Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stargazing...sort of...

(Posted by Paula)

I’ve always been a star gazer. As a young girl, my dad and I would go outside our house, look up at the night sky, and he would tell me about the constellations like Orion, Taurus, Ursa Major (known as Big Bear and containing the Big Dipper), Ursa Minor (Little Dipper) and Pegasus...and point out the different individual stars like Polaris (North Star), the Dog Star and Sirius. I was fascinated from early on and remember some of the very best times spent with my dad watching for shooting stars or hearing about the mythology surrounding the constellations.

Every August when the meteor showers take place, I get so excited. I always try to schedule at least one night of viewing them if at all possible. This past weekend, the Perseids Meteor Shower put on its best show of the year on Sunday and Monday mornings. Since it was best viewed between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., I knew that Monday morning would be out of the question for me unless I wanted to be a walking zombie at work, so I convinced Michael to join me on Sunday morning to view the event.

We decided to take our dog, Molly, with us. Michael had suggested that we leave her at home, but I insisted that she be able to go. I explained that we’d be in the middle of nowhere and she’d have a chance to get off the leash. Plus, she was too big of a chicken to run off from us. I told Michael that, surely, Molly wouldn’t be any trouble and she’d probably just lie on the blanket beside us and watch the meteors, too. I completely ignored Michael’s half laugh as I said that.

We left the house around midnight on Sunday morning and, after a stop at Sonic to buy Molly a plain hamburger (her favorite meal), we drove out of town and into the country near Riverbed Farm. They’re beginning to develop this area, but so far only one house has been started and no one is living there yet, so there is very little light out in that area. We drove out one of the deserted roads and parked the car. We took a blanket on which to lay and spread it out on the grass near the farm’s old stone fence. In the distance, we could hear barking. I suggested it was the foxes that I’ve seen near the farm’s deserted stables, but Michael said that foxes don’t sound like that. He said, more than likely, it was wild coyotes. That seemed a bit more frightening.

Molly jumped out of the car instantly before I had a chance to put her leash on her. In a matter of a second, she disappeared into the darkness. Despite both Michael and I calling her again and again, she didn’t come back. Michael walked around looking for her, but I convinced him to sit down on the blanket and look at the sky. “She’ll be back in a minute,” I said. “Plus, there are no cars out here, so she’s pretty safe.” As I said this, I was thinking to myself, “I hope Molly doesn’t run into one of those wild coyotes out there in the dark!”

Periodically, we’d call her name. She ignored. After we’d been watching the stars about 15 or 20 minutes, I heard something. I couldn’t SEE anything, but I could definitely hear something. It sounded like a whooooooooosh as something ran by us. Then from the other direction another whooooooooosh. Then it circled us. I could barely make out Molly’s outline in the total darkness. I called her. She laid down about 20 feet away from us. Since she’s black, we could barely see her. I begged her to come to me. She just sat there and looked at me with her tongue hanging out of one side of her mouth. It looked as if she was laughing at me! When I moved to go near her, she would run in the other direction. She ran from Michael, too.

At this point, I was growing aggravated. I wanted to watch the meteor shower, but I was being disturbed….distracted…by Molly, and the coyotes sounded like they were getting closer.

I suggested that we ignore her and perhaps that would make her come back. A little while later we heard the wooooooooooshing again. She ran one way as fast as she could, coming into our sightline briefly as she crossed right in front of us, and then she was gone again into the blackness. A few seconds would pass, and there she went again. Wooooooooooosh. Seconds later, Wooooooooosh. Wooooooooosh.

Okay. The dog was on my last nerve.

Michael stood up. “Whatcha gonna do,” I asked. “Pounce on her as she runs by?” I sat up on the blanket to watch. This was gonna be good.

But after Michael stood up, Molly quit running past us. It’s as if she knew we were hatching a plan.

After about an hour of this it became our mission to catch the dog. We were both frustrated and now it was a matter of principle to catch the dog. How DARE she treat us like this!!! We called her name; Michael chased her; we tempted her with food; we threw a stick. Nothing worked.

Finally, I told Michael that we should just get in the car and act like we would leave her. She’d be scared, right? She’d run after the car and beg us to let her in. That would show her! We picked up the blanket and got into the car. She stood at a distance and watched us. I started the car. She kept her distance. I drove the car down the road a few feet. She still stayed away. So I drove farther away. I could now see her eyes glow in the redness of the taillights as we got farther away. She continued to stand there. Then, as I continued to watch her in the rear view window, I was dumbfounded when I saw her turn around and walk down the road in the other direction!!!!!!!!!! I couldn’t believe it! Where was the loyalty? Where was the love? It was clear that Molly was just out for a good time, and she didn’t care if Michael and I were there or not!!

We turned the car around, feeling defeated. I watched her continue to walk, her bushy tail swishing in the light breeze and the light of the headlights. When I got near her, I opened to door and told her that if she didn’t get in the car, we were going to leave her to the foxes and wild coyotes. I swear, the dog stopped, turned her head and looked at me and let out an audible sigh as if to say, “Okay, okay…I’ll come to you, but you’re spoiling my fun.” She walked slowly toward the car, and Michael got out of the passenger side door, walked around to where she was, and she allowed him to catch her. “Nice job,” I said. “Way to catch that dog, Michael! You show her who is boss, honey!”

Molly climbed noisily into the back seat, sat down right in the center, and stuck her head over the back of the front seat, tongue hanging out of her mouth, loudly panting right next to my ear. She was laughing again.

We took her home.

After Molly was delivered to her crate back on Bright Avenue, Michael and I drove all the way back out to the farm. At that point, I didn't care HOW late it was. I was determined to watch the stars. I refused to let a dog ruin my night and get the best of me! It was after 2:00 a.m. at this point. We took the blanket out again, spread it back out on the grass, lay down and propped our heads on our bent arms that were folded behind our necks. Finally. I could watch the stars.

We sat there and watched the display a little over an hour longer, but I think Michael slept most of that time. I wouldn’t leave until I’d seen enough “shooting stars” to make some very important wishes. Michael was probably relieved when I finally told him I was ready to go home.

When we got home, it was nearly 3:45 a.m.

Michael told me later that was his first time watching a meteor shower. I asked him if he’d made any wishes…BESIDES the wish to catch Molly. He did. I did, too. We also learned a very important lesson. Molly’s loyalty disappears when given open farmland and no leash.

If you haven't yet wished on a shooting star this summer, you'll have a chance again over Labor Day Weekend. Another "storm" of meteors will be visible. Just be sure to leave your pets at home!