By Tracy Ahrens
It felt like a spontaneous support group session. I stood at the checkout counter of a pet store and the manager was scanning my purchases, including a stuffed pink giraffe dog toy.
He asked me what kind of dog I have. I shared with him and paused before noting that my dog, Angel, 11, just started playing with stuffed toys, two months after adoption.
Embarrassed that I may own a demonically possessed canine, I noted, “She likes to rip their legs and ears off.”
The manager laughed and put my confession to shame. His dog “goes for the throats” of stuffed toys, ripping out their jugulars. He was shy to describe his house full of throat-less stuffed animal toys.
My house is a graveyard for limbless, earless, antlerless, tailless creatures.
A fellow dog owner refers to these attacks on innocent stuffed creatures as “stufficide.” Her dog, Bart, is like my Angel. He instantly chews off limbs and, she said, “There’s always a bit of glee in Bart’s eye when he’s performing a medical procedure.”
That same giddy, demonic look comes over my Angel as she performs clean-cut amputations of stuffed animal parts with a grinding molar action.
When Angel came into my life she was given several stuffed toys by a shelter volunteer and I bought her a couple. I had no idea if she liked toys, as she was found with no background information or a name.
One of the toys I gave her was a small Wonder Woman doll with a squeaker in it. She slept in a bed with it, but ignored it. But two months later, something snapped. She got a feisty glimmer in her eye, picked up Wonder Woman in her mouth and started to chew on her. I laughed to myself watching her, until she spit out an arm. Then, the other arm.
The “bracelets of submission” that Wonder Woman uses to deflect gunfire, small missiles, and other projectile weaponry, were cut off with the geriatric molars of a Shepherd-Husky.
This was the start of her obsession with removing appendages from stuffed creatures.
We now have a dinosaur missing a spikey plate from its back, a monkey with one leg, a pink dog with three legs, a pink rabbit with one ear, a cat face with one ear, and that giraffe I bought during my in-store counseling session. It is now missing one ear and one antler.
As the mood strikes her, she strikes another toy, chewing off parts and spitting them out in her beds or on the floor. At first I had a small collection of parts, but I have since disposed of them.
When legs are ripped off of critters, I steal the toys away to mend with sturdy upholstery thread. Angel supervises the surgeries with that same giddy, demonic stare.
Many dogs are annoyed by squeakers and seek them out first to extract from a toy. Angel doesn’t seem to care about killing squeakers. She just wants to rip creatures limb from limb.
Most dog parents have stories of how their canines like to carry around toys, rip them up at warp speed, or bring them to bed. A friend with a German Shepherd told me his dog loved basketballs and deflated them within 20 seconds. Stuffed toys were gutted in less than a half hour, and tennis balls were chewed in half in 60 minutes.
I have to say that one or two stuffed animals always lie on my bed where Angel sleeps beside me. She also occasionally carries one outside when she goes potty, sets it down on the grass and I have to carry it back inside.
Three pet beds in my living room are like islands that hold Angel’s stuffed toy collection. I think of this environment like the Island of Misfit Toys, from the holiday television special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That island had oddball toys like a spotted elephant, a “Charlie-in-the-box,” and a bird that swims.
I’ve taken photos of Angel’s signature collection, and captured images and videos of her chewing off and spitting out limbs. It’s like photographic evidence from crime scenes.
Many more toys will enter my home just to make Angel happy in her senior years. One bunny she’s removed all of the stuffing from and it shall remain stuffing-less per her request. Two smaller bunnies and a squirrel are her favorites, as she likes to chase bunnies and squirrels in real life. Those toys have been mended countless times and I’m happy to oblige. I even bought an extra stuffed bunny from the store so she has a spare.
I laugh at her silly behavior with these creatures, wondering if she had toys in her past. I’m sure she never had this many and I find joy in making her happy.
Tracy Ahrens is a veteran journalist, author, artist and mom to three rescued cats and one dog. See her web site at www.tracyahrens.weebly.com and add her children’s book, “Sammy Sparrow’s First Flight,” to your collection. All proceeds help 9 humane organizations.