By the looks of Sunny’s half-hearted feints at whatever was in the leaf litter that had caught his attention, I was guessing snake, or toad. I am a fan of amphibians and have no grudges with reptiles so hurried over to be sure Sunny didn’t do any damage. What I found dragging itself through the leaves surprised me. I was sure it was some kind of mutant, a poor insect, its tiny wings stunted by pesticides or a cruel genetic mishap. Its body, at least 2 inches long was larva shaped, covered with a thick coat of white hair and as fat as my thumb. With three pair of maroon colored legs it clutched a brown leaf as I reached down to pick it up.

I debated what to do with it. It had a pair of perfect antennae each one shaped like a leaf that had nothing left to it but the veins. If I put it down a swarm of ants might attack it, and have dinner for months. I could try to carry it home and see what became of it but I feared I’d crush it or break something if I wasn’t paying attention. Stepping off the trail I found a small beech tree and let it crawl off my finger and onto the trunk. It clung to the bark and as its body had three strong contractions I realized what Sunny had found.

My four dogs continued up the trail, as this was our habit. One by one I heard their paws pounding on the packed dirt as they returned to find me. Sunny was the first, Finn the last. I called their names as they raced past, not looking for me off to the side in the trees. When they realized I was not going anywhere they discovered a variety of things to keep their attention. Nibbles bounded after chipmunks and squirrels rustling in the leaves, Annie and Sunny had a short squabble over who had the right to put their head into the hole being excavated in the dirt at the base of a stump, and Finn chewed first on sticks and then began pruning saplings while making noises that would make you think he’d been angry with them for years.

During visits to the cloudforest in Costa Rica I’d watched Blue Morpho butterflies emerging from their chrysallis. Their wings are initially pliable and small, but as they hang from their former home they begin to pump the fluids from their bodies into their wings. I watched as the same thing began to happen with the insect I had placed on the trunk. Its two pair of wings were a soft green, the same color as the young leaves of the tree it was on. The larger wings had a line of a deep maroon along their top edge. There were hints of spots, one on each wing.

No matter how closely I stared and tried to see the changes I could only note that they had occurred, the process was so gradual. The wings wereluna moth soon longer than the body, which was gradually shrinking. I sat for an hour watching big changes I couldn’t even see. Once I was sure that I was watching a Luna Moth becoming itself, with the dogs’ hearty approval we headed off again. We follow a loop that brings us to what remains of the orchard of an old homestead, through a pine forest and across two streams. Back at the start of the loop I decided to repeat it and see if I could find the moth again. I remembered that once their wings are fully formed they need to harden and set. I’d hoped to be able to see its first wingbeats. I was able to find it and the tendrils of the second set of wings, that had been smaller than the first, were now longer and still slightly curled and soft.

I’d never seen a Luna Moth during the day. They are rare, but not unusually found battering the lights on the porch at night. I’d certainly never seen one in their journey from pupa to adult. Not knowing how long the whole process took I decided I was satisfied with what I had been fortunate enough to see. The dogs had enjoyed the delay and the detour but were happy to turn around and head home. Two of them were unrecognizable from the dogs they were when they first came to live with me.

It was a great day to have wings.


16 comments so far

  1. Kathy on

    Delightful. They are so beautiful. We used to see them regularly here in the Finger Lakes but I’ve not seen one in a few years. You were so lucky to see the whole process.

    • fearfuldogs on

      The colors were amazing. I always feel bad when they are bashing themselves silly on the light fixtures.

  2. Hazel on

    Touching story and so true for our fearful dogs also. One would think we would notice the little steps forward yet we miss them so often. We had set up a face to face glider and my husband asked us “Will it take Dusty a week or longer to check it out?” His face was priceless when Dusty jumped right up on it.
    My thought at the time was “WOW what a change, when did that happen”

    Love this site. Wish I had known about it when we got our fearful baby but it is wonderful to know we aren’t so alone in our journey.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Most of us can relate to your story about Dusty, thanks for sharing it. Way to go Dusty!

  3. Jan on

    Great post. Some of the most memorable moments I’ve had in life is watching tiny creatures living their lives. My children often talk of these times rather than theme parks.

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thanks Jan. The picture I found does not do it justice.

  4. Jen on

    What a lovely find! I’m so glad that you got to see it, that’s really cool.

    • fearfuldogs on

      It made me realize how much I DON’T see that is going on all around me.

  5. Mel on

    Absolutely loved this post. I have never seen a Luna Moth, so it was awesome to see it through your eyes and to see an actual picture. How fragile and lovely.
    I can so relate to those wings and “becoming.” I have seen it with Lady and Daisy. Like you, I have been fascinated by the process. It’s amazing isn’t it?

  6. Great story beautifully told. I never saw a Luna clearly until I moved south. They are out in daylight more often here.

    You should write more stories without an explicit message, You are such a good story teller.

  7. Mel on

    I commented via my cell phone, but it appears it did not go through.

    Debbie – I absolutely loved this post. I have never seen a Luna Moth before, but seeing it through your eyes was awesome. Seeing the picture I discovered they are even more beautiful than I had imagined. I have never seen one before.
    I can totally relate to the feeling one has when watching their dog “become”. I also have my two dogs and I am also amazed at their transformation. Watching Daisy unfold and spread her wings has been spiritually and emotionally fulfilling.

    Sunny and Nibbles are so very lucky they found you so they could “become” too. 🙂

  8. Lynn on

    What a wonderful thing to see. Last summer, I watched a monarch butterfly emerge from its jade pendant-like chrysalis and felt lucky to have witnessed it. And I agree with Dusty’s owner that our fearful pooches must be taking tiny steps forward that we don’t see. My Tulip has started coming into the house on her own to find me; a great big step that must have been preceded by many small ones. She’ll find her wings one day, I hope.

  9. 2 Punk Dogs on

    What a beautiful find and message!

    • fearfuldogs on

      Thank you! I keep hoping it will come for a visit.

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