In Honor of the Stuffie Deading Event in Blogville (scroll down for all the day's Pawlympic fun) a story from The Book of Barkley regarding Barkley's love for that event.
CHAPTER 11 – Soldiers In Your Cup
Ow! Ow! Ow!
It was in the morning and I had just gotten up to brew a pot of coffee when I stubbed my toe on yet another hard rubber dog toy.
Where did that come from?
When I went to bed, Barkley was lying on the middle landing on the stairs, where the sun warms the carpet up before dark and from which he can survey the front door. His toys were all down the hall in my office where he hangs out with me in the evening when I’m on the computer.
But apparently during the night, he brought his toys into my bedroom, additional reinforcements perhaps for the protection of “Mom.”
His toys had evolved since he was a puppy. When he was little he had a big goofy looking squeaky spider and a plush elephant that he carried around in his mouth constantly, never chewing on them, just toting them around and even sleeping with them. Somewhere in the growing process, however, he decided toys were better chewed on than used as play toys.
Soft or thin rubber toys were de-squeaked within minutes of presentation, the happiest minutes of his life by his own accord. I would hear “squeak squeak squeak” to the point I was contemplating grabbing hearing protection from my range bag, then suddenly, silence. I’d look over at him sitting there with the squeaky device lying on the carpet surrounded by tufts of stuffing and shredded fabric. Given what some of the fancier toys cost and how quickly he destroyed them, I figured even Congress could not spend money like that, in such a time frame.
I could occasionally find a super cheap stuffed animal on sale for a buck that I would give him, knowing it would be destroyed. I even found on sale a high quality stuffed duck that also squeaked (likely due to the duck having a pneumothorax). I thought with the sturdier materials it might at least last a few days. But it also only lasted a few minutes, and I was growing concerned that he might accidentally swallow parts of the toys, even if he never tried to. Future toys were going to be tooth proof.
It's tough for me to remember he's a dog, not able to understand "that would not be smart to eat.” For I grew up in a generation that still had toys that heated up, could blow up, or leave scars.
Think about it, why can’t you get the kids a good old Sonic Blaster anymore? Nothing like a toy that perforates the eardrums the old fashioned way, they used to say. Blame it on the Cold War or the TV show The Man from UNCLE, but in the last part of the sixties, when I was small, we had some of the best toys. They would be considered by some to be dangerous, life threatening toys but they put the BOOM in baby boomer. The sonic blaster was one of the best, a pump-action gun that fired a big column of air toward distant enemies of the state. Sit in a room full of middle aged men and say "Sonic Blaster" and I guarantee at least three guys will smile and go "FOOOOMMM! We took out spies, treacherous piles of leaves and that stack of trash that was hiding a spy or a rabid squirrel.
And people now worry about burning their hands on the EZ Bake Oven.
Most of our favorite toys were not unlike Barkley’s here. They were inexpensive, simple and fueled by imagination, not batteries or computer components.
As children, we’d wait patiently with the dog for that first break in the weather, that first slice of spring sun bursting from the sky, opening cold fissures in the landscape. Snow had been fun, but we were tired of the very bitter cold in the last days of winter; stampeding flurries that swirled around the family home with all of the order and elegance of a hockey game, keeping even the hardiest kid indoors.
Summers were anticipated glory. We'd be out after breakfast and play all day, with kids gathered up from around the area, a posse of potential. We'd drink from the hose if we got thirsty and ripped more than one pair of knees out of a pair of jeans, which our mothers would patch, not replace. We offered up skinned knees as homage to the ancient gods of play, exposed our faces to the sun, gaining confidence in our movements, in ourselves, breathing deeply, nourishing ourselves on the scent of grass and the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Our play burst out of something within our own minds, shouting forth as we charged the next hill with a bag of plastic soldiers in tow, darting past "throwing grenade guy" with "bazooka guy" to take a spot of land. To us, with the agile minds of children, it was all real. We scurried between small valleys and miniature cliffs. An empty Styrofoam cup with the end cut out with our pocketknife became a tunnel; a scoop of dirt became a foxhole. Overhead was a peaceful bowl of summer sky, below, the happy shouts of children calling forth from smoky battlefield fires that only we could see. The sound of the barrage was both remote and near, our childlike voices providing the sound effects, a vibration in the earth sensed with our minds, rather than felt, as our battalions moved onward, taking more ground.
We advanced until we reached the neighbor's yard, a pristine landscape where the war had not reached, where there would be no quarter given, where soldiers were not to pass and disobedience would be death. Mess with the neighbor’s flowerbed, and the troops would be put to rest, the commanding forces grounded. No cookies either, the ultimate punishment.
Such were the days of my childhood. We were immortal; the clouds rushing by faster than our troops could advance. Glorious days. Only darkness or the sound of the dinner bell would bring us in, dirty and hungry and aching to be outside again, and then curled up in sleep with our dog there beside us.
So I understood Barkley and his quest for the perfect toy. But I will have to make sure he gets one that will not harm him.
The “Kong” type toys were a good find, indestructible hard rubber in which you could hide a treat. But though Dad’s dog loved hers, Barkley wasn’t all that interested in his, unless you inserted an entire steak in the middle. His favorite toys were the yellow tennis ball and material covered bones and balls, especially the one with a cord on it that you could wind up and throw.
Still, I missed the look of pure excitement on his face when he heard the first “SQUEEEEK!" of a toy.
A friend of mine had just opened a store that had both a bakery of pet treats and pet gifts and one of the product lines were these “indestructible” dog toys. They were a thick material, heavily corded with thick stitching, allegedly resistant to even the toughest of teeth, guaranteed. Made with bright colors and shaped like an assortment of small animals, they were tempting. They were also pretty expensive. But I got him the biggest and toughest one, Larry the Lobster and presented it to him, thinking that I had purses that cost less than that.
Larry lasted much longer than other toys. Approximately fifteen minutes longer. I removed the remains in the bucket and took it back to the store, as it did say “guaranteed.”
The girl working that day was not my friend, but a new employee. She looked at my receipt and the remains and said “you don’t get a refund if you put it through a wood chipper.”
“I didn’t,” I said. “My black lab did this” and showed her a picture of the carnage. She looked doubtful, so I waited to show it to my friend later, who got a good laugh out of it.
I got my refund, and the quest for the indestructible squeaky toy would resume.