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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Plush with Joy

A few posts ago, I wrote about the game of Tug.  A perennial favorite, it nearly always involves some sort of plush toy--or what is left of a plush toy. Some of these stuffed animal carcasses look like nothing more than the empty skin of what once was, for example, a soft huggable bunny. That's because one of the Best Things to Do with a stuffed toy is to de-stuffify it--pull out every last speck of stuffing.

Lilah ripping the stuffing out of what was once a plush sting ray. Oh, the joy!

Lilah and Tucker amidst their handiwork (Toothiwork?). A very floppy bunny, with most of its innards out, sags sadly in the background. Eventually this bunny lost its head in a grand game of Tug.

In the past, I would either try to fix the toy by sewing back the ripped seam, or I would throw it out. But I began to realize that the bits and pieces of fluffy polyester roadkill were actually desired items for my dogs. They loved them. They loved disemboweling them, tossing the stuffing gleefully in the air. They loved tugging the tiniest bits of previously whole plush critters. They loved having those bits thrown in the air--to catch, to pounce on, to chase.

Tucker with a bit of pelt, possibly a piece of what once was an emu. The smaller bits are sometimes hard to identify.

One of the best things to do with a plush toy is to run around the house with it. There is a dual aspect to this game. One is the pure joy of simply Having It, which makes you want to Fling It around and Shake It and Kill It. And the other is the idea that, since you Have It, the other dogs Do Not. And they might want to Get It. Which often results in a Chase or a Tug. Or both.

Lilah tosses around a half-stuffed dog. This is Lilah's specialty; she is so good at swinging and yanking a toy that she usually is able to get it away from other dogs and humans during a Tug game.

The toys are subjected to all types of brutal play. In addition to disemboweling, it is not uncommon to hear the unmistakeable sound of ripping seams during a particularly intense bout of Tug. Legs, arms, heads, tails--all eventually are removed from their stuffed bodies. Nothing is spared; I watched Tucker and Jasper rip a fuzzy snake in half.

Tucker relaxes with a prize--a half of snake he acquired during Tug. Sometimes you just want to sit there and appreciate what you've won.

Of course, there's also the joy of chewing--finding a comfortable spot to simply have a good gnaw.

Nothing like hanging with your bro and having a companionable gnaw. Unless the Other Dog has The Better Toy.

Some parts are better than others to chew on. The first to go are usually tags. They Must Be Removed. I think it's written somewhere in the Dog Codex. Chapter 4, subsection 11, paragraph 2: "Tags are evil and must be eliminated forthwith." 

Once the tags are disposed of (I usually have to ask someone to Drop It so it doesn't get eaten), the next special bits are eyeballs. Lilah loves to chew out the plastic eyeballs; they're obviously a delicacy. (That also results in a Drop It, which Lilah responds to very politely, with a gentle "pleh" as the plastic is ejected from her mouth.)

Jasper chews on an eyeless bunny. All pups are silent on the subject of who exactly it was that removed the rabbit's eyes. But I have my suspicions.

Chasing a plush toy is a lot of fun, too. All three dogs enjoy a good chase. Jasper likes to run after the little bits. Tucker views anything thrown as simply differently-shaped balls: you throw, he chases, brings it back, you throw again...and again...and again. And Lilah loves to pounce. Throw a flattened (stuffing already removed) monkey into the beanbag dog bed and Lilah is rarely far behind, landing on top of it with a playful butt in the air accompanied by a fleathery waggy tail.

Lilah pounces on a monkey.

That's MY monkey. I pounced it.

Some really creative pet toy companies have realized that dogs like to pull the stuffing out of plush creatures and have offered up a few interesting options that play to that proclivity. They sell flat, stuffingless plush toys, which look a lot like the home-made pelts my dogs enjoy.

But I think half (or more) of the fun is in the stuffing removal. Which is why the folks who created stuffed toys with other toys inside them show they really understand the canine mind. All three of my pups love the concept, and will happily pull out the chipmunks or the eggs that are inside a few of their favorite toys. I put the items back in, they pull them out, I put them in again...and so on. Eventually the toys themselves get a little shredded, but they do tend to last a little longer than the other plushies.

Lilah pulling chimpmunks out of a plush log.

Tucker chases down and proudly retrieves a chipmunk.

Jasper enjoys what's left of the chipmunk; ripped and unstuffed and still fun to play with.

And if you run out of things to do with plush toys, you can always get creative: 

Use them as pillows:

Tucker rests his head on the emu; it's also a way of saying, "This is MY emu."

Floss your teeth with them:

Lilah finds a new use for bunny whiskers.

Blame them:

"The cow did it."

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