Tuesday, October 30, 2012

An experiment

This is Monkey.

You might be asking yourself a couple of questions. Like, "Can't you come up with a better name for a stuffed monkey?" Or "Why is he sticking his hands up?" Or most likely, "What the hell is a grown woman doing with a stuffed, green monkey in her bed?" (Yes, that is my unmade bed. Nice sheet set, n'est-ce pas?)

All perfectly reasonable questions. With answers.
- No, I can not come up with a better name than Monkey, but feel free to give me some suggestions.
- Perhaps he is trying to jump out at me in surprise. Or he is dancing. Or he is being robbed.
- I am conducting an experiment.

Let me elaborate on this final point lest you think that it is a little weird for a grown woman to have a stuffed, green monkey in her bed for the purposes of conducting an experiment...

Monkey is not mine. He belongs to Fergus. Or at least he will once I take those pesky price tags off of him, take him out of the bed, and give him to the dog.

You see, Fergus LOVES his toys. A little too much. You may remember the tragic demise of his beloved Rochester Q. Squirrel. More recently, I bought him what I thought would be the ultimate, indestructible, stuffed dog bone, with a so-called "Tuffy rating" of 9 out of 10. Which he promptly destroyed in less than 4 hours. After tiring of tossing it around and playing tug, he attacked the corner seam with meticulous precision until he could wriggle his snout all the way inside, pulling out reams and reams of stuffing. Which he then ate. Which led to some, er, unpleasant digestive issues...

So I was a little nervous when, after spending the day with Auntie K, he came home with...

...Ms. Hedgehog. Also known as Henrietta. A stuffed animal with lots and lots of vulnerable seams to rip open, felt toes to rip off, and chalk full of stuffing. This could not end well - not for Henrietta, and certainly not for the Beast's digestive system...

But oh my how he loved Henrietta... I mean, I know I said that about the squirrel, but this was different. His eyes lit up with excitement every time he heard "Where's Hedgehog?" We'd hide her in every closet and under every pile of clothes in the house, and he would sniff his way all over the place until he rescued her. We would throw her up and down the stairs and down the hall, and he would chase after her like an Olympic sprinter. When we would tire of playing with her, we would put her on a shelf just above his reach, and he would whine until we would take her down again. He carried her everywhere around the house with him. Whenever it was time to have a rest, he'd lie down with her. I even caught him carrying her upstairs for bedtime, and found him using her as a pillow when I woke up the next morning. No toy has ever captured his heart like Henrietta did.

I started to think that maybe he was over his need to destroy his toys at all cost. Maybe the promise of stuffing was nothing compared to the love and companionship of this squeaky hedgehog. I mean, it had been two weeks, and she was still in tact. Not once did he try to rip off a limb or go after a seam. Maybe he was finally learning to be gentle with the things that he loves!

And then, one morning, while my father was visiting, he and Fergus were playing fetch with Henrietta. Fetch turned into a particularly rousing game of tug. And then we all heard it.  RRR-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-PPPPPPPPP!

Followed by a collective "GGG-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-S-S-S-S-S-PPPPP!!!"

I rushed to the scene to survey the damage. And there it was. Just behind Henrietta's hind left leg. A small hole. And a clear path to fluffy white stuffing.

I knew immediately that it was over for Henrietta. As soon as Fergus got a whiff of her insides, he would not be able to control himself. Still, I held out a faint hope that he would not destroy his beloved hedgehog. And so, I tossed her up the stairs, and he ran after her as fast as he could. He brought her back to me, lay down at my feet, and began to gnaw on her injured leg.

I took her away from him, and threw her again. Like a lightening bolt, he flashed across the hallway to retrieve her. He brought her back to me, dropped her at my feet, and just as I bent down to throw her again, he picked her up and trotted off to his favourite spot on the stairs, and proceeded to work at undoing the seams.

It was a solemn affair, having to take her away from him, but I knew that it had to be done. And so I walked over to him, picked her up, and carried her away to her resting place... in the garbage under our kitchen sink. Confused and hurt, the Beast looked up at me with his saddest brown eyes, whined sullenly a few times, then let out a great big sigh of despair.

It was terribly sad.

We tried enticing him to play with other, unstuffed toys. Like his squeaky rubber ball or his braided tug rope. But they could not hold his attention for very long. Hide and seek just isn't the same without Henrietta.

Which brings us back to Monkey. Hubby and I were visiting our favourite pet food store to replenish the Beast's food stocks over the weekend, when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the stuffed animal section. "Do you really think that is a good idea, Jay?" Hubby asked. "He's just going to destroy it anyway. Maybe it's time we gave up on stuffed animals."

"But they make him so happy!" I exclaimed! "I want to see him having fun with his toys again. He's been so pathetic since Henrietta has been gone. It's breaking my heart!"

As we argued back and forth about whether or not to replace dear Ms. Hedgehog, a store attendant overheard us and stepped forward. First, she pointed out the "more durable" (a term I use rather loosely given our track record) stuffed toys. Then she offered this advice: "If you take this toy home right now and give it to your dog right away, all it will represent to him is excitement. But if you hang on to it for a couple of days, and bury it in your bed or your clothes hamper, so that it picks up your smell, your dog will associate it with you. And he wouldn't want to rip your arms off, would he? I bet you he will be more gentle with it once he picks up your scent all over it."

Politely, I nodded my head and gave her a heartfelt, "Wow, what a great idea! I can't believe I didn't think about that!" But in reality, my inside voice was saying, "Yeah right, lady. You've never met my dog. Jaws-'o-death over there is not likely to stop himself from destroying something that smells like me...." Still, I figured it was worth a try. I am, after all, a trained social scientist, and I can't resist this opportunity to decipher the behaviour of another sentient being.

So, we brought Monkey home. And since Sunday, he has been hidden in our bed, or underneath that big pile of clothes that always seems to be on my bedroom floor. And in a few more days, when he is doused in "eau-de-Jay-and-Hubby", we'll give him to Fergus.

...And see just how long it takes for him to destroy something that reminds him of his two favourite people on earth....

Why do I have a feeling that this will not end well...

Stay tuned...