Eleven years ago, when Tux was mere pup, I gave him his first toy - a blue and pink plush ball. During the last eleven years, he has kept that toy safe. He sleeps with it in his mouth, he carries it around like Linus’ security blankie, and has never torn out its squeaker. He has a dozen or more other toys - all of them plush - three hamburgers, a second ball, a hot dog, a fish, a rat (I’d throw that one out if only he’d lose complete interest in it), and, of course, the ball.
His first ball is his go-to toy when he’s stressed or sad or just needing comfort. The day we were attacked in the park by the devil-dog, it was his ball he went looking for when we returned home, and which he kept with him for the rest of the day.
Don’t get me wrong, he loves all his toys. I gather them up at least once a week and put them into his toy box. Yes, he has a toy box. He’ll rummage through his toy box looking for just the right one to match his mood. Within a day or two, he has toys in every room of the house. He has a toy within easy reach every where he goes. Apparently, a boy never knows when a toy might be needed.
He hates it when I wash his toys. His anxiety levels rise as he watches them disappear into the washer. I’ve stopped washing all of them at the same time. It was too stressful for him to be without a toy in his mouth. I’ve even stopped letting him see me putting his toys in the washer. I admit it - I sneak his toys into the wash usually in a washer bag. Then I have to wait until he’s out of the room to slip them into the dryer.
I toss the toys to him as I remove them from the dryer. I’m not sure whether he thinks he’s getting new toys or it takes time to realize that the now-clean toys are his old ones without the familiar scent on them. Regardless of whether they’re new or old, he’s a very happy boy. All is right in his world once more.
I was thinking the other day, as I watched Tux rummage through his toy box looking for his ball, that my old friends are like Tux’s old toys. While I love them all, one of them is very special. She knows me better than the rest, gives me comfort when I most need it, and is always there for me.
Old friends, like old toys, are the best.