couple of weeks ago, and thinking of you. Kitty’s gone now, too, only a few months ago. Like my kitty, she’s remembered with obvious affection — and the burgers are just as good.

      I hope all’s well in your world; I miss reading you.

  3. Oh, I am so sorry. I dread the (soon to arrive) day I have the same heartbreak. My little dog is showing those same signs of restlessness and anxiety and is already almost immobile. For all the troubles I have with her right now, I know when they are gone, it will be a black day and longer mourning period. My heart hurts for you. I hope you can find joy and light in other parts of your life until some of the terrible sadness wears off a little.

    1. The accommodations we make for them can be considerable, but they’re worth every bit of the time, effort, or money we invest. Some pains can be eased, like Dixie’s arthritis with a heated pad, but other pains demand to be ended, as hers were at the end. I would have been glad to be yowled awake in the middle of last night; it’s too, too quiet here. But this pain, too, will ease with time.

  4. A profound experience, the likes of which amplify the incredible fires of life and likewise, the rich loving end to a relationship, be it human or feline. Dixie Rose was surely a pampered kitty under your loving care. No pet could ask for more; no human could request a better companion! My deepest sympathy for your loss.

    1. Pampered, she was — although she was an extraordinarily “good” kitty in human terms, with no inclination at all to prowl the kitchen counters or scratch the furniture. Once a friend taught me how to hiss like a mama cat, discipline got easier, and we lived in perfect harmony. I was blessed to find her when I did yesterday. Her vet’s office is closed now for the week of spring break. I shudder to think of the complications that could have arisen. But they didn’t, and her suffering was short.

  5. I’m so sorry for the loss of Dixie Rose. I went through the same when I lost my cat Sergei by mere coincidence at age 18, I felt as if I lost a son. Linda, have my condolences.

    1. They certainly do become family members: so closely woven into our days that their loss rips apart the fabric of our routines. I had to smile at the thought of a cat named Sergei; that just seems appealing, somehow. We’re among the blessed, to have had our companions for such a long time.

    1. She was undeniably beautiful, and loving in her way. She never was a lap cat, and preferred not to be held; at the vet’s office, she was known as “that demon cat.” But she always was at my feet, or on a chair next to me, and loved to be brushed. In fact, if I didn’t attend to her desire to be brushed, she’d carry her brush to me and drop it at my feet. I learned. Now, I have new lessons to learn — thanks for your words of condolence.

        1. She knew what she wanted, and she was willing to put forth a little effort to get it.

          Just as amusing — and occasionally disconcerting — was her way of telling me it was time for me to get off the computer and give her some treats. Can you imagine looking over and seeing this? She’d never make a sound; she’d just sit there, staring, until I gave in.

  6. Ah, Linda. I have tears in my eyes. I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet Dixie Rose. You have shared her so often over the years and I know what a deep love you had for her, and now such a deep sense of loss. Like you say, it is amazing such a small creature can leave such a large hole. Will be thinking of you and sending prayers your way for comfort.

    1. I thought of you and Taz several times yesterday. I felt such grief for you when you experienced your loss, but learned from your acknowledgement of that grief. Hence, this post, I suppose. It’s strange to be without the sound of Dixie’s voice this morning; it’s a silence that overwhelms human sounds like the dryer and the radio. Strangely, the sound of birds outside is soothing. I’m glad we’re in a season for open windows.

  7. Inspired by your choices- we’ve got 14 year old close doggie… I think writing down what comes is best thing to do- may more come to you

    1. The right decision often isn’t an easy decision. In this case, the right decision was obvious, if painful, but precisely because it was so obvious, there was no need to go through an even more painful decision-making process. Now, I’ve moved one of my favorite small photos of her onto my desk, and the process of moving on begins.

  8. Oh dear Linda, we are so saddened by your/our loss. She was a character without a doubt. Both of you blessed the other. Thinking of you.xx

    1. That made me grin. She was a character, and once I accepted her for who she was, we got on rather well. She absolutely was a one-person cat, and I’d worry from time to time about what would happen if I died before she did. Even though her vet often deals with “orphaned” animals, it would have been terribly difficult for her. Now, that isn’t an issue, and it’s a strange sort of relief for me.

  9. Just think of those 18 years without her, and the memories that stay with you. Had she not been such an important part of your life, your heart would not ache so at her loss. Blessings and comfort.

    1. If I hadn’t had the eighteen years, I’d have far fewer stories, that’s for sure. Perhaps my favorite involves the time I came home after an extended vacation and ended up sleeping on the sofa because she refused to let me onto the bed. Such hissing, clawing, and bared teeth you’ve never seen. My mother, who was still alive at the time, asked why I didn’t just throw her off the bed. I muttered a few things about discretion, valor, and so on, and let it rest.

      She could be challenging at times like that, but I’m sure she considered me a challenge, as well. That was part of the fun.

  10. Linda, Linda. I find it very painful to even say the names of the pets I’ve lost. 18 years is a lifetime. Like losing a teenage child. A soul mate. There’s nothing anyone can say. I feel your love lost. Your baby girl isn’t gone forever. She’s about. She is still with you. And you will see her again.

    1. It’s hard to imagine that eighteen years have passed, but so they have. Had I not found her when I did yesterday, things could have been much more complicated and so much worse, but as it was, she was tended to by people who’ve known her throughout those years, and who appreciated her — with all of her foibles. It’s strange to look up from my computer and not see her in her accustomed spot on the sofa, but I brought a small photo of her to my desk, and that has helped.

  11. Oh Linda, I had no idea. My heart goes out to you. Hope you feel better soon, but of course, mourn this loss fully, as I know you’re already doing.

    1. Thanks, Maria. It all happened so suddenly I’m still getting used to this new reality. In time, memories will replace grief, but acknowledging the grief comes first. It’s part of the process of moving forward, even while cherishing the past.

    1. That’s exactly the right word: buddies. She was beautiful, but she was smart and funny, too, which made her an excellent companion. Even my mother, who wasn’t at all fond of cats, could tolerate her. Achieving that kind of détente might have been Dixie’s crowning achievement.

    1. Thanks, Rob. There seems to be a new saying going around these days, that “life comes at you fast.” In this case, it certainly did. Now, it’s just a matter of catching up with it.

      1. We got our cat when I was 10, and he’s now 14. It’s hard to accept how accelerated his time seems – that he’s living in the equivalent of his seventies, when he’s still pretty much a kitten in my mind. I’m sure your cat had a great time living with you.

        1. It’s funny how that happens with people, too. We remember them at a certain stage of their life, even when years have passed. I suppose we do the same with ourselves. Despite my chronological age, I don’t “feel” it, but think of myself as much younger than I am.

          I think Dixie was pretty happy here, even though she was an inside cat. She had lots of open windows with birds to watch, plenty of toys, brushing on demand, and someone who was willing to bend to her schedule. Once I accepted that she wasn’t a lap cat, and she accepted that I wasn’t about to let her onto the patio, all was well.

    1. It was the right decision, Gerard. I was able to help her with certain conditions as time went on, like her arthritis. But a life span is a life span, and however much I might have wished she could live another decade or so — which I certainly did wish — it’s not in the nature of the beast. Fifteen years would have been an average run for an indoor cat. She bested that, and only declined at the very end, for which I’m grateful. I’ll miss our routines, and our continual conversations — but life will go on.

  12. I’m so sorry for your loss. It is hard to let go of our treasured furry friends, but I’m sure that Dixie Rose had a good life and you did the right thing by her.

    1. She did have her pleasures, including a favorite chair about three feet from a birdbath. Even when the window was open and only a screen separated them, she never made a move toward the birds, and they repaid the favor by entertaining her for hours. For the time being, I’m leaving the chair where it is.

  13. Eighteen years – that is a long time! She was surely a loving presence for you. The longest I have had a pet was about six years. I did grieve his loss. Sorry for the hole left.

    1. It occurred to me today that even if I took in another cat tomorrow, I’ll never have another pet for as many as eighteen years, since I’m fairly sure I don’t have that many years left myself. As the saying goes, you can’t make old friends.

      When I think of the number of years we were together, it is somewhat astonishing. Still, it doesn’t take long to grow attached to a creature, and it makes perfect sense that you would grieve after six years. My squirrel lived eight, and the prairie dog only about four. I still think about them with affection, and still tell a story from time to time.

      1. Long ago and far away my family had a pet squirrel out in the Baca County plains. My daddy thought he had probably ridden in on a truck. I don’t know where he came from but we named him Nibbles. The rascal earned the name because he would sit on top of a “trellised” gate we had to walk through to go from the house to the car. Then he would hop on us as we passed under. I don’t think he would nibble us then, but he would nibble if we tried to fool him into eating something from our hands besides nuts. That was his condition – nuts, otherwise we got nibbled. I don’t remember what happened to him. Probably the coyotes got him.

        1. They do have their preferences. I have such great stories of our squirrel: which is to say, stories of chaos, destruction, and disbelief. They’re such smart creatures, and seem able to judge us better than we can judge one another at times. I love that yours was named Nibbles. Ours was Smackers, because of the smacking sound he made as a baby when drinking his milk.

  14. So very sad to hear of your loss.
    Dixie Rose lived to be a magnificent old age and there is no sense in allowing her to suffer to the inevitable end.
    I’m sure you will miss her contended purring and nestling into your space.
    Your image of her shows her warmth and adoration.

    1. I took the rest of her food, some toys, a scratching post and assorted other items down to our city’s animal shelter today. That helped. And you’ll appreciate this, since you’ve written about how the sun moves around your apartment and balcony. With the change of seasons, the sun now shines onto my bedroom floor, and the last few days before her death, it was bright and warm. She enjoyed laying in that sunlight as much as anything; I’m glad she had that pleasure, at the end.

  15. A cat’s face is among the most beautiful sights on earth.

    I am so sorry that you had to say good-bye to Dixie Rose but you did the right thing by allowing her to slip away without any further pain and distress.

    Mary Oliver can always be relied upon to provide the words that will give the most succour.

    1. I didn’t know until yesterday that Mary Oliver also has written a book solely of dog poems, titled (appropriately enough) Dog Songs. A friend mentioned that she often reads poems from the book to her dog, and I thought immediately of you and Millie.

      In the review on Amazon, there’s this line: “Dog Songs is a testament to the power and depth of the human-animal exchange…” What I’ve most noticed since yesterday is the quality of the silence around here. It seems flat, and empty: not at all what it was like when Dixie was with me. It occurs to me that what’s missing now is the continual hum of our unspoken communication. Even when we both were engaged in our own activities, it seems that we were aware of one another in an inexplicable but extraordinary way. I hadn’t been aware of it until now, when it no longer exists.

      And, yes: her face was beautiful.

    1. Then I hope Miss Dixie remembers her manners! She’s never had the pleasure of playing with other cats. From what I saw while she was with me, it might take her a bit of time to learn about such things as “sharing.”

    1. I’ve certainly met people who weren’t fond of cats — who think they’re not capable or willing to bond with people as dogs do — but that just isn’t true. They simply have a different way of going about it, and their independence is part of what makes them endearing. Dixie certainly was a comfort, as well as a good bit of fun. Thanks for your condolences, GP.

      1. I found people who don’t like cats are resentful of their independence – they don’t have control over them, so they dislike them.

  16. Mary Oliver helps soothe the sting of loss. I’m a cat person, too, and we all share your grief. Be good to yourself, Linda.

    1. Thanks, Jeff. I’ve had this Oliver poem in my files for some time, knowing that a day would come when I would want to use it. Now, that day’s come, and I’m grateful for her words to help me express my feelings about Dixie Rose.

  17. Oh Linda. All the words I want to say are just words. Words with meaning, words meant to comfort but still, just words that cannot replace, cannot in themselves heal. I am so deeply sorry. I got your message a few minutes ago. I’ll call in about an hour or so (when I think you might be up). My heart aches for you this morning.

    1. It was good to talk to you. I’ve been thinking of Gypsy since this happened, and all you’ve written about the experience of losing him. In truth, these creatures are gifts, however long our time with them. What counts is making the most of that time, and Dixie and I surely did. I’m a little surprised by how painful I’m finding the experience, but the important thing is that she’s no longer in pain.

    1. I chose the name because I wanted something Southern, and because I was sure she would bloom into a fine cat. She certainly did bloom, ending up more beautiful — and with more of an attitude — than I could have imagined. Through all the stages of her life, the name fit.

    1. Believe it or not, this is my first experience of losing a “real pet.” Although I enjoyed the squirrel and prairie dog that I shared time with, they were, after all, wild animals. They provided some great stories, but little real relationship. I learned a good bit over the years Dixie was with me, and I’ll always treasure those lessons.

      1. My first pet was a dog that I got after moving across the country by myself. She was my companion and family. I was never able to have another dog, she was too hard to replace. Pets become such an important part of our lives and it is hard to deal with their shorter life spans.

        1. I can understand how a dog would have made your life more enjoyable in a situation like that. They may be “just a dog” or “just a cat” for some people, but for those of us who’ve had a real relationship with one of them, there’s nothing like it. And I understand completely the feeling that replacing her would have been impossible. Apart from that, I’m not sure I want to take on another pet at my age. I worried enough about Dixie outliving me. The odds of another pet doing that now are even more substantial!

          1. Well, it can be hard to be without a pet. I did get another cat after my first cat of 20 years died. If this one lives that long, we both could go at the same time. (ha ha) Maybe you could start with an older one. Anyway, take care.

            1. Actually, I’ve thought of the possibility of fostering. We have a fine city animal shelter that has several fostering programs, both long-term and short-term, and that might be an option. But that’s for the future, once I can be sure I’m not simply using another animal to fill the void. That wouldn’t be fair to another cat, or to Dixie.

  18. I’m so sorry for your loss, Linda. I could not stop tearing up reading your lovely poem. Like you with Dixie Rose, I had to make the decision to free my Stella from her pain. It is our responsibility to do so, but it never is easy. I hope the ache of your loss turns quickly to the warmth of Dixie Rose memories.

    1. As surely as anyone, John, you understand how these creatures become woven into our lives. And you’re right that it’s our responsibility to put their welfare first, however distressing the experience of freeing them might be. After only twenty-four hours, I still looked for her when I came home this afternoon, and was shocked to realize that she wasn’t in her accustomed place. In time, that will fade, and life will go on — enriched by my past relationship with her.

  19. Awe, Linda. I’m so sorry for your loss. Grieving your beloved Dixie Rose will be tough. Eighteen years is a good, long life and I’m certain you provided a most loving home for her. Wishing you strength and peace.

    1. Thanks, Tina. Eighteen years is a long time, and there never will be another relationship like the one I had with Dixie Rose — there aren’t enough years left to me for that to happen. I did come to love that cat, and she showed affection to me in her quirky, sometimes peculiar ways. I couldn’t have asked for a better, more well-behaved kitty, and for that, I’m grateful.

      1. It is a long time. Isn’t it remarkable how much we love a pet and how important that pet becomes over a lifetime? My dog, Asher, is 18. Like your Dixie Rose (great name, btw), he’s definitely in decline and I know one day soon, we will face what you just endured. Asher is the last pet we have that my daughter, Shoshana, knew. She and I were volunteering at our local city shelter and he charmed his way into our hearts. Aside from the grief that we will feel in the near future when his end comes, Asher is also our last “pet” link to our daughter.

        1. Watching life’s links being broken over the years isn’t always excruciating, but it still can tug at our heartstrings. I’ve never thought of a pet being a link to other family members or friends, but of course that happens. I have a friend whose last three dogs have been those left behind when their owners died. When the dogs themselves passed on, it was as though a final chapter had been closed. She’s down to just one dog now, and all of her dog-owning friends are being very, very cautious. The joke is that when she’s ready for another dog, they’d better look out!

          I never would have imagined a small, furry, four-footed one could be so important to me, but I’m glad for the experience, even though it had to end. I suspect it will be the same for you, with Asher.

  20. I don’t say this lightly Linda..I feel your grief. for some mysterious reason, certain pets have woven their way into my heart and some have just been “pets” sounds like your Dixie Rose is one of the former. I too had to take my little beagle Oscar to the vet some years ago now when he quickly turned from a spry, wise beagle to a failing ailing friend…had to also make the decision to ask the vet to put him down. I never doubted it was the wrong decision, but it still left a hole in my world…. I would shake your hand look you in the eye and let you know I care… DM

    1. Part of what made this experience less traumatic is that I’ve been considering for some time what I would do “if this” or “if that.” Watching her decline while addressing various changes in her behavior had led me to make an appointment with the vet to evaluate things, but when I found her unable to walk, I was sure her time was up. After the vet confirmed the paralysis, there was no question about what to do. Now, coping with that hole through its healing process is my next task.

  21. Dixie Rose will always have that special spot in your heart. We lost our calico kitty – Callie – a few years ago and I still miss her. I’ve had a lot of cats in my lifetime, but she was the most loving and dear kitty I ever had the pleasure of sharing life with. So I know how your heart hurts.

    1. Aren’t calicos special? Since Dixie Rose came to me as a four-month-old on the run from a family who mistreated her, I didn’t choose her for that calico nature. But if I ever were to get another cat, that’s where I’d start looking. I’ll never forget her, that’s for certain. I’m still at the point where I’m stomping my foot at the universe, demanding to have her back here! right now!, but I’ll move on from that, and life will go on, and the memories will be rich and warm.

      1. They are! Our Callie just showed up at our house one day when she was around the same age as your Dixie Rose was. We never could find her owner so she became ours and she acted like she was ours from the get go.

  22. I was so sad to read your news about Dixie Rose. Even knowing it was time to let go doesn’t make it any easier to say good bye to an old friend. That’s a wonderful photo of her at the top!

    1. I wish I had taken more photos of her, Jean. When I first got her, I wasn’t really taking photos of anything. I certainly didn’t have a good camera, and even after I got a decent camera, I just didn’t. I regret that now. Of course, I have enough photos to keep my memories fresh, and this is one of my favorites. I’ll print a few that are good quality, but that’s for the future. Right now, it’s painful even to see her photo.

  23. I’m so sorry for your loss. Small they may be, our furry companions, but their spirits are as large as the space they occupy in our hearts. Until I met my Pete, I didn’t fully understand the personhood that they possess. The poem of Mary Oliver’s is hauntingly beautiful. She always nails it, doesn’t she? May you be comforted by her words and by your memories.

    1. Is your Pete a dog or a cat? In either case, you’re right that their sensitivities are far greater than many people imagine. Dixie Rose had an uncanny ability to sense when I wasn’t feeling well, or was unhappy, or irritated. Once she determined that I wasn’t irritated at her, she was more than willing to hang around and coax me out of it!

      If Pete’s a dog, you might want to look at Oliver’s book titled Dog Songs.. Of course, much of what she says about dogs applies to cats, too, like this:

      “Dogs die so soon. I have my stories of that grief, and no doubt many of you do also. It is almost a failure of will, a failure of love, to let them grow old—or so it feels. We would do anything to keep them with us, and to keep them young. The one gift we cannot give.”

  24. I’m sorry to read this, Linda, and I feel with you. I know only too well how you must feel now. But you did make the right decision in helping her to get over the rainbow bridge. Just think of her of now being in the eternal mouse-hunting grounds.

    1. That made me smile, Pit. Since she lived as an indoor cat, she has no experience of hunting mice, or birds, or lizards. I suspect she’ll enjoy that immensely. She certainly has the instincts, although a screened window was enough to keep small, tasty creatures safe from her attack.

      I’ll be forever grateful that I found her so quickly, that the vets made time for her immediately, and that her passing was serene. It could have been much, much worse.

  25. Linda, the only time I have ever seen my husband weep was when he came home after he with the vet’s help said goodbye to his old cat, Lion, who was a great companion to him during a very painful time in his life before we got together. I’ll be thinking of you and Dixie Rose …and I loved the Mary Oliver poem which in its simple, deep, clear way through the last few lines seems to sum up everything worthwhile about love, attachment and loss:

    To live in this world
    you must be able
    to do three things:
    to love what is mortal;
    to hold it
    against your bones knowing
    your own life depends on it;
    and, when the time comes to let it go,
    to let it go.

    I’ve saved these words, seeing their power to console when grief strikes…

    1. Aren’t those words touching — perfect, and wise? I’ve held that poem in my files for some time, knowing that the occasion to use it would arise. I’ll be keeping it in my files for future use, too. Life being what it is, one or two griefs aren’t usually the end of it.

      I chose to have Dixie Rose individually cremated, so that I could receive her ashes. Once I have them, I haven’t a clue what I’ll do with them, but when the right answer comes, I’ll recognize it. Not all decisions need to be made as swiftly as these recent ones.

    1. Thank you, Val. She lived a good life through many years, and I’ll miss her, but she was well cared for until the end — and her vets were wonderful.

  26. I am so sorry for the passing of your beautiful Dixie Rose! I remember how much you love her, and I know how much you still love her. I still miss my Koko even the she passed over 5 years ago. Hugs!

    1. Can it be that long? Koko was such a dear, and your relationship with her was fully as loving as mine with Dixie Rose. We’re lucky to have had such fine companions, and to have known the special kind of affection that animals bring. Not everyone is so blessed.

    1. I do love that photo. It warms my heart just to see it. She was much younger then, and given to hanging out on the backs of chairs. Recently, curled up on a sofa with a heating pad has been more her style.

      Isn’t it true that Mary Oliver so often can expand or complete us — not only our thoughts, but also our feelings. It’s one of her great gifts to the world.

    1. It’s an experience that comes to us all when we give our heart to any living thing. Saying that doesn’t make the reality of loss any less painful of course — thanks so much for your kind words.

    1. Thanks, Deb. The lump in your throat probably is matched by my puffy eyes. If Dixie were here to see that I’m upset, she’d come right over and snuggle up — but of course the impossibility of her doing that now is the reason for tears. But it’s getting better, and even virtual hugs help.

  27. Oh Linda, I am so sorry to hear about Dixie Rose. I know how much a dear pet friend can mean. She lived a good life and I know she loved all the attention she got from you. It always works both ways. RIP Dixie Rose.

    1. It just occurred to me I’ve not heard anything about your dog recently. I hope all is well with him. If I remember correctly, he’s somewhat younger, so he ought to still be healthy and capable of causing the appropriate amounts of trouble.

      Despite the increasing burdens of age, Dixie did have a good life, and at the end, the experiences of those good years allowed her to trust the humans who were caring for her. Of course she would have been happier if I’d never left her alone, or in the care of a pet sitter, but no one said life would be perfect — even for such a perfect kitty!

  28. One can say that 18 years is a good long run, and it would be true, but it doesn’t help in the moment. Thank goodness for your vet’s support in making that hardest of decisions. Dixie Rose was clearly a perfect companion animal, and you did her right in life through to the last moment. Here’s to you, and to Dixie Rose.

    1. I will say this: there’s something nice about being able to sleep through the night without being wakened a half-dozen times by a cat who wants attention, or who is complaining for unknown reasons. And, it will be good to be able to leave without worrying about her welfare.

      Otherwise, the loss is immeasurable, and the emptiness of the house seems infinite. That will pass. I’m only glad that I found her quickly, that she was seen quickly, and that the vet’s confirmation of my own diagnosis made the right course obvious. Losing her isn’t easy, but the process of letting her go was as easy as it could be, given the circumstances. I’ll always be grateful for that.

  29. goodbye dixie rose
    gone to your own world and no longer with us
    no consolation at the death of man or beast
    but the knowledge that being here is better
    than not being at all

    1. So very true. The empty chair, after all, is a reminder of a curled body, and the silence a reminder of that voice that no longer speaks. Better to have known that body and that voice than to have been denied the privilege. Still… what I wouldn’t give for only one more hour with her.

  30. Eighteen years was a good long lifetime for one of the furry folk. Give yourself a little time. Then let her legacy be to bequeath her happy home to another kitty in need.

    1. My suspicion right now is that there won’t be another cat in my life, for a number of reasons. Of course, I never intended to have a cat in the first place, until Dixie Rose showed up and won my heart. I’ll let life itself unfold the answer to that one. Right now, despite the innumerable kitties with needs, I have needs of my own to tend to — though I’m open to surprises. And there are other options, of course, like fostering. Our shelter here has a wonderful fostering program, and I wouldn’t be averse to that. But not right now.

  31. Oh, Linda, I am so sorry. It was ever so obvious how much you loved your cat, friend, companion. May Dixie Rose wander off to cat heaven and rejoin you at sometime in the future. She lived a long and well loved life. –Curt

    1. I did love her, very much. She returned the affection in her way, although I always knew that when I came home from any trip — even just overnight — she’d be under the bed, where kitty sitters reported she stayed the whole time I was gone. I could judge the level of her anger and irritation by how long it took her to come out from under the bed — and I knew better than to try and pet her until she’d begged for a treat or brought me her brush as a token of restored relations.

      The more I think about the fact that we were together for eighteen years, the more amazing it seems. A lot happened in those eighteen years, but she was a constant.

      1. The true definition of a companion.
        Our cat FE behaved in a similar fashion. I’ve probably written this. But when we came back she would arrive in our room some time in the wee hours every morning and meow pitiful and loudly for about three weeks. I never knew whether she was checking to be sure we were still there, or punishing us for being gone. –Curt

  32. I’m so sorry. I know how much you loved her & how much your routine was probably bound up in her routine. I didn’t know that you had had her that long! You were a good cat mother.

    1. As they say, time flies when you’re having fun, and we had a good bit of fun together. Once we learned what was negotiable and what wasn’t, things were just fine. She was an odd cat in many ways — she refused to eat human food, for example. Science Diet dry was the thing; try to give her chicken, steak, fish, or even ice cream, and she’d turn her nose up. And she sat in my lap only once in those eighteen years. I was at the computer when she came over, jumped up, and settled in for five minutes. Then, she jumped down, and that was it. Strange.

      I suppose that’s part of the reason I’m not inclined toward another cat. She was unique, and even though another cat would be unique in its own ways, I can’t imagine being as happy with another. We’ll see.

  33. Oh, I completely understand your loss as in January we had to give up our Wiccan who would have been 18 years old in April. We had her cremated and will scatter her ashes in the back yard some sunny and warm day with the rest of the angel cats. She is our last cat. Dixie was beautiful!

    1. I’ve not heard of Wiccans, and wasn’t even sure if they were dogs or cats. As you might imagine, I turned up some interesting entries when I searched for information. I finally decided that yours was a cat, of the old Siamese variety. Yes?

      Dixie Rose will be cremated, too. After that, I’m not too sure what I’ll decide. After my mother’s death and cremation, she stayed among her African violets for three months until we took her to Iowa for burial. It was rather nice having her around, actually — we did have some interesting ‘conversations.’

      Dixie was beautiful. Everyone said so, usually in the first minute after meeting her.

  34. I can only imagine the many ways you would miss her… I know I will miss Cleo Cat when she goes, they really do become part of our daily routine and life. God’s comfort to you. Do you know Jane Kenyon’s poem ‘let evening come?’ Thank you for sharing the poem here that you shared.

    1. I always smile when I see Cleo creeping around the edges of your photos — or creeping toward the edge of the table! They add so much to life, and certainly more than I ever expected. If we allow it, healing always comes; today is less painful than yesterday, and tomorrow will be less painful yet. It’s never a straight progression, of course. But healing comes.

      I do know Kenyon’s poem. In fact, I shared it with another friend recently, who’d suffered a different kind of loss. It’s a wonderful poem, and a clear-eyed look at realities we’d often rather deny. It exudes an extraordinary air of acceptance.

    1. They do, indeed. Honestly, I never would have expected the hole to be this large, but this is my first experience with losing a pet. (The squirrel and prairie dog were different.) Things I’ve heard people say in the past make sense to me now in a way they never did.

  35. Linda, I don’t know if you remember, but while living aboard Satori, we had two dogs. A Carin and a Ratdog. Those two were my sanity when I was down with my heart disease. They loved me. The Carin lived for 17 years (developed heart failure just like me) and the Rat lived six weeks shy of twenty years. They were family to us. Both went away just like Dixie, loved to the end. Fortunately we still have the happy memories without the pain. It took a while, but it did indeed get better. Meanwhile, with the hurricanes, several little new friends really needed a safe place. Well, several turned out to be five. Keeps us busy! They just give so much. Hearts to you. Debra and Ken

    1. I do remember, Ken. You were blessed to have such long-lived companions, and you certainly have filled the gap that they left. One thing that’s true is that there’s always enough love for another one. As long as you have the energy for them and the ability to care for them, I think it’s wonderful.

      Are the five with you permanently, or are you giving them a home while the rebuilding process goes on? In either case, it sounds like it’s a good arrangement all around.

      Do you remember the older fellow who lived aboard at Portofino who always walked around with his cat draped around his shoulders? I think he was a shrimper. He always wore bib overalls, and was the nicest guy in the world. I never understood his relationship with that cat, but now I think I do.

      1. Oh yes they are family now. Debra is still healthy and comes from a long lived family so hopefully these guys will have a forever home. They were terrified of the changes. One, after 24 hours seemed to understand she was safe and is a happy go lucky little girl. Another is slowly beginning to trust us. The other three took a week or so but now they are doing great. Being home all day we can give a lot of love. I don’t remember the guy with the cat as I have lost a lot of memories. I do remember Pete on the Tayana 37 with his German Shepard. They were across from Mike and Karen. Loved that big ole fuzzy baby.

        1. I certainly do remember Pete and Jake. I especially remember how Jake would mope around the cockpit in the summer when Pete wouldn’t let him just live in the air conditioning. What a pair they made; I always enjoyed them. I’m glad to hear things are going so well with your new crew. I’m certain they’ll show their appreciation in myriad ways!

  36. Loss of a critter companion hurts. In my experience, there is one waiting around every corner, ready to tear off another piece of my heart. I fall for it every time. Dang.

    1. They do have their ways of insinuating themselves into our lives, don’t they? And it cuts both ways. I still remember the day I suddenly realized that, just as Dixie Rose was my companion, I was hers. She’d only been with me two or three years, but from that point on, I played with her more, was more attentive to what she was experiencing, and talked to her on a regular basis. We’re their family, too — and they trust us to be there for them. I only wish I could have kept her from any pain, but that wasn’t in the cards.

  37. I’m sorry. We’ve had many cats over the years, and that doesn’t make it any easier when it’s time to let one go. Dixie Rose was a lovely creature.

    Do you know Weldon Kees’ “Obituary”? A very different animal and death, but a poem I love.
    “He is sadly missed. His spirit was rare.”

    1. I confess I found the poem a little harsh, even distressing, but that’s no doubt because my feelings still are so mixed, and so raw. I will say that I once knew a bird with a personality much like the one in the poem, and the poem would have suited his death perfectly.

    1. She was sweet, and affectionate in her way — as well as being, from time to time, cantankerous, demanding of attention, and persistent in her naughtiness. But it was in her nature to be what we humans call a “good cat,” and that made her even more special.

      You’re right. It is a very large hole. Thanks so much for your condolences, Carola.

    1. She certainly was. I’m sure her reluctance to be held, or to sit in a lap, was grounded in the treatment she received from youngsters in her first four months of life. Being carried around by the tail couldn’t have been a good experience. But if she remained in control, she was more than happy to sit at my feet, or hop up on the bed, or roll over for petting and brushing, and then purr away. I enjoyed her tremendously, and she tolerated me pretty well. It was a good eighteen years.

  38. You are in my thoughts and prayers. I can only imagine your pain at losing such a friend. The photograph is lovely, and I hope such as you have bring you some solace in your sorrow. Thanks for the poem. It is amazing how poetry can help at a time like this. Peace.

    1. The pain, of course, is testament to the depth and delight of the relationship, just as the easing of pain is testament to other realities: not least of which is power of healing inherent in nature. Having learned more about her affliction (aortic thromboembolism), I’m only glad that I found her almost immediately after it occurred, and I know that I made the right decision for her. That itself is a great gift.

  39. As if I lost my cat… I know how the feelings our Princess died last summer and still I miss her. Made me cry your loss, dear Linda, my thoughts and my prayers for you, Rest in Peace your lovely little friend. Love, nia

    1. I remember when your Princess died, and I remember your words about your grief. At the time, I’d not had such an experience. Now, I understand what you must have been feeling in a new way, and hope that for you, too, the sense of loss is less sharp. I’ll certainly always remember Dixie Rose, and always will cherish our time together, but there are other creatures still out there needing love — there may be ways for me to help some of them. xoxo

  40. Oh, Linda, I’m so sorry!! I didn’t have my computer on all weekend — imagine my despair upon reading this today.

    We know that chances are, we’ll outlive our beloved pets, but rational thinking doesn’t alleviate the emotional hole in our hearts when they pass. I see signs of aging in Dallas, too, try as I might to ignore them. But as his breeder told me when I acquired him, we make a promise to them to care for and love them as long as they’re around, then to do the humane thing when their time is up. I imagine tears will be your constant companion for a while, but eventually, you might want to think about adopting another Dixie Rose. Not as a replacement, for no one could replace her — but as a new friend.

    Hugs to you, Linda.

    1. Dear Linda, I feel I have to join Debbie in this message. I read earlier where you said that taking in another cat wouldn’t be right either for the new cat or for Dixie Rose, and disagreed with you. I regret to report that I have gone through such stories a number of times with animals who were truly like brothers and sisters to me. There is never a snse of ‘replacement’. I understand and identify with you regarding the fear of leaving this world and leaving a dependant behind. I have similar fears. But I can also tell you that I have lived longer than I expected, and we never know what lies ahead, neither for ourselves or our loved ones. It is too early to speak of adopting another pet… because right now your are trying to adjust to a new world without your dear friend. But I assure you that it would be good and right for yout to accept another, when you feel capable of it… and a mistake to erect a barrier in your mind to such a possibility. Again, my condolences.

      1. Sometimes, what appears to be a mental barrier to an action — such as accepting another pet into my life — is less a barrier than a result of rational reflection. Of course Dixie Rose was wonderful, Shimon, and I’ll miss her tremendously. On the other hand, there are some things about her absence that are positive.

        For example, the complications of evacuating for a hurricane are far fewer now. And the low-level but ever-present anxiety I’ve felt about leaving her when I’ve traveled in recent years no longer will be an issue.

        Beyond that, there are financial considerations. Food, litter, and treats are negligible expenses, but a kitty-sitter for my times away is a significant expense. Beyond that, there always is the possiblity of higher vet bills. In eighteen years, Dixie required no more than annual checkups, her vaccinations, and the removal of one tooth. Others aren’t so lucky, and vet bills in the hundreds or more are not uncommon. There can be no guarantee that another pet would be so healthy, and eventually I’ll be forced to stop working, tightening my budget even more. To take in a pet that requires more in the way of care than I could provide certainly wouldn’t be responsible.

        I did mention up above that our city’s animal shelter always is looking for people to provide foster care for pets, while they’re waiting to be adopted. It helps the animals with socialization, as well as providing fun and companionship for the foster family. So we’ll see. I’ve learned that in situations like this answers often arise unbidden, and in unexpected ways, so I feel no pressure to make any decision at this point.

        1. I can sympathize and identify with your reasons for not taking in another cat. I felt very much the same way before Nechama adopted me. I was sure I would never have another. And strangely enough, she was the first one that was expensive for me (because of medical care). When I read about the death of Dixie Rose, I was on a short vacation and aside from the sorrow I felt for you, I started worrying about Nechama. Fortunately she was all right when I returned, and we have been sitting together this evening listening to the news.

    2. I think it’s great that you were away from your computer all weekend. That’s something to celebrate, not apologize for!

      I’ve been aware that Dixie’s time was getting shorter for a couple of years: not because of physical problems, but simply because of her age. The average for an indoor cat is about fifteen years, and although some will live to twenty years or more, they’re the outliers. It’s the same with us. When I mention to someone that I have probably twenty years left, give or take, their impulse always is to say, “Oh, no — you’ll live much longer than that.” But twenty years would put me at ninety-two, and whether we like it or not, that’s a bit past the average female life span (in this country) of seventy-eight. These things are worth pondering.

      As for another cat — probably not. I saw Shimon’s comment just after yours, and will add a few words there about the reasons. One thing is certain — I had the best cat I could have had for eighteen years. That’s really something to celebrate.

      1. I feel sorry for folks who go through life without a “special” pet. You had 18 years with Dixie Rose; I’ve had 11 with Dallas. We’re among the fortunate! I’ll have to read your reasons — probably some of them mirror mine. Nobody could take Dallas’s place, and it would be unkind and unfair to expect another dog to do so. As for the people age, I’ve got TWO neighbors over the age of 100, so we know it’s possible. Probable? Who knows!

        1. We certainly are among the fortunate. When I let that four-month-old kitten into my house, I had no idea what adventures lay ahead. Now, I’m just grateful that I was able to save her from pain at the end of her life, just as I saved her from some pain-inflicting boys at the beginning of her life. That’s a good way to bookend eighteen years.

  41. Just opened up my computer and realized my phone was dead again).
    I am so sorry and saddened. Small in physical size but great in importance. Feel fortunate to have met her. The wisdom and grace they quietly offer leave such a void.
    RC Cat offers a soft cheek pat as do we all.

    1. Just think, phil ~ you’re one of the very few who’s had the experience of being nose-to-nose with her under the bed! It was a hard weekend, but now it’s in the past, and it’s time to move on. However much I try to wish her back, that isn’t going to happen. It is, as they say, the nature of things. Give RC an extra pat for me, and thanks for being there.

  42. Oh, Linda, I hate hearing this…. Miss Dixie Rose was a lovely cat and such a character!

    Every time I take in a cat or kitten and open my heart to them, I know there will be the inevitable pain of loss one day. They give us so much joy, amusement, companionship and love while they’re with us. I just try not to think too much about how much it will hurt in the end. And it hurts. Really badly.

    Just remember the good parts and take comfort in the knowledge that you gave her a long and very pampered life.

    1. You’re exactly right — she was a character. Each of them has their own personality, of course, but hers was well-defined from the beginning, and not much amenable to change. Ah, well.

      I’ve been trying to remember the name of one of your previous kitties — the one we made a virtual marker for when it died. Without the WU archives to draw on (they’re available, but I let my membership lapse), I’m at a loss. I think it must have been the one before Gus. Even though I don’t remember its name, I can see that marker. It’s a reminder that the comings and goings of these wonderful creatures are a part of life, and as common as can be, despite the fact that each one affects us in its own way.

      I talked to the vet again yesterday, and regardless of the underlying cause — a tumor, or heart disease — it clearly was an aortic embolism that brought the end. It just reinforced my relief that I found her as soon as I did. Putting her through more tests or treatments simply wasn’t an option. She’d had her good life, and she had a good end.

      1. My previous three were Miss Kitty Russell (loveable), Thor (mean as heck and a bully) and Daisy Mae, the object of most of Thor’s bullying and in perpetual fight or flight mode.

        It broke my heart when Miss Kitty went. Thor? Not so much. It was a relief. Daisy left me filled with guilt for not rehoming her, once I realized what Thor was like. I won’t forget him soon. I have the scars on my legs to remind me.

        It’s nice to take Gus to the vet and not hear BATTLE STATIONS being shouted from one end of the office to the other.

        1. Thor. That’s the one. I do remember your stories, and I remember that when we discovered Dixie left vet techs cowering, some comparisons were drawn. As she aged, using gas to calm her down wasn’t a good idea, so we went to drugs prior to the visit. Imagine my amusement when I discovered that the same drug that calms cats — gabapentin — also was prescribed for my mother, to deal with leftover pain from her shingles. Strangely, it was Dixie’s willingness to let the vet handle her this time, without even a meow of protest, that was a clear sign to me that something was really, really wrong. Well, apart from the paralysis and inability to walk, of course.

          I know exactly what you mean about “Battle Stations” being the cry. You wouldn’t think a few pounds of fur and bone could elicit that kind of response. I still remember the day Dixie’s vet growled, through clenched teeth, “I didn’t come to work today to have blood drawn by a cat.” We laughed about it later.

  43. P.S. It’s quite possible that you may not have a choice as to whether or not you adopt another cat. Sometimes, they adopt you, when you least expect it.

    I had been cat-less for almost 2 years and had no desire to ‘go looking’ for a replacement, despite the urgings of cat lady coworkers who wanted to take me hunting for one. Then Gus the stray walked up to me one night, right before New Years Eve five years ago. He had always run when anyone appeared outside in the previous 6 months or so he’d been hanging around. He climbed up in my lap, as I was sitting on the front steps, and started head butting my chin. He was skin and bones, wobbly on the back end from a broken pelvis and desperate. He knew a sucker when he saw one, too.

    “Oh, criminy. Now you’ve done it. I have a cat.”

    BTW, he weighs almost 13 lbs now and is spoiled rotten.

    1. Have you read Loren Eiseley’s fabulous essay, “The Talking Cat”? It’s the story of a cat that arrived one Christmas Eve, and claimed Eiseley for its own. There used to be an online text, but it’s disappeared. All I can find are mentions of the tale here and there. If you haven’t read it, I’ll snoop around and find a copy for you. It’s the most remarkable story, and reminds me of your experience with Gus.

      1. No, I haven’t. It sounds like it might be something like Cleveland Amory’s “The Cat Who Came For Christmas.” I’ll have to look around for that essay.

        1. It’s quite different from Armory’s, believe me. I’ll find a way to get it to you shortly. It’s one that I’ve regularly re-read, and I’ll read it even more often, now.

        2. Found your old link in a past Cat Carols post but the link is broken. I found some of it at google books but they skip pages. I may just have to order a copy of All The Strange Hours. Or check the library.

          Best get back to work before I get sacked!

          1. You probably saw that Eiseley’s cat piece originally was published in Redbook magazine. Only later was it included in All The Strange Hours. Copyright issues may have led to its being taken down, or it may simply be that the website that posted it went defunct.

  44. I am saddened by the loss of your beloved Dixie Rose, Linda. May she rest in peace, and in your heart.

    That is a beautiful photo of her, and I love the poem by Mary Oliver. This was a wonderful tribute post. I’ll plant something for Dixie Rose here for you.

    1. What a kind gesture, Lavinia. Thank you, too, for your words about this little post. Knowing what to say always is difficult, but I couldn’t move on in life without marking her passing. She was beautiful, and self-possessed, and was known in the vet’s office for her ability to transform from “sweet kitty” to “demon cat” in a flash. I’ll never forget her, and I’m sure the memories will age well over the years.

  45. I know the loss of a beloved pet can be tramatic. I’ve had a few that my heart still aches whenever I think of them. So sorry for your loss. The poem you shared hit me kinda hard as I’ve been to two memorials in the past two weeks. Letting go is never easy. Thanks for sharing. Dixie Rose looks like a sweetheart!

    1. Two memorials in two weeks would be hard, whatever the circumstances. I’m sorry you’ve had to experience that.

      As my first real pet, Dixie Rose taught me a lot of lessons about living with an animal, including how painful it can be to lose them. Although I was shocked by the suddenness of it all, in the end I was grateful that I was able to end her obvious suffering so quickly. There are stories far more difficult than mine with Dixie Rose.

      She was a sweetheart, indeed, and just a bit amusing — she loved the attention she pretended she didn’t crave. Thanks for you kind words, and understanding.

  46. I am so sorry for you Linda. Dixie Rose appeared to be quite a character and companion. That image of her begging for a treat is priceless!!

    Your tribute brought tears to my eyes. I still miss every single one of my dogs – each had an important mission in my life… I truly believe we are joined with these special companions for a reason. It was very hard this past year, to lay both Zoe and Bear to rest. I made the decision to let go with each of my beloved pets, but they all had long and happy lives. I have never just had a pet go in it’s sleep… or of what could be natural causes. It was just evident that the time had come after periods of struggle. I will be sending vibes of comfort and love to you as I work in the orchard in the coming days. The sweet spirit of Dixie Rose flies free now, in the lovely warmth of spring.

    1. I’d been watching Dixie Rose for some time, Lori. First, there was some arthritis, and I got her a heated pad. Then, her appetite seemed to slip a bit, and she lost weight, but a new food did the trick, and she began gaining again, But through it all, I could see age creeping up: less play, more sleeping, less interest in things like the birds outside the window. I’d been concerned enough that I’d made a vet appointment for the 19th of this month, but only hours later, I found her, and soon she was gone.

      I don’t think there’s any question it was an embolism, although there could have been a couple of underlying causes: perhaps a tumor, perhaps heart trouble. But neither of those would have presented symptoms, unless some heart issues would have been detected during her next regular exam. I’m not sure how I could have coped if it had happened when I was out of town, or if I hadn’t found her for many hours. As it was, her leave-taking was swift, and peaceful. I’m grateful for that.

      The shock of such a sudden departure — two hours from discovery to death — has been something to cope with. On the other hand, I know that having to make the decision that “now” is the time, as you did, would be no easier.

      Of course I’m still greeting her as I come in the door, and being surprised when I don’t see her. Such things will end, eventually, and I’ll be left with some wonderful memories of a creature who was very much a character!

      1. I think your gut instinct about an embolism is most likely correct. I tend to look at life that way. Many times we have a feeling or thought about something, and we are usually correct.

        I am thankful too, that it happened as it did for Dixie Rose. It is good to find some comfort in the fact that you were there for her, and that it wasn’t a worse case scenario. We just do the best we can with what we have at the moment, and to find some thankfulness.

        There’s not a thing odd about still greeting her. I talk to my pet’s spirits when I think of them… it’s just comforting.

        1. I mentioned in another comment that I had a chance to talk with the vet again. She’s also certain it was an embolism — the symptoms were, as they say, textbook — and only the cause is in question. I read several articles, too, and had to smile at several of them that said the condition is common in “older” cats — those older than eight years of age. I’d say we did rather well, since she was a full decade past that.

          The only real regret I have is that I never made a video of her, or recorded her voice. I can understand now why some people keep voice messages from departed family or friends on their phones. it would be a comfort.

  47. So sorry you are experiencing this loss. I look back on the losses of my dear animal friends and still feel the pain even as the years are farther apart. Be kind to yourself right now. You need it. Take care

    1. In some ways it’s quite strange that I reached this age without having had the experience of losing a dear pet. I’ve had animals around that I was fond of, but a prairie dog, a squirrel, a chimpanzee and a bird aren’t quite the same as a cat or dog. She was truly wonderful, and I’m so glad that she came into my life — just as I’m glad that I could help to ease her way out of life without extended suffering.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and for you kind words. They mean a lot.

  48. Oh, Linda, I am so sorry.

    I have been so busy sketching, trying desperately to get this book finished, that I had kept your WP entry to read when I had a moment. It was Gue who told me the sad news.

    They do leave a hole in our hearts, but at least Dixie Rose will be able to renew her friendship with her British ‘Blue’ boyfriend, who will have already searched out all the warmest snoozing spots, and how to receive the best titbits.

    Max sends silent purrs to you :)

    1. Now I’ve experienced what you, Maria, and Gué have — among us, we’ve added some real characters to the heavenly menagerie. I suspect Blue will have the good nibbles to himself, unless there’s no dry cat food where they are. For the whole of her life, I never could get Dixie to eat human food: no chicken, no steak, no fish, no cream. It was the oddest thing.

      On the other hand, warm snoozing spots were her specialty. When the season brought the sunshine in through the bedroom windows, that’s where she’d be, stretched out on the floor. If the day was cloudy, and no sunlight poured in, she’d sit in the spot where the sunlight was “supposed” to be, and complain loudly. No matter how many times I explained that I couldn’t do anything about it, she never believed me.

      I saw your profile pic of Max just today. I’m trying to remember — was it Max or Blue that you photographed making that huge leap in your kitchen? It’s quite amazing, how a photo like that can stay in mind. Give Max a pet for me — and good luck finishing up that book!

      1. It was Max, the long-legged Russian Blue. He is now five years old, 45 inches long when he stretches out fully, and runs and leaps everywhere. Blue was short and cuddly, but an inveterate sloth, and much more refined than his energetic Russian cousin.

    1. Now, nearly a week after the sad event, most of the necessary tasks have been accomplished: taking food, litter, and toys to the local shelter, and so on. Her blankets have been washed, and decisions about what to keep have been made. Half-humorously, I’ll say that I think I might even have gone more than an hour or so without thinking about her.

      Most of the time she was delightful, and she did make me happy. I think I made her happy, too — or what passes for happiness in a cat. Her appetite for attention seemed to be limitless, but she was gracious in her demands. All in all, we had a fine relationship, and I’ll miss it.

    1. Thank you, rethy. The space that is left will fill, eventually. Oddly, the number of birds flocking around the water bowls I keep just outside the window where she used to lay have increased considerably in past days. Perhaps they were more cautious than I realized, and now are sensing that the Great Threat has gone away!

  49. Dear Linda,

    Thinking of you and Dixie Rose. Others have expressed condolences far more eloquently than I, but please know I care about your loss. This reminds me so much of my daughter’s experience with her beloved 18-year-old diabetic orange tabby. Tigger’s ashes now reside in a pretty wooden box in a glass-fronted cabinet along with his paw print (thoughtfully provided by the veterinary office where he was put to sleep) and a little figurine of a girl with a cat.

    This is a sad reason for getting back on WordPress, but I have been enjoying your lovely essays and photos again; I’ve missed you.

    “The Margarine Wars” is so interesting. I had read of Mark Twain’s recently discovered story about Prince Oleomargarine and wondered if it was authentic (did margarine exist in Mark Twain’s day?) Your research certainly answers that question, and also puts the lie to a “fake fact” I have read: That margarine was invented in the early 1940’s as a lubricant for machinery and then was found to be edible. And I too have memories of kneading the margarine to make it yellow!

    azgrandma formerly of Weather Underground, now commenting on The Ark (thanks to Bug for posting your news)

    1. How wonderful to have you stop by! I haven’t been to visit The Ark for some time, but I’m glad to see that some of the “old gang” are still there and active. It’s certainly a pleasure to see you, and I’m going to make it a point to visit there and catch up with people.

      I don’t think I’ll be getting a paw print, but I did choose to have Dixie cremated, and will receive her ashes in the next week or so. What I’ll do with them, I’m not sure, but that isn’t a decision that has to be made quickly. I did receive a lovely condolence card from the vet’s office, personally signed by all of the employees, which I thought was a nice gesture. They were extraordinarily kind through the whole ordeal.

      I hadn’t heard of Twain’s story, but found this review</strong. that makes me want to find the book and read it. I especially liked this: “At the climax, Johnny says some words that the narrators assure us “could save mankind from all its silly, ceaseless violence, if only mankind could say them once in a while and make them truly meant.” They turn out to be no more than: “I am glad to know you.”

      In a way, that brings me back around to Miss Dixie. I was glad I knew her, too.

  50. Oh Linda, I am so so sorry. It broke my heart to see the title of this post. We love our pets so much and they teach us so much about ourselves. We hide nothing from them, and they still love us. That kind of unconditional love is so amazing. You and Dixie Rose were blessed to have each other. Love and hugs.

    1. We were blessed, indeed. At first, I couldn’t stand the silence around here, and couldn’t really understand why it seemed so terrible. It took a few days to realize that we were talking to each other all the time: she with her meows and mutterings, and me with my human language. I have a dog-owning friend who was surprised to find I talked to Dixie. I was astonished to discover she never talks to her dog, except to call it into the house or tell it to stop doing something.

      In any event, you’re exactly right: they do teach us about ourselves, and about the world they inhabit. I don’t know how long it will be before I stop expecting to find her when I come home, but I suspect it will be a while.

    1. She was a pretty thing. They always fill so much more space than just the back of a sofa, or the seat of a chair. Absence may or may not make the heart grow fonder, but there are times when absence can break a heart. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  51. I am sorry for your loss, Linda. Dixie Rose looks so cute in this photo. It’s always hard to let go of anyone we care for, but at least Dixie Rose had a long life in good companionship.

    1. Thank you, Otto. She was a cutie, and she aged beautifully. At eighteen, she was as attractive as she was as a kitten. She was better behaved, too, although she certainly had her moments, and still could be a playful thing. The more I ponder the fact that we had eighteen years together, the more amazing it seems. They certainly were good years.

  52. I missed this, Linda, and I’m sorry to hear about Dixie Rose (what a great name). Mary Oliver is good for times like this, as is writing, and reaching out. I am not worried about you, you’re connected and creative….but still, take care!

    1. It was years after I’d named her that a friend pointed out one of the colored spots on her back resembled a rose: at least, roughly. By that time, I’d discovered another reason the name was appropriate. Although beautiful, she could be equally thorny. But she was a dear, and her loss was painful. Still, is, actually. Soon, the emotion will ebb, and the pleasure of memories will fill in.

    1. How nice of you to stop by, Wylie — thank you. I actually have the tab for the Ark open, and in the medium future I’ll get over there to visit.

      As for Dixie: yes, it was quick. She’d been slowing down in the past year, but that was to be expected. I certainly didn’t expect such a quick end. It was good that it was quick, but it also was a shock. I certainly do miss her, but the adjustment is coming along. After eighteen years, it should take a little time!

  53. I came looking for you today. I haven’t been receiving your posts in my reader, probably because I went private. Ugh. I am so very sorry to find this post about your loss. I loved hearing about Dixie Rose. I know she brought much light to you, and you will miss her. I’m glad she didn’t linger and suffer. Years ago, we had to do the same with our cat, Gypsy. It is never easy. You gave her a good home and she had a long and happy run.
    I will subscribe to get your posts through email.

    1. I’m so glad to see you, as I’d begun to fuss a bit over your absence. I don’t know how private blogs work, exactly, but I’m glad you subscribed.

      Dear Dixie. It was such a shock. I don’t know what I expected, but I suppose it was a slow and gradual decline. Of course she’d had some problems, like her arthritis, but she still could do everything she needed to do in life, and if her play had given way to more naps? Well, we understand that, don’t we?

      The grief is mostly gone now, and I find myself going hours at a time without thinking of her. One amusing note: when I cleaned up, I kept all of the fur I collected from her blankets, scratching post, and chairs. When I touch it, it’s just as soft and smooth as she was, but of course there’s no warmth, and no purring there. One of these days — probably soon — I’ll throw it out.

    1. Thank you, Lisa. Enough time has passed now that the grief and tears are mostly gone. Of course I miss her, but I’m so grateful fior the years we had. She was such a good kitty — almost always a joy to have around. Even when she was being cantankerous ( or I was!) we got through it. I’ll never have another one like her, that’s for sure.

  54. The itinerant author and big league pitcher Jim Bouton once remarked on how he spent all those years gripping a baseball, and it turned out it was the other way around, and so it is as well for our small four-legged companions. My heartfelt sympathies.

    1. What an interesting insight. My little twelve-pound bundle of fur certainly did get a grip on my heart. I just returned home from a first trip away since losing her, and was shocked all over again that she wasn’t here to greet me. Adjustment certainly does take time — thank you for your kind words.

  55. Oh Linda, I have tears in my eyes reading of your loss. Eighteen years is such a long time, what a lucky, lucky kitty she is to have found you, she had such a friend in you, and sounded thoroughly spoilt!!! I can imagine how it feels without her presence, they leave such a hole behind don’t they? It’s amazing how their energy can fill a room. So sorry….hugs.xxx

    1. She was beautiful, and fun, and as quirky as could be: she sat in my lap only once in those eighteen years. But she always was nearby, asleep on a chair or curled at my feet, and we talked to one another in languages that we, at least, understood. It’s too quiet, and too empty — that energy you mentioned is so obvious in its absence. But this is life, and we go on. Each day is a little better — thank you so much for stopping by.

  56. Way behind in my reading … Sorry for your loss of Dixie Rose. I hope as the time goes by, the emptiness is less and new creatures and events will fill the void. I just looked back at a list I generated when we lost Taffy last November. Since moving from Minnesota to Montana back in 2004, twenty “named” animals have blessed my life with their existence, and saddened it with their passing. They include cats, dogs, and horses. It seems impossible that so many have come and gone, and still, new happy animals enter into my life and refill it with love and life.

    1. It’s been three months now, and the actual grieving process is over. I certainly miss Dixie, but knowing she had a good life is a comfort. I’m sorry to hear about Taffy; I always enjoyed seeing your dogs’ photos, and hearing your tales about them. There’s no question that they enrich our lives — how much, I didn’t know until that silly cat came into my life. Whether I’ll have another is an open question, but I’m so pleased to have had those eighteen years with what obviously (!) was the world’s best cat ever!

  57. I am so sorry. I hope you are doing okay. And I hoped she touched your life in such a way, that you will always love cats! My Sokz is 6 and I hope he lives a long life, I worry about how *I* would do if I lost him. I hope he lives long like Dixie!

    1. I’m sorry I somehow missed your comment. But now I’ve found it, and I thank you for it. It’s hard to believe it’s been five months since Dixie Rose died. Of course I still miss her, but I’m fine, and life is moving on. I hope your Sokz has a long and happy life, too, and that he’s as much a blessing to you as Dixie was to me.

  58. I am sorry I missed this post, Linda. As with many others, having been through this grief a few times gives one a familiarity with the loss of another but we truly never really know how someone else feels or deals with it. Time has passed and I see that you are in a good place regarding Dixie Rose’s life with you and the wise decision to spare her the suffering. We tend to try to extend our pets’ lives, but in many cases it is for ourselves and not them. Of course, you made the right decision just as we did for Murphy. They let you know when it is time.

    1. Indeed they do, although in Dixie’s case, the suddenness of it all was probably as much a shock to her as it was to me.

      I can’t say enough good things about the vets, or the way the whole process was handled. I decided to have her individually cremated, and when I received her ashes, there also was a small, terra cotta plaque with her name and pawprint. Sympathy cards from vets are apparently quite common these days, but I was surprised to receive a note that the vets had made a donation in her name to an Austin group that helps people through loss of a pet. It was a lovely gesture, and quite touching. Who knew?

  59. Beautifully written and actually, I would call this post a lovely eulogy to Dixie Rose. In some ways, Dixie Rose and you were fortunate in the way she very quickly was near the end when you took her to the veterinarian. I have had similar happenings with a few of my pets and my vet always said the cat or dog had suffered a stroke. Dixie lived to be 18 years old and that is quite old for most cats. Of all my cats one made it to 19 years and another to 20 years of a well lived life.

    I am so sorry for your loss. I can’t fathom your grief of her loss but I can empathize and sympathize since I have lost many pets and almost all of them lived to 14, 15, 16 year old. One does grieve and one does miss them terribly when the pet was an only furry companion. I well understand your hesitancy about getting another pet but you surely can adopt an older cat and save the life of one that is about to be put down with no chance of adoption. I follow many rescue groups and Houston has a severe pet problem and I don’t think there is not even one, no kill shelter. Many cats are family/owner surrenders when the pets owner dies or goes to a nursing home. Those poor cats and dogs are so very lost when they suddenly find themselves in a cold concrete environment with many pitiful meows and the mournful howls of frightened dogs. Even it you do not adopt a pet you would find great satisfaction by entering a foster program. It is not a disservice to your deceased pet or that you are trying to replace Dixie. To help another animal is to honor her memory and it is no way a selfish motive. After all Dixie was once foundling urchin from the streets (I think) and you gave her a home. As an aside, I saw that there 210 comments prior to mine and that is a testament to how much people care about you and how many folks like pets.

    1. I thought of it as a eulogy, Yvonne. Well, actually, I didn’t think of it as anything particular at the time, except as a way to let people know what had happened. It was such a shock — to go from a sleeping kitty at noon to a gone kitty four hours later was nearly indescribable. Still, as I said, I’m glad for her sake things went so quickly.

      There are good, practical reasons for me not to get another cat at this point in my life. The primary one is the expense. Food and litter (and toys!) would be manageable, but any sort of vet bill wouldn’t be. And after 18 years of worrying about hurricane evacuations and being unable to take even a weekend without the expense of a kitty-sitter? Let’s just say that after two decades and more of worrying about both my mother and my cat, I’m enjoying a new kind of freedom. Fostering might be a possibility down the road, but there’s one problem with that — my tendency to become attached, and fast. We’ll see. For now, I’ll remember darling Dixie, and celebrate her memory.

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