I mentioned the death of Polly's stuffed squirrel earlier and realized that you haven't heard the whole story, so here it is.
Stuffed animals have a short life expectancy at our house. Even the ones designed especially for dogs don’t last very long.
Last fall, a member of my writing group gave me a white stuffed squirrel. The teeny town he lives in is famous for its white squirrels (I think they have a population of 3 of them). A local civic group bought hundreds of these stuffed squirrels for a festival, and had hundreds of them leftover (which I guess added to the town’s squirrel population, but these guys aren’t out there climbing trees or running across the road trying to fake out passing motorists—they’re confined to some cardboard cartons in Tim’s garage).
I thanked Tim nicely, thinking, “What am I going to do with this silly thing?” But when I got home, Polly expressed an interest in it, so it became her toy. More than that, it became her best friend. She cuddled it, carried it around the house in her mouth, buried it under her bedding, and most of all, sucked on it (maybe Polly was weaned too early?). Soon Mr. Squirrel was no longer white (as you can imagine), but I didn’t dare throw him in the laundry for fear that he would disintegrate, or that Polly would have a panic attack while he was spinning around in the dryer.
Then the puppies were born and ventured into the house. They quickly discovered the squirrel. We had some anxious moments when Meg tried to take the squirrel outside with her, but I managed to rescue him.
A few weeks ago I was working in my study while all 7 dogs were playing in the living room (that was my first mistake). After a while I realized that it was ominously quiet out there, so I went to check on them. Polly was standing next to her squirrel with the puppies ranged around her. Georgie and Patch watched from the sidelines. The squirrel had been badly eviscerated and there was white stuffing everywhere. Polly sniffed at the bits of stuffing and looked at me as if to say, “Please put it back together!” But it was too late. So I put Patch and the puppies outside and cleaned up the mess. As I held Mr. Squirrel over the trash container, I asked Polly, “Would you like to say a few words before he goes to his grave?” She gazed up at me in confusion (the trash container happens to be about 6” away from the dog kibble container, so she may have been wondering if I was going to feed her and the squirrel). Then it was, “Goodbye, Mr. Squirrel!”
Poor Polly. Such a traumatic day. Such a grievous loss. She did, however, manage to choke down every bite of her supper (like mother, like daughter) and has accepted a few biscuits of condolence. Memorial contributions can be made to the Humane Society of the United States.
When Mr. Parker got home that night after a bad day at work, he wasn’t too interested in the Squirrel Tragedy, but the next morning he announced that he was going to buy Polly a new stuffed toy for her to keep on the bed in my study where the puppies can’t get at it (at least until they grow a bit bigger). He actually managed to find a grey stuffed squirrel at Wal-Mart. Polly did not understand that the new toy was supposed to stay on the bed, and the grey squirrel was dead within 24 hours of arriving here. Polly hardly noticed. It was not, after all, the original Mr. Squirrel.
Finally I met up with Tim and his wife Terri, who presented me with not one but two new white squirrels. I hid one of them in a closet and gave Polly the other one. She was delirious with joy - threw it up in the air, raced around the room with it, sucked it, the whole deal. Our new arrangement is that when the puppies go to their clubhouse at night, Polly gets the squirrel. When I get up in the morning, the squirrel goes to perch on the sideboard in the dining room.