If you’re smart, you’ll let your children name your pets. I work in commercial naming and my company leverages competitive analysis and research to formulate naming criteria prior to ideation and presentation of names for brands, products and services. As creative as we are, the client-accepted result is always much less inspired than what a 5-8 year old would invent.

So it is in our family, the kids name the pets (I name the kids and my wife gets to have them!).

It started with Cowboy, a gigantic Maine Coon who acted like a dog and followed me around like one. Cowboy was one cool cat named by our son who weighed the decision for a nanosecond while holding a grubby action figure, Woody the cowboy character from the movie Toy Story.

When we finally caved and bought my daughter the puppy she’d been obsessing over, he was called Pi.

On reflection, it was probably Pie originally but we might have exercised parental license to introduce a more compelling angle inspired by Mom, the math teacher. Or it could have been that our young daughter was learning about the symbol used by mathematicians to represent the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, symbolized by the lowercase Greek letter π. It was 16 years ago so no one knows for sure.

What we do remember is that, like my son’s process with Cowboy, the operation was speedy– as if 3.14159265359 was on the tip of our girl’s tongue. But Pi grew with his irrational name and was a daily source of smiles in our household where it really doesn’t matter what your name is because you’re going to get called at least half a dozen nicknames too.

So it was that Pi was also Pirate, then Pi Rat, then Rat Dog. He was Mr. P, Pip, Pizza Pie, Pie Pie, Pi Mai, and Paison!

What Pi was, was a dog– specifically a Schnoodle – but he was a dog through and through in the best and truest sense of the word. The ultimate kid’s companion during those formative years when your canine compadre is always at your heel as you explore the wide open world of your backyard. Pi was with us for 16 years or nearly 6000 days of adventure.

Pi was a designer dog in that he was a mix of two breeds with preferential characteristics– the Poodle and the Schnauzer– but he never knew how fancy he was and enjoyed the simple pleasures of family life on a farm. Always even tempered and agreeable, Pi was the personification of that awesome definition of dog: unconditional love.

Schnoodles are hypoallergenic and don’t shed but beyond that, you don’t know what percentage of other features might rise to the top. In Pi’s case he was super athletic, like a rabbit, with long Schnauzer legs and the sharp mind of a perceptive Poodle. He could practically hop sideways, even at full speed, to avoid the nip of other dogs. He could juke like a halfback in a highlight film. He was a sprinter, not an endurance athlete and he was just as satisfied fixing a nest of blankets before settling in to watch his humans from his bed.

We bought Pi from a small, independently owned pet store before we knew any better. We’d stop by weekly on our way home from gymnastics practice at the urging of one or both kids… just to look. Periodically the breeds in the bin would vary until, right before our daughter’s birthday, the Schnoodles arrived. It’s no excuse but, the bin of puppies jostling for attention was, it turned out, irresistible.

I recommend Schnoodles to everyone, especially non-dog people contemplating dog ownership. Perhaps Pi was unique but he was the kind of guy who could provoke you to recommend an entire breed, even a whole species! My wife was not a dog person but, after 16 years of Pi, she certainly has become one. Schnoodles are smart, easy, and dispense just the right amount of affection. They aren’t lap dogs but they can be when you need one.

Pi was a gamer– diving into any action no matter the size of the other dogs in the mix. Anything, that is, except swimming.

While other dogs jumped into the pool or creek he’d pace around the edge waiting for them to emerge and play. On the occasions I made him go into water, he instinctively started an unnecessary robot-dog stroke that did nothing but scratch my chest and forearms. Still, summer after high-humidity Pennsylvania summer, we kept deluding ourselves into believing he’d appreciate a refreshing dip. The older he got the longer his tongue would hang out but, no matter how hot it got, he never appreciated the pool. He was well known for loving shade however and cherished time on a towel with a water bowl nearby while the sun baked his humans.

My daughter has too many personal memories of Pi to recount them all and we loved watching them grow up together. Never one for dolls, she enjoyed dressing up Pi instead, and not just for Halloween. He wore the most stylish winter coats and had a collection of shirts that included tie dyes and uniforms from all of the Philly sports teams. The two shared a room together until she departed for college, then he slept in his little bed where he and I could see one another and say goodnight.

It always took Pi a good five minutes to prepare his bed every night. He would use his little paws to manipulate the old blankets in his small nest, making it not much different than it was, before doing several 360s and collapsing with a sigh. Same thing with defecating… it had to be the perfect spot no matter how late you were for work. He’d rustle the leaves just right, and perform some 360s before he could ever do his business.

I often called Pi, the World’s Most Expensive Schnoodle which was likely not even close to true but he was invaluable to us. Pi earned the nickname when he was about five years old and both kids lived at home.

One violently stormy, pitch black weeknight there was a knock on our front door. No one ever knocks on our front door and lightening flashed when I opened it. The rain was torrential and the figure at the door was soaking wet.

“Do you have a black dog?”

Looking back, it was odd that both my wife and I scheduled dental surgery on that very same day and we’re somewhat incapacitated. The kids were asleep and, as we do, we let Pi out the back door to relieve himself. Our dogs are trained to go out and then to sit on the back step and wait for the door to open back up again. That is unless the combination of an intense thunderstorm, painkillers, and hellish work weeks caused the humans to forget to open the door back up… Then you might wander around to the front and even into the road, an active state highway that my neighbor and I called Murderer’s Row on account of all of the roadkill in our dangerous stretch.

At this time Pi was our only dog but I said to the lady dripping on my porch, “No,” because I did the math and knew she had hit a dog, but our Pi was inside where he belonged.

But he wasn’t.

The reality of the situation sobered me up right quick and only then did I observe that she was holding Pi, barely conscious and bleeding. It turned out that she did not hit him but saw that someone had and she brought his drenched little limp body to our door. I sincerely hope that woman is living her best life today.

Instead of exchanging contact information and pleasantries, I grabbed Pi and ran past the woman to my truck– rushing him to the emergency veterinarian twenty minutes away. I still recall the rain pelting the windshield while the lightening cracked and I begged Pi to live. Alternately I rehearsed what I would tell the kids if fortune didn’t smile upon us.

After some quick evaluation from the late night vet, the dilemma was presented– say farewell to young Pi or fund a complex series of operations that included the insertion of a plastic pelvis.

The choice was easy but the next days and weeks were not. Still, before long this bionic dog was back at it and some months later he was as fast as he always had been, maybe faster! He never lost a step and he never complained of pain. Pi was not a whiner.

Pi never barked much either, at least he didn’t until we introduced a puppy which was very recently. The puppy has two speeds, 100 and 0 and Pi was generally tuned to the opposite frequency. In fact the addition of the puppy may have given Pi some new life near the end as he found purpose in establishing dominance or trying….

Little Pi at about 12 pounds soaking wet with a plastic pelvis needed to be Alpha and he would challenge anyone who threatened that position. Not to the point of meanness though. Pi was a fair king who, after winning the battle– or believing that he had– would wander off to bed until challenged again.

Pi was cool for every one of his 16 years and I took a lot of photos of him throughout that time span tying to prove it but, while he was an above average dog in every other way he just wasn’t easy to photograph. A dark coat with dark eyes almost always obscured by a shock of curls, Pi was more difficult to capture on film than Sasquatch.

His eyes weren’t always covered though. At least once a year he was shorn, his full black-sheep countenance on display for the world, a mere fraction of his furry self, even less photogenic than usual. Myself, I’d prefer a light trim because he always looked so jaunty as a mop top, and his curls of black (and then gray) were a part of his power. If anything, he resembled some miniature version of a majestic Irish Wolfhound when in full shag. But the hot months were easier on him with a summer cut so I was outvoted even though he resembled a long-legged giant rat at times.

We celebrated Pi everyday– he was the veritable king of our hous– but on March fourteenth we took to telling the world about it. We have amassed all manner of π related acoutromon including dog bowls, collars and other random tchotchkes adorned with the sixteenth letter of the Greek alphabet.

After 16 years of living with another life form, you become accustomed to their presence – they’re a part of your environment. Pi changed significantly in 16 years– lost his hearing, fell down steps, got stuck in time– but, up until the end, he was still Pi. He was still a gamer, ready for anything especially the daily transference of unconditional love as long as you understood who was Alpha.

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