Today on Pi day, March 14, in addition to celebrating the mathematical Pi and pies my family also celebrates the 15th (approximately) birthday of our marvelous dog Frieda-Pi, so named because she looked like a Frieda and because she is missing most of one of her back legs. Including her stump she has 3.14 legs.
We think she was about 2 years old we first fell in love with her sorrowful face, exhausted from recently delivering and caring for 6 very large puppies. As we don’t know much about her life before she came into our lives I have come up with some fan fiction to fill in the gaps.
I believe that Frieda-Pi was born under an underpass and that she was the runt of a liter, her stump the result of an amniotic band. I imagine an exhausted mother nuzzling this final, tiny pup to life only to be greeted with the primal fear of an unknown smell. This puppy was different and on the street different isn’t good. I imagine her pushing Frieda, whispering in her ear, “Run baby girl, run.”
And run Frieda did. Never in my life have I seen an animal so enthralled with running. Her front paws, driven by massive haunches, pounding into the ground thrusting her forward while her one back leg served as counter balance and a rudder. As Jonathan Livingston Seagull was to flying, so Frieda-Pi was to running. People would stop and stare and smile at her barreling along, her face lost in the bliss of the moment and ears flapping in the wind with me struggling to keep up.
She was an escape artist. Time after time she slipped collars and harnesses and devised new ways to find the gap in what we thought was this time an impenetrable fence. It took me a while to realize that she was not running away from us, that she was not running to something, but that she was just running for the joy of it.
A few years went by and we had children. Despite her awkward 3 legged hop (she was only graceful while running) she never once knocked over the oxygen canisters, monitoring equipment, or the myriad of tubes and wires that were required to keep our twins alive in their first year of life. When I was up all night with one or both boys, as I often was, she just hop-skipped to my side and flopped down close by.
There were times, however, that she reverted to her escape artist ways. I got to the point where I could pack up two infants in car seats, two oxygen tanks, and two oxygen saturation monitors in 3 minutes and the chase was on. I’d spy her after a few blocks, slow down, open my door, and somehow grab and haul her over to the passenger seat all the while scolding that happy, waggy face, “This is the last time Baby Girl.”
When terrible words like cerebral palsy, dystonia, congenital heart disease, and bronchopulmonary dysplasia entered our house the thought that saved me from despair was the image of Frieda-Pi running at her full abandon speed, with more purpose and joy than any four-legged dogs or human. No limits, only possibility and attitude.
Over time our family broke, as families sometimes do. My boys devastated at having to go between two homes and my heart splitting in half each time I said good-bye. The arrangement had Frieda-Pi staying with me, but after a month or two of torment I suggested, “What if Frieda went back and forth as well?” And so she did, interpreting our body signals and tears with precision to be ready sitting cheerfully by the door 5 minutes or so before the car pulled up the hill and then running out, for a moment her arthritis a memory, looking at my boys with her happy waggy face, an unfaltering consistency giving them and me strength.
There will come a time that Pi day will be harder for us than most families. We will try not to mourn, but to celebrate the wonderful and amazing Frieda-Pi. To mourn a dog that has never done anything but the opposite just wouldn’t be right.
Run baby girl, run.
And so she did.