Everyone knows the saying “The best things in life aren’t things.” It’s meant to make us appreciate the people, memories, and emotions that fill our daily lives, rather than trying to hold on to our material possessions. And it’s a great saying.
Except when the best things in life actually are things.
Like Puppy up there. No, he isn’t a real puppy, even though I’ve long lost track of the number of times I pretended that he was. He’s been with me through thick and thin. High school, college, and beyond. When my college boyfriend and I broke up, he joked that he should get partial custody of Puppy since he had been around him, cared about him so long.
Fat chance. I would never give Puppy up, not for anything.
His tag bears a copyright of 1997. That would put me at 9 years old when I bought him. The first thing I really remember buying with my own money. My family had taken a trip to Florida to visit my grandparents, and, before we began our road trip back home, we stopped for one more family meal at the Rainforest Cafe.
Super touristy, full of animatronic elephants trumpeting over our table and huge tanks of real fish–I’m sure the food was nothing to write home about. But as my dad waited for the check, I was allowed to go check out the gift shop and spend what was left of my souvenir money on a stuffed animal.
Seeing as how we were in the middle of an (almost, totally) real rain forest, it would have made total sense to go for the exotic animals. Giraffes, lions, and even zebras lined the shelves, all calling out my name. But of course, I was drawn to the dogs. Something I could see on nearly any street corner back home. But Puppy is a husky. A dog I had never seen in real life but adored in my book of dog breeds.
He was special.
Puppy is one of those weird, over sized Beanie Babies. You know the kind–the ones the actual Beanie Babies were the…well…babies of. Mostly real stuffing, he still has those tell-tale beans jammed into the bottom of his feet. But he didn’t come with a name or one of those cute poems telling you his story, so I just called him what he was.
Clearly, I was an extremely creative child.
Once we made it home from Florida, I started to favor Puppy over all the other stuffed animals in my room (and trust me, I had a pretty extensive collection). Middle school came and went, and as all the other toys were stowed in boxes or bags and destined for the attic, Puppy stayed with me. Always in my bed, always by my side.
In high school, there was nothing Puppy couldn’t cure. Rejection, broken hearts, and backstabbing friends were no match for him. Again, I kept waiting to outgrow him, but it never happened. When it came time to pack for college, there was absolutely no question about whether he would make the cut and find a place in my suitcase.
Throughout the years, he has gotten a little worse for wear. His fur, always a little out of control, has now completely obscured his intense blue eyes. He’s skinnier than he used to be–I think it’s the constant squeezings I give him. I still love to play with those beans in his feet as I rub my fingers over the stitches that represent his little doggie toes.
I kiss his head as I drift off to sleep, and he’s the first thing I reach for when a nightmare awakens me. Even if I wake up peacefully, I feel a moment of panic the second I realize he isn’t cradled in my arms. When I sit in bed and read or write, I tuck him against my side or in the crook of my arm so he’s never far away.
What will happen when I want to settle down and get married? When I finally have to share my bed with someone other than Puppy? Maybe he will get put on a shelf, only to be loved from afar. But more likely than not, living with Puppy a bit more up close and personal may have to be a condition before I let anyone pull me down the aisle.
I took that photo of Puppy for a photography assignment when I was in college. We had to show our teacher something he had never seen before. And I choose my puppy. The material constant in my life that, while he may occasionally be outshone by the actual people who love me, will always have a place in my heart.