I was walking Astro in the park one day, and this handsome, muscular man was jogging by. He stopped dead in his tracks and said, “Well, hellllooooooo, gorgeous!” My face reddened and I demurely stammered, “Um….thank you.” Then I noticed the man was admiring Astro. Not me. Ouch! When he finally tore his eyes away from Astro, he said, “You really should put that dog’s pictures in Lab Retriever Magazine. He is simply STUNNING!” That, in a nutshell, summed up Astro.
Astro never had exposure to other dogs as a puppy. So, naturally, he thought he was human. When I met Astro three years ago, I started taking him to the doggy park. Astro was a bit confused about these four-legged creatures. Many times, I tried showing him the similarity. “Look, Astro,” I would point out. “That dog has a paw; you have a paw. That dog has a tail; you have a tail. That dog has floppy ears; you have floppy ears. Therefore, you are a dog.” Astro would cock his head sideways and look at me like, “What? Surely you jest!”
When it came to pooping, he would be absolutely shocked when the dogs pooped right in the middle of the park, in plain sight. “Good grief, didn’t these things have manners?”, he would almost ask me. Astro himself would go off in the distance, butt in the trees, face at an angle and do his business. If we even looked at him then, he would bark, making us turn our faces away with embarrassment. I am sure if he could have, he would have used toilet paper.
Since Astro was human, it went without saying that he did everything we did. Whatever we ate, he ate.
If we had our nails painted, he had his nails painted.
Astro—well, he had a heart of gold. One day Nilish was cleaning the pool. Both he and Astro spied a frog swimming in it. Nilish got disgusted and sprinted with his pool net to catch it. Astro also got very excited and started barking like crazy and making mad dashes around the pool, trying to get the frog’s attention. The frog coolly avoided Astro and instead attempted escaping Nilish’s net.
As luck would have it, the frog did get picked up in the net. Both Nilish and Astro trooped off towards the fence with frog imprisoned in the net. Astro was insanely barking and the frog was jumping in his two-inch space in the netting, getting rattled with each bark. Nilish was shouting at Astro to shut up or the whole neighborhood would wake up. In the commotion, the net turned sideways and, at that opportune moment, the frog hopped out and away as fast as he could. It was a spectacle seeing Nilish chasing the frog, with Astro in tow. In a mad dash, Astro jumped the frog and popped him in his mouth.
Life screeched to an absolute halt for a split second. “Yuck!!!” Nilish and I were horrified, “That dog has eaten the frog.” Absolutely revolting! Astro, meanwhile, was teetering towards the pool, and the next thing we saw is him gaily dumping the frog back in. The frog, in shock no doubt, started swimming to the opposite side rapidly. OH, MY GOD! Astro had held the frog in his mouth AND then come back to the pool to place it back in. Nilish and I were bowled over by Astro’s behavior!!!
For the next week, Astro would eagerly run out to the pool in the morning, go all around the perimeter looking for his best-friend frog, hoping for a chat. As for the frog, I don’t think he gave a hoot about Astro! First chance he got, he escaped the pool. And that was the end of that story.
Astro touched everyone’s heart. When Frank, our mailman, would see Astro, he would stop his van right in the middle of the road, jump out, and yell, “Here, Astro, here, boy!” Astro would happily go jumping to him, tail wagging furiously. The neighbors knew Astro. If they saw us elsewhere, their first question would be, “How’s Astro?” All our kids’ friends in college knew Astro. Every week, Astro had a date to facetime a friend—who knows what conversations these “kids” would be having. And every day, we had to send multiple pictures and updates of Astro on a mailing list. Our kids and their friends would come from college to NY just to spend the weekend with Astro. When we went to sleep, Astro would be sleeping stuck right outside our bedroom door. Next morning when we opened the door, he would topple into the room in a heap. When Nilish started off for work every day, Astro would be first in line for a hug and kiss. He would then run to the front door window to see Nilish’s car leave, nose pressed against glass. Astro went everywhere with us–to the stores, to the kids’ schools. Our car was “Astro’s car”. We were merely chauffeurs. Talk about Man’s Best Friend. Our Universe was Astro.
Astro died unexpectedly last week at age eight years. Everything was suddenly empty. There was a huge vacancy in everyone’s hearts and lives. The house was crazy silent without him. We all mourned and grieved over the loss of this amazing being. He brought everyone together. He made everyone laugh. His antics caused everyone to fall in love with him.
Watching Astro, we learned the importance of uplifting people’s lives and souls, of finding happiness and laughter where you think it may not exist. After Astro died, Nilish and I decided to start a Meet Up group for Grief, to help others who may be suffering from death, loss of marriage, loss of career, loss of family, etc. We joked, thinking in a month we would be lucky to have 5 members. Well, in just one week, we had over 115 members! Astro taught us to open our hearts and help others heal from their grief. He is the force behind the Meet-Up.
In life, people and things come and go. Nothing lasts forever. So it is important to spend quality time together and have all the fond memories which will last a lifetime.
Sometimes things are taken away before their time.
And when life throws us these curves, how do we deal with it? We can sit and cry and go over and over what happened and end up in a deep abyss of depression. But that will not help anyone positively in the long run. OR we can stand up, wipe those tears (and there is nothing wrong with crying it out every so often), and remember the happy memories. And then we take it a step further—find that joy once again in our hearts by doing whatever we love, by helping others, and by remembering our loved one and living life double.
Thank you, Astro, for the lessons you taught us. You captured everyone’s hearts. You burned the candle at both ends with joy and lived life to the fullest. You will be sorely missed, best friend! RIP