Travels with Astro

By Dan O'Connor, September 2016, Updated January 2017
Irish Setter
His name was Astro. 
He had that name when I got him. The young, troubled, hippie girl, who had given him up, had labeled him with that cosmic name. It sure must have broken her heart to have to let him go. Her apartment management had strict rules about "No dogs allowed." So her mean old landlord was taking him in his pick up to the pound. That was when he ran across me in a gas station in Kealakekua, Hawaii. He said "Hey. Do you want a dog?'
I certainly did not need or want a dog. But I looked at the one and a half year old pup with long, dark, red hair and was immediately struck by his beauty. I said "You’re not really taking a beautiful, purebred, Irish Setter to the pound. Are you?" He replied "You want him? He's yours."
I agreed to hold on to him till I found the homeless canine a good home. I put Astro in the back of my van. My wife came along a little bit later. She was also awe struck by his beauty. She said "I've wanted an Irish Setter since I was a little girl"
We really never tried to find anyone else to take him. We got attached to him almost right away. Astro went out of his way to please and to fit into our lifestyle. Being that we did not have kids, I guess you could say he became our adopted baby. That special bundle of fur changed our lives.
Astro lived to run, jump, play and get all sorts of admiration. He sure got it from almost everyone he met. He had a special warm, affectionate presence that you could feel. He could pretty near communicate in English. There were three syllables to the sound, (sentence), he would utter from time to time, especially when he was around kids. It sounded like "Wouf vov wu" I soon realized he was saying "I love you"
We were at a beach party one time. I had tied Astro to my van so he would not run off. I returned a bit later and discovered the local kids had found him. There were ten to twelve little hands petting him. Astro was in seventh heaven. Wish I had a camera to capture it.
I did quite a bit of driving in those days. Astro was almost always sitting by my side in the passenger seat. He would stick his nose out the van window, his long, red hair flying in the breeze. He just loved to travel and watch the world go by. It was his passion.
We lived for a while close to an avocado orchard. It was neglected and had gone wild. Astro was an outside dog at the time. He would let us know about five o'clock that it was getting close to supper time. We would put out his dinner bowl and watch him gobble it all up. A short time later we would find an avocado sitting on our front step. It would not even have any teeth marks on it. Astro was no freeloader. He liked to have a fair exchange.
When it came time to leave Hawaii, there was that dreadful choice about giving him up and finding him a new home. I just couldn't do it. I brought him along to the Mainland and was so glad I did. He became even more sweet and mellow as he grew older.
I was in the moving business in California in those days. I did many long distance runs with Astro tagging along for the ride. Vegas, Seattle, Denver, New Mexico, even Old Mexico — we've been there. He and I chalked up many a mile together. At night, when it was cold and rainy, I'd feel sorry for him being all alone locked up in the truck. So I would sneak him into the warmth of my motel room.
My wife and I were settled in beautiful South Lake Tahoe in the early nineties. Being so used to the sandy beaches of Hawaii, Astro didn't know what to make of the snow. But he sure loved his new surroundings. He would get us up early each morning to walk together through the woods out toward the lake. Those were good old days with golden memories to treasure.
It was there, later on, that his life cycle advanced ahead of ours. Astro's health failed and he left us. He died in my arms. I dug his grave and we bade him farewell.
When I laid his body in the cold dirt I had a last look at his beautiful face, hair and features. But there was an emptiness. He was gone. It was as though I had taken off a fur glove and gazed at its form. All that was left was a lifeless clump of material that reminded me so much of the beauty, love and essence that was Astro.
After all these years, I finally sit and write the story about my travels and adventures with Astro. Through all the tears and smiles, the memories come flooding back. That red haired rascal taught me the meaning of true unconditional love.
There are a great many Astros out there waiting. All they ask for is for a little love, affection and a good home. They will return your love and kindness many times over.

Photo by Jan Anders