01 May 2009

IN MEMORIAM: My Girl Friday

Friday Cabrini Houdini Puccini

I wrote the piece below for a column about 10 years ago. My dear dog Friday passed over on September 11, 2005, in the secret garden, of her own accord. Friday taught me the dimensions of my heart, and so much more. Not a day goes by without remembering her. A statue of an angel keeps watch in her doghouse. Only another dog could possibly assuage my grief, yet I'm also enjoying my freedom and traveling too much to commit to anything more than plants. Maybe one day, I'll have another dog companion or two.

I adopted Friday from Denver Dumb Friends League when she was about 8 weeks old. Unsure of her birthday, I decided to estimate. I picked May 1, May Day, because as a kid I always loved May baskets and Spring.

PHOTO ABOVE: Friday in one of her favorite spots in the house. She never really liked her photo taken.


Growing up in Iowa, tucked between oceans of grain fields was a farm owned by the O’Herns, where my mother bought fresh eggs. The O’Herns had a three-legged dog. Though hospitable, that three-legged dog scared me, nonetheless. My fear, I know, stemmed from the fact that the dog was different; and he caused in me a welling up of some uncomfortable, visceral emotion I could label neither then nor now.
Throughout childhood and adulthood, off and on, I’ve been wary of dogs. In particular, for reasons unknown, I suspected black dogs with pointed ears.
Enter a fuzzy, sentient pound puppy on her last day before euthanasia. It was 10 years ago this month that we fell instantly in love. I named her Friday, and she happens to be a black dog with pointed ears. When she was a pup, on one of the thousands of walks Friday and I have shared, it dawned on me: “Here I am with a black dog with pointy ears. Here I am walking along with my former fear and dread at my side as my best friend.”
Now, ironically, my fear has come home to roost again because Friday is now a three-legged black dog with pointed ears. The bad news is that my dog had cancer. The good news was that her type of tumor invades locally without metastasizing to organs. Doc told me amputating the leg would cure Friday. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.
When I brought Friday home the evening after her surgery, I carried her into the front yard for sunlight, air, a familiar patch of grass. A couple of children approached, the elder riding her bicycle; the younger pushing her doll carriage; their parents brought up the rear. I didn’t want Friday’s shaved hind quarter, her satellite dish collar or her fresh wound to terrorize the girls, so I tried to hustle Friday onto the porch.
But the little girl stopped, stared, asked, “What happened to that doggie?”
“She had a big owie on her leg,” I said.
“And did she cry a lot?” the child inquired.
“No,” I said, wanting to add, “but I did.”
To my astonishment, having assumed the sight of Friday might creep out the kids, the girl said, “I want to kiss that doggie.”
“Why don’t you blow her a kiss?” I suggested, and she did--an island of sweetness in my sea of sorrow.
Now more than two years since the amputation, I witness the way people respond to Friday. Like the O’Hern’s farm dog, she now is different. As we walk the parkway, well intentioned people frequently stop us to inquire about her. Some look the other way, but many express compassion, pity, mercy--those three-legged dog emotions.
But Friday is more to be admired than pitied. Oh, the irony of my boundless love for this undaunted three-legged black dog with pointy ears. To me, Friday is more special than ever. Love can cause fear to fall away. Nothing can be taken for granted--not even casual phrases like “four-legged friends.”
Some Buddhists consider dogs failed monks. I don’t consider Friday at all failed. Seen through my eyes of love, she is--despite a missing limb-- whole, perfect.

One of the first photos I took of Friday. That collar was the smallest one in the store. She looks wiley, even then, and was a clever dog, easy to train.

IN THE HIGH COUNTRY Friday loved the outdoors and was an athletic companion and a great scout on a camping trip. We shared a lot of walks, hikes, x-country skiing, and even sailing adventures.


One of my favorite photos, this black-and-white shot captures Friday’s playful side.

BESDIE GORE CREEK IN VAIL Friday’s intelligence shows in this image. I once showed this photo to an editor and he said, “She looks like Cornelious from The Planet of the Apes.”

FINAL PHOTO After Friday died, I had a roll of film developed. I had not remembered that I’d taken this photo. When I shuffled through the prints, this image took away my breath: She looks so healthy and happy. Friday was diagnosed with cancer when she was 6, but with a lot of love and care, lived to be 15.5 in human years.

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