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Astro's Story

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Astro's Story

by Tamra Dotson

A little black puppy, barely three months old sat in front of his inmate, expectantly waiting to find out what he wanted him to do.  His name was Buddy.  He was part Black Lab and part Flat-coated Retriever.  All of the other inmates agreed, Buddy was the smartest puppy they had ever seen.  

Buddy was rescued and taken to Angels for Animals.   He was only about two months old.  The volunteers at Angels thought he would be a good candidate for their Pound Puppy Program.   So Buddy was taken to a minimum prison to be taught basic manners and be housebroken.   The program was established to make puppies more adoptable.   He was assigned to one inmate, with another inmate to help out.

Even at such a young age, Buddy preferred to be with people.   There were other puppies in the program, but Buddy only had eyes for his inmate.   The inmate taught Buddy how to sit and stay.   He played ball with him, and taught him to walk on a leash.   At six months old, Buddy was sent to the vet to be neutered.   He never went back to the prison again.   He never saw his inmate again.

Buddy was sent back to the pound to be adopted.   It didnít take long.   With his outgoing personality, and good manners, he found a home quickly.   His owners were gone all day, and only home at night.   Buddy was bored without people to talk to him and pet him.   He soon picked up some bad habits.   He would chew on their furniture.   His new owners were angry.   They had very nice furniture and couldnít keep a dog that chewed.   Once again, Buddy was on his way to the pound. 

When I heard about this, I talked to my family.   We had just bought a house, and were thinking about a companion for our Beagle-basset, Maggie May.   Everyone agreed; we had enough room, both in our home, and our hearts. 

I contacted Buddyís owner.   He wanted to get rid of him as soon as possible.   I went and picked Buddy up.  He was on his way to yet another new home.   By this time, Buddy was nine months old.

We had decided that the name Buddy wouldnít work.   My son, Austin, went by Bud, or Buddy.   After a family vote, Buddyís name was changed to Astro.   He immediately became a member of the family.   Astro, had found his forever home. 

I had always wanted to have a pet that I could share my love of people with.   It soon became evident that Astro shared that love also.   From watching him comfort the kids after a bad day, to meeting people on the street, Astro never met an enemy.   I started looking for a way to get him into a program.   I wanted to share his heart with others. 

Astro went to school several times.   He won over the children who were scared of big dogs.   Soon all of the kids on the playground called to him when we walked past.   He spent weekends playing soccer and catch with the neighborhood kids.

One day, my dad asked if I could bring Astro to a juvenile center.   He wanted us to do a program on Anti-violence Week.   I did all of the talking, but it was Astro who made the kids listen.   They opened up and asked questions.   Kids who normally didnít participate, were interested.   Astro, didnít discriminate.   He gave unconditional love to each child.

I knew now I had to find a way to share this wonderful heart in a furry package.   I then saw an article for K-9ís for Compassion.   They were going to be testing animals for their program.   Astro and I made an appointment.   I was nervous, and Astro was fine.   He passed!   We were so excited.

After going for several visits with my mentor, Cheryl and her wonderful Golden Retriever, Emily, Astro and I had our first visit.   We went to St. Elizabethís hospital.   Astro was unsure at first what we wanted him to do.   By the second visit Astro was starting to take over. 

We went into a room with an older gentleman, and asked if he would like to see the dogs.   He said yes.  Astro sat beside him and laid his head on the gentlemanís knee.   He proceeded to tell us about raising dogs.  He told about having 22 puppies in his kitchen at one time!   The whole time he was petting Astroís head. These were obviously happy memories for him.   Astro had touched him in a place a person never could.

That same day, we went into a room where a young woman and her parents were.   We had barely gotten in the door, and the young lady started crying.   They were happy tears, for seeing Astro and Emily.   They were also sad tears, for missing her own pets.   I felt my own eyes tear up.   Astro just did what only he could do.   He laid his head on the bed, and let her cry.   Cheryl, then put a sheet on the bed, and placed Emily on it.   The young woman rubbed Emilyís ears and cried and talked.   Astro sat between her parents.   It was a happy time for this family in the midst of the struggles. 

Astro and I left the hospital that day, changed forever.   He sat next to me in the car and smiled.   I sat beside him in wonder at how he had touched peoples hearts.   I knew we would be back, again and again.

Astro and I have just recently opened this chapter of our lives.   He sees his purple vest, and canít wait to get out the door.   I just look at him and think about how grateful I am.   I get to be the one he takes with him on this wonderful journey.

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Last updated: January 22, 2005.