Ten years ago, my then-boyfriend Alex and I visited a local animal shelter where I fell in love with a kitten named Dixon.

I had been going kitten-crazy and really wanted to adopt a cat. (The previous year, my family’s 16-year-old cat passed away.) So Alex and I took a trip to the Staten Island Animal Care Center where I was honestly not planning to get a cat. I was just going to look (I swear!). However, Dixon had other plans for me. He was 3 months old, skinny, all legs & ears & tail, and he purred incessantly when an employee placed him in my arms. I wouldn’t put him down. I turned to Alex and said, “I want him.” So paperwork was filled out, credit card charges were made, and we were told to come back the next day to pick up Dixon after he’d been neutered.

That was on June 13, 2007. It has now been 10 years that Dixon has been in my life. And what a crazy ten years they’ve been! I was finishing up my Bachelor’s degree when I got him. I started grad school in 2008 and Dixon was there to keep me sane. I moved from Staten Island to Brooklyn with Dixon in tow. (He actually helped me get the apartment: the landlord was a cat lady of epic proportions and I attached a photo of Dixon when I emailed her my application.) I moved back to Staten Island. Then I moved within Staten Island.

It was around that time that Dixon had a urinary blockage. (My theory is that he was stressed out because, about two months prior, we welcomed a new kitten, Lucy, into our home.) I cried seeing him in pain and immediately drove him to the nearby 24/7 animal hospital. After the second urinary blockage a couple of weeks later, I opted for a perineal urethrostomy (“PU”) for Dixon. On New Year’s Day 2015, I picked Dixon up from the hospital after he had the incredibly invasive surgery wherein his scrotum and penis were removed and his urethral opening was widened. He hasn’t had a urinary tract infection or another urinary blockage since but he’s given me a couple of scares! I watch him like a hawk now, looking for any signs of distress.

In July 2015, I had a semi-serious bike crash on my way to work. I busted my lip open (resulting in 11 stitches, some inside and some outside my lip), chipped some teeth, and bruised some ribs and fingers. Dixon was there to comfort me as I took a week off work to recuperate. About a week later, when my almost-ten-year-old romantic relationship fell apart, Dixon was there while I sobbed and came to grips with my new reality. I then moved (again), this time into my parents’ home where I had planned to stay a year in order to save up money and buy my own place. I was considering getting a condo in Denver, CO, and starting a brand new life for myself. My mom pouted and said Denver’s too far away, why don’t I look somewhere closer, like Philadelphia?

In April 2016, I met my current boyfriend, Phil. In August of that year, I moved in with Phil when he moved back to Philly. (Mothers and their intuitions!) Dixon, naturally, came with. Shortly thereafter, my constant vigilance led to another trip to the vet for Dixon. I noticed that he was consistently cocking his head to the right. He did not exhibit any other issues to indicate that anything was wrong. However, during the exam, the veterinarian commented that Dixon would need to have a couple of teeth extracted because he had a serious case of plaque as well as a couple of resorptive teeth. In the end, the vet ended up pulling 5 teeth (1 full extraction and 4 partial ones), mostly on his right side—which is the direction in which he was tilting his head, most likely due to dental pain. Dixie was high for three days before he was back to normal. I worried about him the entire time and I was incredibly relieved when he regained his strength and his personality. I’m hoping for at least another 10 years with this fella.

The night after I visited the shelter and committed to adopting Dixon, I lay awake in bed, panicking that I’d made such a long-term commitment in haste. He’ll be there when I get married! I thought. He’ll be there when I have kids! It’s ten years later and I’m not married (and I’m not planning on getting married) but Phil and I are starting our family. We’re taking all of the necessary steps to achieve pregnancy (given my infertility, thanks to Kallmann Syndrome, medical intervention is required) and I’m thrilled that our kids may have an opportunity to get to know Dixon—and that Dixon may have the opportunity to lick the little humans until they’re raw, as he’s been doing to me for the last ten years.

Eat, drink, move, sleep

I was bummed to miss out on a group ride this morning (thanks to a sleepless night) so I took my freshly-tuned-up bike out for a quick spin through some streets on the south shore of Staten Island. Ended up stopping at three parks before powernoia set in and I called it a day.

Wheels keep turning… #spring #bike #bicycle #salsa #casseroll #salsacasseroll #park #bloomingdalepark

A photo posted by Allie (@averbovetskaya) on

The last time I was on my bike, my life was very different. Things are slowly becoming normal again and it was amazing being back in the saddle. My current situation doesn’t allow me to commute by bike anymore and I work on weekends (preventing me from going on long-distance rides) but I miss my bike to the point of tears sometimes so I’m making it my mission to make time for the things that are important to me.

My first name doesn’t come on magnets

I’ve trained for decades in the art of patiently waiting for people to butcher my name. It’s often a teacher or customer service official who has to read aloud from a list. I listen to them breeze through Daniel and Jennifer and even Dwayne, but inevitably, there’s a break in their rhythm. “James! Carrie! Karima! Stephanie! Kevin!” Pause. “Bar—” Pause. They look around the room and then look back at their list. Their confidence falters. The declarative tone applied to the names before mine gives way to a weak, interrogative stumbling:

Barry? Barrington? Baracuda? Bartuna? Bartender? Bartunda? Bartholomew? Bart? Baritone? Baritone Dave? Barathunde? Bar—? Brad!!

The person who called me Brad was engaged in the most lazy and hilarious form of wishful thinking, but all the others kind of, sort of, maybe make some sense. This experience is so common in my life that I now entirely look forward to it. Like a child on Christmas morning who hasn’t yet been told that Santa is a creation of consumer culture maintained by society to extend the myth of “economic growth,” I eagerly await the gift of any new variation the next person will invent. Can I get a Beelzebub? Who will see a Q where none exists? How about some numbers or special characters? Can I get a hyphen, underscore, forward slash? Only after letting the awkward process run its public course do I step forward, volunteering myself as the bearer of the unpronounceable label and correct them. “That’s me. It’s Baratunde.”

—Baratunde Thurston, How to Be Black