Monday, September 22, 2014

Sunset Chasers: Astro's Edition

The view from Astro's house.

The other evening, on our way home for dinner, my second-born and I took a little detour. As we often do, we had spied a great sunset along the way and couldn't resist the urge to scout out a lovely vantage point for some photos. 

When we walked in the door a bit later than expected, my husband inquired about the delay.

"Oh, we were sunset chasing," I replied  

He knew exactly what I meant.

"Where did you take the pictures?" he wondered. 

"At Astro's house," I replied. 

Once again, he knew exactly what I meant  

* * * * *

A long time ago, when my eldest two were tiny tots, we used to go for family walks down the hill that winds through our little neighborhood. Now today, that's a simple three-minute stroll but back then, with those toddler-sized legs and myriad distractions along the way, this was a journey of epic proportion. There were rocks to admire, flowers to smell, streets to carefully cross, all holding hands and looking both ways, and a huge American flag on a very tall flagpole to watch as it snapped in the ever-present uphill breeze  

The major highlight of our quest, however, awaited at our destination. At the bottom of our big hill sat a house with a wide, gravel-covered parking area. My daughters loved to march back and forth on those rocks, admiring the crunchy power of their bitty feet. 

Against the gravel strip ran a chain link fence and just beyond, a tall hedge. Much to our delight, a clever little dog lived there, and he would squirm his way through that dense shrubbery to welcome us. As he poked his black beagle nose through the openings in the fence, my daughters would squeal with pleasure. They offered tiny fingers to lick and we all did our best to pet this friendly fellow. 

Once the greetings had been completed, this noble beast would remember his responsibility to guard his family from invaders, even the ones with blonde pigtails. He would set up a horrible racket, howling and barking with abandon, until one of his humans would come to the door and say, "Astro, come inside."

That's how we learned his name. Astro.

Funny enough, Astro's family never caught sight of us. Screened from view by the hedges, we watched in silent delight as Astro contemplated his conundrum. Stay and bark at the kind strangers or obey the command to go into the house? Often he would resist the orders, standing guard at the fence for a few more pats and friendly words. Inevitably, though, his barking would kick back in and his people would return to the door, all "this time, I really mean it" and command Astro to COME. 

Good dog that he was, he would eventually obey.

Years passed. Two little girls became four, our walking routes evolved and changed. Still, every now and then, we would head down the hill to crunch in the gravel and say hi to Astro. That good ol'boy greeted us at the chain link fence for many, many years, always with a waggling tail and a happy pink tongue.

I don't remember exactly when we noticed his absence, but Astro is not there anymore. Certainly, he has gone to heaven, where all good dogs go, and he is running free now, with neither fences nor bossy humans to curb his enthusiasm.

But no one is every truly gone if they live on in the hearts of others. Though we shared only a tiny fraction of his life, through the holes in a chain link fence, Astro is a part of my family's life and we will remember and love him forever. 

* * * * *

Sunset chaser: A traveler who spies a gorgeous display on the evening horizon, and, throwing all other thoughts aside, pursues a prime viewing location from which to photograph the sky. 

I am a sunset chaser and here are just a few of the stories of my adventures:

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