Photo description: white 1980s era stuffed dog peeking out of a red backpack with blue trim.
I’d had my stuffed dog for as long as I could remember. He was my constant companion nearly everywhere I went.
He comforted me when I was upset and slept with me every single night. He was my very best friend all the way from when I was a tiny toddler to when I was 17 years old.
I pretended to breastfeed him regularly as a preschooler after my baby sibling was born. This caused great consternation and embarrassment for my mom because back then, just as when I had actual babies of my own as an adult, I nursed my stuffed dog wherever and whenever he needed to, which was often very much in public. Nursing in public was not something my mom modeled for me although nursing in general was.
He came along when I went to sleepovers at friends’ houses. My real friends didn’t mind, they had stuffed animals too. Any quite unusual quirkiness was likely chalked up to the fact that I was homeschooled anyhow.
He had started off white, but gradually became more cream-colored as the years went by and his coat began to wear thin. My parents insisted on washing him periodically, which was always a bit of an ordeal for both of us, but I always assured him that it would be okay and that I’d see him again soon.
Aside from his baths and school hours during the several years when I attended public school, we were almost never separated.
I even brought him along when I went to look at colleges – I wouldn’t have dreamed of leaving him home during such an important process. Then, at the last college we visited, where we’d stayed overnight, I somehow overlooked him when I packed up my things to leave the college dormitory and get on the airplane. I’m still not sure how that could’ve happened, but it did and it was very distressing.
I couldn’t go back and look for him because the college was thousands of miles from home. When we called the college, they said that nobody had found him. They promised to call if they did run across him, but I never heard back.
I ended up attending that college, living in a dorm room on the very same hall where I’d forgotten my best childhood pal.
He was gone. I lost his silent plushy support, right before the most traumatic years I’ve experienced.
I still miss him.
Earlier this year, with my last baby getting big and not wanting to snuggle at night as much, I finally began to look for a new stuffed dog. The texture of his coat had to be just right – many stuffed animals trigger my sensory issues terribly.
And I found one! He can never replace the one I lost, the one who never even had a name other than the brand name embroidered on his hip. The one who stuck with me for so many years.
Despite the irreplaceable nature of my lost stuffed dog, I’ve now begun to sleep better again. The insomnia that had more intensely plagued me since I lost my original stuffed dog hasn’t seemed nearly as pervasive as it was before I bought my new dog two months ago at a rummage sale. I carefully cuddled each stuffed animal that passed my initial touch-test before finding the right one.
See, I realized, at some point after completing my evaluation, that I’d been more negatively affected by losing my old threadbare stuffed dog than I had previously understood.
I’ve made the decision to respect whatever need this fulfills in me and it’s been completely worth it. I cannot overstate what a positive difference this has made in my life. I can even take naps again when I’m not completely exhausted!
But I still periodically wonder and worry about what happened to my old stuffed dog and where he might be now. Just over fifteen years later.