Meet DogDog. He’s ten inches of adored stuffed animal, so well-loved that his fur has lost its softness, his paws are gray, and he’s acquired a musty, milky stink. DogDog isn’t just any old stuffed dog – he’s Jonas’ best friend.
Jonas cuddles him, nibbles on his ears, and thrusts him underneath my nose so I can bestow kisses on DogDog, too. He drags DogDog around the house by the tail or the arm, the poor creature’s head thumping along behind him. During breakfast, DogDog is offered generous bites of almond butter and jam sandwiches. At naptime, DogDog gets wedged underneath Jonas in a suffocating hug. Bedtime, it goes without saying, is not complete without DogDog clutched in Jonas’ arm.
For the better part of a year, as Jonas’ love for DogDog has grown, I’ve been anticipating replacing a little lost doggy. Axel went through a time of deep attachment to his lion (known as Roar), and one day, Roar when to school with Axel and never came home. We replaced Roar, but it just wasn’t the same. With the memory of a lost lovey fresh in my mind, I thought I’d encourage Jonas to bond with other dogs.
Ideally, DogDog’s buddy would be an identical twin, but for a long time I wasn’t able to track one down in stores or online. At the store where I originally picked up DogDog, he’d been replaced by a gang of stuffed very hungry caterpillars, and the staff told me they had no idea when they’d get more in – if ever. So, instead, around Jonas’ first birthday, I brought home a tan version of DogDog – same size, different fur coat. Jonas let this impostor sleep in his crib, but it was clear that this new animal was just another member of the pack.
A few months later, at a different store in town, I found DogDog’s oversized big brother, who’s identical except he must’ve gorged himself on liver treats, and, well, his fur is still soft and white with brown spots, not dirty gray with brown spots.
This big dog received an even colder welcome. He’s the first to get tossed overboard from the crib, when Jonas is fighting sleep, and frequently gets smothered underneath the comforter. I think Jonas might resent Big DogDog for gobbling up all the food and making his buddy the runt of the litter.
Finally, after giving up hope of finding the exact replacement for DogDog, I stumbled on one. I was looking for a birthday present for an upcoming party, and there, right in front of me, stood DogDog’s better-kept twin. Hurray! I scooped him up and brought him home.
Delighted, I handed him off to Jonas and said, “Look! DogDog!”
He took one look at him, threw him on the floor, and shook his head. He went off in search of the real DogDog, clutched him underneath his chin, and walked over to me, waving his lovey and saying, “DogDog. DogDog.”
As in: That’s no DogDog. He doesn’t smell like DogDog, have stains like DogDog, hasn’t been washed a dozen times like DogDog, been soaked in syrup and jam and honey like DogDog, know how to keep me company like DogDog. THIS is the real DogDog. The one over there is some sad sack imitation.
I’ve learned my lesson.
In five years or so, when Jonas’ first goldfish dies, I will not try to replace him. We will just have a serious funeral for the goldfish over the toilet bowl, and move on. And if DogDog eventually scampers off to greener pastures, we’ll just send him a goodbye postcard, maybe even a care package full of bacon, and Jonas can latch on to another irreplaceable lovey.