My name is Rufus, but my boy calls me Fus, sometimes Fus Fus. I’m about a foot and a half tall, sort of beige and brown, relatively old I suppose. Oh, and I’m a stuffed dog. It’s an interesting life, really. You can only bank on maybe five years or so with a child, before you get sold, donated, packed away, or given to a younger sibling. Think about that–a relationship where you know the end is coming, is inevitable, but you can’t help but pour your soul into every moment anyway. With each new child you give your all and hope you’re treated well in return. That’s what I was mentally preparing myself for in that shop, along with all my own siblings. All the same age, of course, not like those that came before us. But despite our numbers, we all become unique.
Take me, for instance. I’ve been extremely lucky. My relationship with my boy has lasted over ten years now! That’s basically unheard of. And it’s not just that he refuses to put me away or give me up, and just lets me collect dust on a shelf. We’re together nearly every day still. My boy is now nearly what people around us call an adult. But he’s different, special, and unlike any adult I’ve ever seen.
The first few years were not unlike any other stuffed toy’s; sometimes I was set aside for space rangers or video games, and increasingly I was not taken on adventures outside, though I was always there to protect him as he slept. I was sad, for I knew it was our autumn, and winter was coming. I’d prepared myself for this inevitability, and hoped I wouldn’t sit on the shelf in the thrift shop too long. But then the accident happened. I don’t know what happened. No one told me anything. No one ever does. All I know is one day, he didn’t come home. Then no one was home for days. I was worried sick, panicked. What had happened? Where was everyone? Would they be back? Was my boy okay? I wouldn’t forgive myself if he needed me and I was lying there, useless, on the unmade bed.
It was nearly a week before I got to see him again. His mother took me to the hospital. It was the saddest moment of my life. All these children, in such need. My heart yearned to comfort them, it broke for them, but I had my boy to think of. I remember hoping I was being taken to him, and then wishing I hadn’t been. He was not the boy I remembered. Sure, they looked the same, but something was wrong. He looked at me without really seeing me–he just looked dazed, confused, like nothing made sense. I could relate. Nothing made sense to me either. Why were we in this horrible place where all the children were unhappy and there could never be enough stuffed puppies? I wanted to leave, for things to go back to the way they were before. Back when my boy wasn’t always in that hateful metal chair, when he would grab me and run through the woods to his favourite tree, then toss me up into the branches to wait for him while he climbed up so we could begin our recon mission. I was always a good battle buddy. But I wasn’t sure how to deal with this. This wasn’t something I’d considered. These were somber days, indeed.
I resolved myself to always be there for whatever he needed, whatever I could give him. In return, my relationship with my boy has lasted far longer. When he turned fourteen, I wasn’t hastily crammed under his bed before a girl came over; he was never embarrassed by me. When he turned sixteen, I wasn’t permanently relegated to the underneath of the bed, to be forgotten. And now that he’s eighteen, I am not to be packed away in the attic while he learns about science and girls and the sad state of a world that has buildings full of crying children with no stuffed puppies. He doesn’t treat me as well as before, but I know it’s not his fault. He throws me when he is frustrated, and then my heart aches for him as he cries because he can’t reach me anymore. My fur is frequently matted with his saliva, but I couldn’t care less. The only downside is that I hate being put in the washing machine. One time, in a fit of rage, he ripped off one of my ears. The pain was incredible, but I’m so thankful that I was there so he wouldn’t hurt himself instead.
This journey is not what I signed up for all those years ago. But as time progresses, I learn more and more that being a child’s favourite toy is not about the adventures in the woods, or about the birthday parties where you get your own party hat and seat at the table. Those are important, but the moments that matter is when they need you to comfort them. Every day I watch my boy struggle with everything he does. I watch as other people dress him and feed him, I watch as he doesn’t do all the things a young man is meant to do. And every day I am honoured to stand beside him, to help him fight on. I’m so lucky to get to help him shoulder a burden which is uniquely his.