When Simone was about a year old, she was obsessed with dogs. In fact,"dog" was one of her first few words. For Christmas that year, I gave her a stuffed dog. I remember standing in front of the stuffed animal bins at Toys R Us picking through all the stuffed dogs. I didn't really care what breed it was, and Simone wouldn't have cared either. I just wanted one with "fur" that wouldn't come out too easily, and that had a cute puppy dog face. I chose a Bernese Mountain dog, and it was love at first sight.
The dog slept in her crib with her and a host of other stuffed dogs, but this one always got the prime snuggle spot next to Simone...
...most of the time, anyway...
The dog never had a real name; he was just called "dog" or "doggie" or "puppy". He became our constant companion and went everywhere with us. When Simone moved into the toddler room at day care and no longer napped in a crib, her teacher told me that it was very hard to get her to lie down for naptime. I suggested that the dog might help her relax and stay on her nap mat. Thus began the dog's daily trips to and from school, and Simone's reputation as a "good napper". Everyone at the school soon became familiar with Simone's dog. On the rare occasions when we forgot the dog, I could see the mild panic in the teachers' eyes. Sometimes if the meltdown (Simone's, not the teachers') was particularly bad and I could see that substituting some random toy from the back seat of my car was not going to work, I would even take an hour or so off work to go back home to get the dog. He was that important!
About a year later, Simone's teacher told me one afternoon that the dog had been lost at school. The dog was supposed to stay in her cubby and be used only for nap time, but let's be real -- a special dog in a room of two-year-olds is not going to stay in one place for long, no matter what Mommy says. I made a trip to the toy store and luckily found a bin full of the special dogs. I had doubts that "the dog" could be replaced, but I bought two and hid one away in a closet, just in case. The replacement dog worked, and was dubbed "new dog".
A few days later, the original dog reappeared. Great! Now Simone had two dogs, and she was ecstatic to have "dog" and "new dog" to play with and snuggle. When the original dog disappeared at school again about a month later (under suspicious circumstances, I might add), it was no big deal because "new dog" was right there, ready to step up to the challenge of being the lone favorite toy. He did not escape any of the indignities that came with his new title, though. By this time, Simone had discovered baby clothes and hair bows. Her dog had to be dressed to the nines at all times. Sometimes it was a simple lilac satin frock with lace; sometimes it was a tiger-striped lacy number that any exotic dance would be jealous of; sometimes he went au naturel with only a bright pony tail holder on his ear or tail.
Everything went along smoothly for about another year or so with the new dog. Then Simone and I took a short trip out of town. New dog wore a pink grass skirt all weekend -- and was stunning, I might add. During the confusion of packing up at the hotel and getting everything into the car, the dog somehow disappeared. His absence was noticed after we'd been driving for about an hour, and repeated calls to the hotel asking about a small dog wearing a pink grass skirt resulted in nothing. Nada. New dog and his skirt had apparently vanished into thin air. Needless to say, it was a looong drive home.
Remember my brilliance in purchasing two dogs when the first disappearance occurred? When we got home, I broke out the third dog, and all was well in la casa de calabazas. This dog was called simply "doggie" for a few months, then Simone made up a way to describe her love for the dog: she would hold him around the neck and shake him, saying "Doggie chops. Doggie chops.", then hug and kiss him. A bit disturbing to think that she was effectively strangling the thing she loved most, but it was a loving strangle hold, so I didn't worry too much. Eventually, "Doggie chops" evolved into "Choppy", and this became his name. Choppy is subjected to certain humiliations, just like his predecessors. He gets left behind more often than the other two dogs did, and once was left out on the playground at school overnight. But Choppy prevails. He's a survivor. Sometimes it makes me sad that Simone does not seem adversely affected when Choppy gets left at home or overnight at school...then I snap myself back to the reality of daily life with a preschooler, and am grateful that she is so well-adjusted that she can cope for a day or night without a toy. I think I love Choppy as much as she does. I may have even cried a little when the original dog was lost!
I can't tell the difference between the three dogs in pictures; I have to reference the date and try to remember the approximate dates of each disappearance to figure out which is which. Somehow, Simone can tell the difference. Once, I showed her a picture of the second dog, and called it "Choppy". She corrected me, saying "No, Mommy. That's not Choppy. That was my new dog that got lost at the hotel in Austin. He's Choppy's sister and his name was Chippy." Oh. OK. You may notice that Choppy and Chippy are female dogs, but we use masculine personal pronouns when talking about them. I'm not sure why. That's just the way it is.
Despite the fact that Choppy is only about a year old, he has quite a past. Simone tells me daily stories of their adventures and travels. Apparently, she, Choppy and Choppy's sisters (about nine of them) live together in a house in Alaska, and frequently go on vacation to the beach, China, Fort Worth, New Hamster (New Hampshire to you and me), Colorado, and outer space. Not a bad gig being the favorite toy, huh? I might even wear a pink grass skirt if I had a chance to go to outer space!
Tomorrow, the pumpkinhead will start Kindergarten. We have been reminding her over the last few months that Choppy cannot go to Kindergarten. She understands this, but seems to have stepped up her imaginary travels with Choppy and his sisters. I guess she's giving herself a good dose of Choppy to last throughout the long Kindergarten day. I told her I would put a picture of Choppy in her backpack that she could look at if she missed him too much at school. I think I'll put a copy of the picture in my purse as well.