His name was Astro.
It had that name when I got it. The worried young hippie girl who had given him up had given him this cosmic name. It must have broken her heart to let him go. Their housing management had strict “no dogs allowed” rules. So your mean old landlord took him on the pound. Then he ran into me at a gas station in Kealakekua, Hawaii. He said, “Hey. Do you want a dog?”
I didn’t need or want a dog. But I looked at the one and a half year old puppy with long, dark, red hair and was immediately impressed by its beauty. I said, “You don’t really get a nice, thoroughbred Irish setter into the pound. Are you?” He replied, “You want it? It’s yours.”
I agreed to hold on to him until I found a good home for the homeless dog. I put Astro in the back of my van. My wife came by a little later. She was also impressed with its beauty. She said, “I’ve wanted an Irish setter since I was a little girl.”
We really never tried to find someone to take it with us. We bonded to him almost immediately. Astro did everything to please and fit into our lifestyle. Since we had no children, you could say that he became our adoptive baby. This particular bundle of fur changed our lives.
Astro lived to run, jump, play, and get all kinds of admiration. He sure got it from almost everyone he met. He had a particularly warm, loving presence that could be felt. He could almost communicate in English. The tone had three syllables (sentence) that it pronounced from time to time, especially when it was with children. It sounded like “Wouf vov wu”. I quickly realized that he was saying “I love you”.
We went to a beach party once. I had Astro tied to my van so it wouldn’t run away. I returned a little later and found that the local children had found him. There were ten to twelve little hands caressing him. Astro was in seventh heaven. I wish I had a camera to record it.
I drove quite a bit back then. Astro almost always sat next to me in the passenger seat. He stuck his nose out the window of the van and his long red hair flew in the wind. He just loved to travel and watch the world go by. It was his passion.
We lived near an avocado orchard for a while. It was neglected and got wild. Astro was an outside dog at the time. He would tell us around five that it was just before dinner. We put out his bowl and watched him devour it all. A short time later we would find an avocado on our front stairs. It wouldn’t even have tooth marks. Astro wasn’t a freeloader. He liked a fair exchange.
When it was time to leave Hawaii, there was this terrible decision to give up on him and find a new home for him. I just couldn’t do it. I took him to the mainland and was so glad I did. As he got older, he became even cuter and gentler.
I was in the moving business in California at the time. I’ve done a lot of long distance runs with Astro. Vegas, Seattle, Denver, New Mexico, even Old Mexico – we were there. He and I chalked up many kilometers together. At night, when it was cold and rainy, I was sorry that he was locked in the truck all by himself. So I sneaked him into the warmth of my motel room.
My wife and I settled in beautiful South Lake Tahoe in the early 1990s. Astro was so used to the sandy beaches of Hawaii and didn’t know what to do with the snow. But he loved his new surroundings. He woke us up early every morning to walk together through the forest towards the lake. Those were good old days with golden memories.
There later his life cycle advanced before ours. Astro’s health failed and he left us. He died in my arms. I dug his grave and we said goodbye to him.
As I laid his body in the cold dirt, I took one last look at his beautiful face, his hair and his features. But there was a void. He had gone. It was like taking off a fur glove and looking at its shape. All that was left was a lifeless lump of material that reminded me so much of the beauty, love, and essence of Astro.
After all these years, I’m finally sitting and writing the story about my travels and adventures with Astro. Through all the tears and the smiles, memories come back. This red-haired rascal taught me the importance of true unconditional love.
There are a lot of Astros waiting out there. All they ask for is a little love, affection, and a good home. You will reciprocate your love and kindness many times over.