When my son was born in September of 2000, my mother spent a few minutes browsing the gift shop at Chilton Hospital.
A small, simple blue puppy caught her eye – and this little stuffed animal was one of the dozen or so stuffed animals given to my son during that first week of his life.
All of the animals were cute. There was a Pooh, a caterpillar, a giraffe, an elephant, … all the staples. But the blue puppy was just the right size and softness, it was the one which he always seemed to end up with in one-animal situations, and as weeks turned into months, “Puppy” became THE stuffed animal.
When my daughter was born two years later, I was surpriseed by how many things we had to replace for our second child. Despite the seeming hardiness of the items, a number of blankets and hardgoods hadn’t made it through the first two years of my son’s life. Weeks of poop, puke, and disinfecting had taken a toll … and then there was “Puppy”.
Although Puppy was increasingly by my son’s side, he was holding up surprisingly well. The stuffing was gone from his joints (pushed into the head, paws, and body) and the fur matted down, but no holes (knock on wood) or missing eyeballs. Still, he was such an important part of my boy’s life that I thought I’d better go get another one, just in case.
I visited the hospital gift shop, and found there were no puppies at all and no means of ordering one. I hit all the stores, Buy Buy Baby, Baby Depot, Babies R Us, Kay Bee Toys, Toys R Us… scoured the internet. No blue puppy. A few look alikes, but they were the wrong size and often had a “Little Rascals”/Target like ring around one eye.
I studied the tag on Puppy and emailed the manufacturing company. I sent photos of Puppy, explained his origins and significance, and begged them to scour their inventory or point me in the direction of a retailer – domestic or international. I was terrified of what might be if anything ever happened to Puppy.
[When I was growing up, my parents would have me leave my teddy bear by the fireplace on Christmas Eve when he was on the verge of disintegrating, and Santa would use his Christmas magic to restore my bear. Great foresight on my parents' part!]
Unfortunately, the company could not help me. Puppy was a discontinued model. It was now 3 1/2 years since we bought him, and even then he was a clearance item in their eyes.
I considered making a subtle switch while my boy was still young, but no… he would notice. I thought about removing Puppy from the danger zones, but no… he belonged with my boy. [Ironically, my son is terrified of real dogs - having been chased down and pounced on behind by a neighbor's loose dog]. Puppy needed to stay.
I checked ebay to no avail. And finally resigned myself to the fact that Puppy just might not make it.
Fast forward 7 years. I still check online and in stores for Puppy-clones. My son’s seen Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, so the prospect of a Puppy Jr. becoming the new Puppy when Puppy is destroyed, would have a precedent in the whole Godzilla saga. But Puppy’s hanging in there. He’s had one small hole at the seams, and in the spirit of Toy Story, Mom rushed to patch him up. We considered adding some stuffing in while the hole was there, but decided Puppy was doing just fine on his own.
As my son turns 11 this year, Puppy’s made it through the danger zone (although I am a little worried about what horrors he might be subjected to when my boy is 13 and learning about science). For now, Puppy still has a place in my boy’s room… but when the time comes we will pack him away to be preserved for when my son wants to share him with his own children.