Dixie’s Kitten

Dixie’s Kitten

From Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul

Dixie’s Kitten

Dixie was a pretty dog, an English setter dressed in a white coat adorned with black and brown markings. In her younger days she had spent many happy hours in the fields, running and hunting quail. But now Dixie was so old that she spent most of her time lying in the sun, basking in the soothing warmth of its rays. She especially loved to lie in the yard. There was a full water bucket and brimming food dish within easy reach, and her outdoor shelter was lined with clean, fragrant hay. There were times when her old bones ached and pained her, and she would groan as she stood up to move to another patch of sunlight. But sometimes there were wonderful days when somebody brought by a young bird-dog pup, and a spark would leap in her tired eyes. She adored puppies and would forget her age for a little while as she romped with the younger dogs.

“It’s been a long time since you were a puppy, old girl,” I told her one day, stopping to comb my fingers through her silky hair. She wagged her tail and looked toward the pup being admired in the front yard. Then with a soft whine, she eased her aching body into a more comfortable position and dropped her chin to her paws. Her eyes were fastened on the younger dog and she seemed lost in thought. Probably dreaming about the days when she was running through the fields teaching the younger dogs to sniff out quail, I decided. I gave her one last pat on the head, and went into the house.

Lately Dixie had seemed lonely. I remembered the family of ducks that used to cross the road in front of our house every evening to share her dish of dog food. Not once had Dixie growled or snapped at the ducks, and sometimes she would even move aside so they could have better access to her food. Visiting cats were always welcome to join in the meals, and it wasn’t unusual at all to find her with her nose in the same bowl with several ducks, cats and whatever stray dog may have wandered up. Dixie was a gentle, social soul and nowadays there just didn’t seem to be as many guests dropping by to chat over dinner.

One day there was a knock at my door. I opened it to find my next-door neighbor standing there with a concerned look on his face. “Have you seen my kitten?” he asked. “He slipped out and is missing.”

It was a cute, fluffy little thing, not much bigger than a minute, and I knew my neighbor was right to be concerned. A tiny lost kitty would be no match for the coyotes and wild cats that roamed our rural area.

I told him I hadn’t but that if I spotted it, I would give him a call. He thanked me, sadness etched on his face. “He’s so little,” he said as he headed for the next house. “I’m afraid if I don’t find him soon, something bad will happen to him.”

Later that afternoon I carried dog food out to Dixie. She was in her house and I could hear her tail thumping a greeting as I poured the food into her bowl. I fetched the water hose and filled her bucket, then called her out to eat. Slowly she emerged and painfully, carefully, stretched. As I reached down to pat her head, a tiny gray kitten stepped out of the dark doghouse and twined itself around Dixie’s legs.

“What have you got there, girl?” I exclaimed. Dixie glanced down at the kitten, then looked back up at me with a gleam in her eye. Her tail wagged harder. “Come here, kitty,” I said and reached for it. Dixie gently pushed my hand aside with her nose and nudged the kitten back inside the doghouse. Sitting down in front of the door, she blocked the kitten’s exit and I could hear it meowing inside. This had to be my neighbor’s lost kitten. It must have wandered through the thicket of bushes between our places and straight into Dixie’s doghouse.

“Crazy dog,” I muttered. Dixie wagged her agreement, but didn’t budge from in front of the door. She waited until I was a safe distance away before she stood up to begin nibbling at the pile of food. I went into the house and telephoned my neighbor.

“I think I’ve found your kitten,” I told him. I could hear the relief in his voice, then the laughter as I told him that Dixie had been hiding it. Promising to come over to collect the runaway cat, he hung up after thanking me again.

He showed up, eager to look at the kitten. “Yep, that’s my cat!” he said as the little gray fur ball stepped out of the doghouse. Dixie backed away from us and nosed the kitten toward the door. Gratefully, the man reached for the cat. In the same instant, Dixie snarled at him.

I was shocked. She’d never growled at anybody before! I scolded her, and my neighbor reached for the kitten again. This time Dixie bared her teeth.

“Let me try,” I said. I reached for the kitten but Dixie shoved it inside the doghouse, then followed it in and flopped down, blocking the tiny cat from us with her body. Nobody was going to take her kitten!

We could hear the kitten purring loudly inside the house. Then it stepped up, bold as brass, and rubbed itself against Dixie’s face. She licked its fur and glared out at us. It was plain that she had adopted the little cat and planned to keep it. “Huh,” I said. At the moment, it seemed the only thing to say.

“Well, it looks like the kitten’s happy,” my poor neighbor said after a few minutes. The little gray cat had curled up between Dixie’s front paws and was grooming itself intently. Every once in a while it stopped to lick Dixie’s face. Kitten and dog seemed perfectly content. “I guess she can keep the kitten, if she wants it that bad.”

So Dixie was allowed to help raise the kitten that she had claimed as her own. Thanks to the kindness and understanding of my neighbor, the tiny cat and the old dog spent many happy hours together. The kitten benefited from the arrangement and grew into a fine, healthy cat. And Dixie was happy to live out her days basking in the sun, dreaming of kittens and puppies and romping in the fields.

Anne Culbreath Watkins

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