The wonders of plush toys

"What do you mean? Why can't I chew up Mom's unicorn?"  Teddy. KARIN SPICER / CONTRIBUTED
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"What do you mean? Why can't I chew up Mom's unicorn?" Teddy. KARIN SPICER / CONTRIBUTED

If it’s hard to resist the pull of your heart’s strings when you see a new, large-eyed stuffed toy, then Plush Animal Lover’s Day was created just for you.

Oct. 28 is the day to recall how such a toy may have comforted you when you were sick or scared or how you acquired it. Was it a birthday or Christmas gift? Was it passed down from an older sibling? Do you still have it or is it just a happy memory?

According to bedtimemath.org, Americans buy over one billion stuffed animals every year. That’s a lot of fluffiness.

I still have a stuffed unicorn my husband, Ed, gave me when we were dating. It’s safely tucked into my late grandmother’s cedar chest.

Kids gravitate toward these toys because they are comforting. No matter how a child’s day is going, his “teddy” is always smiling, its softness inviting hugs even after enduring tugs, pulls, washes and years of use as a substitute pillow.

Not surprisingly, dogs love plush animal toys, too. They are often mainstays in the toy box.

Teddy, our black Lab, can shred any stuffed toy in minutes. And believe me, he’s had a ton of them, in all shapes, sizes and constructions.

Hne is quite strategic in his demolishing techniques. First, he goes for the squeaker. If there’s more than one, that’s a bonus.

“Squeakers simulate prey sounds, and many dogs will immediately locate and remove the squeaker from a toy because it’s the most fun part!” Dana Ebbecke, an animal behavior counselor at the ASPCA Adoption Center, tells dogster.com.

Once the squeaking sound is no more, Teddy looks for the easiest and fastest way to tear the stuffy to bits. If there are ears or a tail, he’ll start munching on these. Any loose threads are good places to work on, too.

Once the pooch has torn off an ear or opened a seam, Ed or I, being the responsible parents we are (party poopers to Teddy), inspect the toy and remove any loose parts such as squeakless squeakers and stuffing.

Then and only then does he get his toy back. All in all, this entire event takes maybe 15 to 20 minutes tops with one of us playing/watching throughout.

If at any time we feel the toy is unsafe, we send it, new though it may be, to toy heaven. Teddy gets a “good job, Teddy” and one of his special treats. Then we go to his toy box and pick out a safer one to play with.

As any pet parent will tell you, toy parts in a dog’s stomach can end up in a trip to the vet.

When talking about stuffed toys in general, Ebbecke says, “Each dog is an individual; different dogs have preferences on how they interact with toys.”

While Plush Animal Lover’s Day isn’t celebrated in our house, dogs who like to play fetch or cuddle with these toys would love the holiday.

Ways to celebrate Plush Animal Lover’s Day

1. Give your dog(s) new plush animal toys

2. Spend time playing with your dog and his new toy

3. Clean and repair old favorite plush toys

4. Take photos of your dog cuddled next to its new toy

5. Donate new plush animal toys to shelters

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