By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 7/10/2020
Posted: 4/29/2008 6:00:00 PM
Topics/Keywords: #Obituary
Milestone: #Death
Page Views: 4189
We say goodbye to a beloved dog.

We lost one of our three dogs today. Astro, the runt of his litter, passed on after a couple of days of being "under the weather". He was over 10 years old.

We first got Astro in 1998 as one of three puppies dropped off at our house by my daughter, Jenny, who said, "You said we could have puppies." I hadn't actually meant that month as the dogs would have to stay outside and it was still a very cold January. But, there they were.

Astro, his brother Cirrus and his sister Shayla were from the same litter but had obviously different fathers. (This is not uncommon among dogs, who enjoy a rather more interesting love life than we humans tend to promote.) Their mother was (mostly) a black Lab; Astro's father, we thought, was probably a Corgi—he had the marked tongue of one.

Though he was the smallest of the three, he was also the scrappiest. He loved to play fight with Cirrus, who was generally disinterested.

We lived in Snowflake. I spent a lot of time on the road, by which I mean in airplanes, and Michael spent a lot of time picking me up and dropping me off. So the dogs spent a lot of time alone. We tried keeping them fenced in, but they were terrific diggers and pretty much always got out. They loved running free along the high chaparral, fighting off coyotes and stealing chickens from neighboring farms. Of course, the neighbors who owned those farms were less delighted. We think that's how Shayla disappeared.

So, then there were two. Cirrus and Astro were inseparable. When Astro began displaying health issues typical of a runt, Cirrus would tend to him, licking his eye or ear, whatever was bothering him.

When Michael and I moved to Peoria from Snowflake, Michael and my son, John, did most of the actual moving, since I was out of town working. Michael drove the truck and John drove the dogs. They had to get used to a new back yard enclosure (that they couldn't dig out of), and of course had no idea where I was. When Michael brought me home from the airport, Astro was all over me like fleas on fur, yapping and yapping. I understood perfectly: "He put us in a thing, and the wind went by and by and then he put us here, and we thought you'd never find us again!"

When John moved to Iceland he couldn't bring his dog, Amber. At first Amber moved in with Mary and Karen; but then they moved in with Michael and me and Cirrus and Astro. For some reason Astro and Amber grew closer than Cirrus and Amber did. (But not very close—Amber is too self-centered to really get close to anyone else.) (Sorry, Karen! —But you know it's true!)

From left to right, Astro, Cirrus, and Amber.

Astro hated to go in the back yard. There's a school behind our house with a sports stadium and Astro became terrorized one night when they shot off fireworks. From then on, he wouldn't go into the back yard unless one of the humans went with him.

Of the three dogs, Astro was the only one to nip. He seldom did it to anyone in the family, but visitors frightened him and he would wait till their backs were turned, then dart up, nip, and run away and hide. He never broke skin, but he was an equal opportunity nipper, going after adults and children, males and females. On the other hand, he didn't nip everyone; we could never predict who he would inexplicably find safe instead of frightening.

Astro loved being petted. Unlike the other two dogs, Astro could never get enough attention. When we were sitting at the sofa watching TV, or at our desks working, he would come up, put one paw on our leg and rest his chin on that, gazing upwards with such desperate longing that John gave him the nickname "Pity".

Last night he went outside for his walk as eagerly as ever. But then this morning he was sluggish and this afternoon he became less and less responsive, though when he did rouse he drank plenty of water so we thought he might recover. Unfortunately he did not. I was at work; Michael and Karen stayed with him, petting him and holding him through his throwing up and final seizures.

The Humane Society told them to call the non-emergency number for the police, who in turn instructed them to put the body in a box and place it at the curb. They did so. By the time I got home from work, the box was gone.

Of course we had to explain all this to eight-year-old Zachary, but he has always had an innate sense of the immortality of life. After his great grandmother died, he saw her in a couple of dreams. So he knows that Astro isn't with us physically, but can always be found in his heart.

And ours as well.