When Dax Dixon was asked to respond to a school writing assignment about survival, he presented his middle-school teacher with his outlook on life.
"I think it means that when life is getting you down, just put a little humor in it to make it go up. Humor can make you laugh, make you happy, and cheer you up," wrote the 12-year-old student from Madison County, Va.
Dax was an outgoing, cheerful, and mischievous child who "always had a smile on his face," his father, Dan Dixon, told msnbc. "When things got him down, he just liked to laugh about it."
He enjoyed riding his bicycle, playing in the yard, and climbing trees with his neighborhood friend. Dax listened to dubstep music, particularly Skrillex, an activity influenced by his uncle who is a DJ and producer. He also competed in roller-hockey tournaments on a team he recently joined.
Dax, a student at William Wetsel Middle School, pitched his father three different career paths he wanted to pursue in the future: joining the Army (to follow in his uncle's footsteps), flying to space as an astronaut, and working with animals. He lived with five dogs, five cats, a guinea pig, and ferret inside his father's home. But he often chose to cuddle on the couch with his favorite pet, Sophie, a German Shepherd.
At school he was a "ladies' man," said his grandmother, Teresa Dixon, who took Dax shopping on the weekends. He spent his allowance money on clothes, his so-called "fancy shoes," and hats. He often exited the school bus in the afternoon telling his grandmother: “Girls are rubbing my hair all the time. They say it is so soft."
"And," she told msnbc, "he just loved it."
Dax was accidentally shot and killed on Oct. 26 while playing in the woods with a friend near his home in Madison County.