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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Lion Around

In a previous post, I've written about the many ways that dogs play with stuffed animals. (Plush with Joy.)  We always have quite a few of these plush toys around for Jasper, Lilah and Tucker to romp with, gnaw on, chase after, or discuss ownership.

Recently, I've noticed that there are some favorites. Tucker has been quite sweet on a certain Headless Horse, whose injury was the result of a particularly enthusiastic game of Tug. It doesn't matter that his toy is missing an essential part of it's anatomy. Actually, I imagine that it's more fun that way, because a gaping hole where the head ought to be creates great opportunities for stuffing removal. And that's almost as much fun as Tug.  Plus, once all the innards are out, the flat scraps of a once-huggable toy also provide great amusement. I think it might have something to do with the Flop Factor; holding an unstuffed animal in ones' mouth and shaking it very hard creates a very satisfying effect. We keep several of these barely recognizable pelts around until, after repeated Tug battles, they are reduced to unsafe bits of  furry cloth and are added to the recycling pile.

Tucker and the Headless Horse

Lilah's lion, however, doesn't seem to be headed ("be headed?" Snicker!) toward the same fate, even though there's a slight tear near the neck--the result of a misguided attempt at Tug by Tucker. A very sweet, even-tempered animal, Lilah is the nurturer, the one who always comes running when anyone--dog, cat, or human--seems injured or sick. Yet if Jasper or Tucker tries to take her lion, she can go from zero to ferocious faster than a ticked-off tiger--or at least sound that way. Her snarly growls and frozen stare are enough to make even the bravest of dogs reconsider just how much he wants to play with that particular toy at that particular moment. It's all a game to Lilah, but Jasper and Tucker let go and back away slowly.

Lilah, Lion

Why the lion? What is it about this particular plush that makes sweet Lilah disinclined to share?

It's got whiskers.

I don't know why whiskers are so attractive, but Lilah loves them.

Every morning, when the dogs come downstairs with me, she heads straight for the lion. The boys take a drink of water, look out the window to see what's barkable, sniff a cat toy or two--or a cat--and generally assess the area to see if anything has changed since they went to bed last night. Lilah ignores all that; she locates her lion and settles down for a good floss.

With one paw holding the inanimate creature steady, she nibbles those whiskers, closing her eyes, centered on the task. Her nose mushes up against the fake fur snout as she chews gently.

Lilah's little wrinkled nose is just so cute.

The morning routine ebbs and flows around her as the cats greet me, the dog beds are put back into position, and I prepare to take the pups out for their morning business. Lilah stays focused and undisturbed.

Bones? No. Stuffed lemur? Nope. Gotta have that lion.

It's not just a morning routine, though. Whenever we're in the family room, Lilah will gravitate toward the lion and enjoy a nibble or seven. She'll often fall asleep with the toy between her paws.

Lion in her arms

Lilah is ever so gentle with those little plastic bits, and after months of whisker flossing, they're still there--a little bent, a little thin in some places, but still there.

Maybe that's why she has such a brilliant smile.

Lilah smile

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