We can never really remember the exact moment when doggie went from stuffed toy to best friend but I do remember when we first introduced him to Birdie.
It was a blustery and gray December day when we pulled into our driveway as a family of three. I carefully carried Birdie up the stairs to our deck and happily stepped inside the warmth of our home to the sound of floorboards creaking under the weight of our bodies, still together, but on the outside this time. I looked around and realized for the first time, just how small this home really was. We seemed to outgrow it in a few moments. I sat down on the sofa to extract her now tiny, screaming body from her bear suit and rushed to the nursery to feed her. Crying turned to sucking and pretty soon she had pulled off my breast, her lips had puckered in that way that they do when they fall asleep nursing and I tiptoed into our bedroom to put her down for a nap. I gently laid her down in the crib but I couldn't shake the feeling that she looked so tiny and uncomfortable. I ran into the nursery and returned with doggie as he seemed the perfect length, shape and softness to help baby girl feel a little more "nestled" while she slept.
Eventually she outgrew the co-sleeper crib and we moved her into the nursery and began putting her to sleep in her permanent crib. Doggie made the transition with her. At some point, I can't remember but I think around seven or nine months old, she began snuggling with him while she slept. During the day he would remain in the crib waiting for nap time or bedtime to once again be cradled in the soft and chubby arms of his friend. Then around the time that Birdie started cruising I found her in tears one day attempting to yank doggie free from between the spindles of the crib. She desperately wanted him out and I quickly placed him in her arms as I wiped away bit fat tears that poured down over her cheeks. She was instantly relieved, comforted and happy. And so doggie began to be a part of our daily routine -wherever Birdie went doggie went too.
It soon became apparent to us that not only was doggie her favorite toy, he was her... well, everything. There was no sleeping without doggie to snuggle with, there was no activity that he wouldn't be a part of and any time things got too frightening, confusing or just plain sad all she wanted was doggie. We finally realized his significance when we made the mistake of not bringing him with us on an outing - she was inconsolable. We eventually just had to scrap all plans for that day, return home and reunite the two. From that day forward, in addition to the standard laundry list of fears you carry as a parent, we became terrified of losing doggie (which could easily happen with a tiny toddler who is easily distracted). One day we did lose him, at Target (of course). Papa bear and I spent an hour combing the store with shaking hands, checking with customer service and asking people if they had seen it. We had practically given up when I decided to run through the store one last time. It was the day after black friday and the store was an absolute wreck. As I scanned the floor for what felt like the millionth time I finally spotted his tell-tale blue paws under a garment rack and my heart practically exploded out of my chest!! We were so lucky that all this time Birdie had been sleeping in her carseat, unaware of what was taking place. But a lesson was learned and as soon as we returned home we promptly ordered "doggie II." I hid him away in the dark recess of my closet where he lived ensconced in plastic for almost an entire year.
As we entered 2015 doggie was really looking worse for the wear. I had stitched the same holes over and over again. Even after a round in the dryer he was no loner looking as "puffy" as he used to and there were stains that no amount of cleaning would remove. We began to mull over the idea of switching him out for doggie II... Then a few weeks ago I decided to give him one last chance. I washed him, I patched up the holes again and sewed his ears to his head lest he lose them completely. Unfortunately, just a few days later he looked just as bad. On Easter Sunday she had been complaining all day that doggie looked "duwtty" and that his "eas was cazzy" and asking "mama sik it." So we just jumped on the opportunity. Papa bear sat downstairs with her and told her that mama was going to go "fix doggie." I ran as fast as I could, knowing that she would want to follow me, ripped open the plastic bag and took out doggie II and ran downstairs. She was halfway up when we ran into each other and I cautiously handed him to her... She grabbed him from me, her eyes widened and she held him out to look him over. Then she began to meticulously point out all the changes "Eas nice, feet clean, arm clean..." She turned him over. "What's that?!!" she demanded as she came upon his tail. Papa bear and I looked at each other and thought oops!! We totally forgot that original doggie came with a defective tail that we ended up removing before she even had a memory of doggie. I excitedly chimed in that it was doggie's amazing new tail and she seemed to take the bait! She continued looking him over until she finally wrapped her arms around him and squeezed him tighter than I've ever seen her hug him and exclaimed "doggie's OK!! doggie's OK!!" I tell you I will probably regret not getting a video of this for as long as I live. At the same time I don't think it is something I will ever forget.
And that was that! Life has continued on as usual and doggie lives on via his new and improved self! Last night I tiptoed past her room after I put her to sleep and I could hear her sweet little voice reading doggie her Goodnight Moon book (because anything Birdie does doggie has to do also). Whenever she reads to him she does it with this adorable high pitched whisper voice and I sat down next to her door and listened as she read:
"Red balloon, beahs sittin chairs, kittens, mittens, old ladee ssshhhh, nigh nigh woom, nigh nigh kittens, mittens, nigh nigh old ladee ssshhhh, nigh nigh stars, nigh nigh moon..."