I woke up at 4:30 and looked out the window. No clouds this time, no gray, fuzzy darkness, but stars everywhere, so I put on my winter pants and sweatshirt, jacket, and in my slippers went out the front door, Aussie right behind me.

I’ve always been afraid of the dark. Not that I sleep with a lamp or the hall light on, just don’t like to go out in the dark. Someone stayed here the other night and went for a walk at 10 pm. I told him I had no flashlight to give him and he said it was no problem. “Your eyes get accustomed to the dark after a while,” he told me while buttoning up his boots.

He was right. I slowly and tentatively made my way down the steps, trying to make sure they weren’t icy, wishing I’d put on my sneakers. Turned left and walked right into the big hydrangea plants in front. Aussie practically leaned into my legs, maybe curious what we were doing outside at such an hour, maybe for support because I’m sure she could tell I didn’t know where I was going.

Once on the driveway my eyes adjusted. No moon, but I made my way up the long, uneven, pebbly driveway in my slippers guided only by starlight. Reached the road, blacktop. The woods above the road made it darker, not a light in either direction.

I looked up at the stars and remembered my childhood, that sense of smallness and bigness I had when I looked up at the infinite sky. I’m going to do this some more, I promised myself. Put on my sneakers next time and go out in the dark, get my eyes used to a new way of seeing things.

A couple of hours later Aussie stands in the back office looking out at the yard. She has a dog door she could get through from the kitchen, but she doesn’t go there, just sits looks out the glass door at the squirrels and chipmunks scampering round the roots of trees over the frozen leaves of summer. They crowd around the bird feeders, chasing one another up and down the branches, two, three, even four of them at a time playing games.

When Aussie first came she spent a few months rushing at them, leaping over the fence in chase of squirrels on the other side. Tim came twice to raise the fence all around the yard and the Juvenile Delinquent has learned that she can’t fulfill her dreams, can’t achieve her dearest wishes.

She hasn’t totally given up, there still are the occasional runs and forays: Onward! Don’t let past crashes and defeats dissuade you. You’ll get one of those furry critters in your jaws one of these days, onwards!

But you could tell she’s losing hope. She’s tried mettle against metal, done her damndest, thought she was pursuing her true vocation, and it hasn’t worked. So now she looks out the back door at the activity outside, maybe wondering what her real life will be about if it’s not about catching squirrels.