"Weeks passed, an the little Rabbit grew very old and shabby, but the Boy loved him just as much. He loved him so hard that he loved all the whiskers off, and the pink lining to his ears turned grey, and his brown spots fade. He even began to lose his shape an he scarcely look like a rabbit any more except to the Boy. To him he was always beautiful, and that was all that the little Rabbit cared about. He didn't mind how he looked to other people, because the nursery magic had made him Real, and when you are Real, shabbiness doesn't matter. "
-The Velveteen Rabbit.
For those of you who know my eldest son, you know that wherever he goes, Mr. Brown Doggie goes. Like all stuffed animals MBD started out plush and soft, a dark brown fur and a vivid, bright orange hat with matching green scarf. A baby shower gift, he sat on the shelf in Zachary's nursery for a good two years, unnoticed. I will never know how it happened, but seemingly overnight the the dog became a trusted best friend. We had offered countless hand-knit blankets, and far more adorable stuffed animals to love, but for whatever reason Zachary chose Mr Brown Doggie. Maybe it was the way he flopped just right and was easy to lug around by the scruff of his skinny neck. In any case, it is a love that has withstood the test of time.
Mr Brown Doggie has been through a lot. He has been puked on, dropped in the toilet, and left outside in the rain. He has accompanied us to doctors visits, birthday parties, airplane trips and weddings. He takes the leading role in Zachary's imaginary play, traveling through space, and living on a remote mountain in Africa.
He is a part of the family. To us he is "Real".
And he is falling apart. His fur now worn and shabby, his scarf missing, his hat dirty, the pupils of his eyes worn away, and worse, a big gaping whole in that scrawny little neck, where the stuffing is now at risk for coming out. Yes, mommy needs to learn to sew.
So on a whim, with Zachary at my side I googled "Go Dog Go stuffed animal". And found a woman selling a brand new Mr. Brown Doggie. The toy has been discontinued, but she had one up for sale for a mere $29.99. I looked at Zack, "What do you think? Do you want a new MBD?" I asked. Zack nodded his head eagerly. I hit "purchase" and that was that.
The new dog arrived yesterday in a cardboard box. I opened it up and saw a beautiful soft stuffed animal, bearing very little resemblance to the well-loved pet in Zack's arms. I presented Zachary with the new dog. His eyes were wide and he grabbed him in his arms. Then he went on to introduce MBD to his new buddy.
Why did I do it? Why would I mess with the love shared between a boy and his favorite stuffed animal? I can't say for sure. Perhaps it is sort of experiment. A test of Zachary's loyalty for the shabby dog. Maybe it is a bit of nostalgia for me. Some day in the not so-distant future Mr Brown Doggie will end up at the pile of a heap of other toys, forgotten and outgrown. This brand new dog reminds me of that nursery where MBD was first discovered, back at 3352 Bryant Street, the nursery that was dismantled and sold off piecemeal when we packed up our belongings and headed west. It takes me back to Zachary's babyhood, when all the toys were shiny and new and parenthood was an exciting novelty.
Either way now we have two stuffed dogs and time will tell. Will Zachary stay loyal to his shabby lovey or will he be lead astray with the lure of something prettier? Right now it seems to be a tie. Both dogs had the privilege of watching Sunday morning cartoons with him, and they both participated in a lively game of "Space Dogs" at 6am. Perhaps he will find room in his heart for both. He does after all, have a pretty big heart for a little guy.