In time the Rockies may crumble,
Gibraltar may tumble
They’re only made of clay
But our love is here to stay
– Nat King Cole, Our Love is Here to Stay

piggy

a well weathered toy

Recently, Mark* walked into the store with a torn, dirty, and otherwise tattered dog toy, “I got this toy here and Maisy loves it, but I’d like to get her a new one.” Sadly, the toy in question had not been manufactured for quite some time. In fact the last time one was sold from Dolittle’s was some years ago. I was excited to see a toy from so long ago in somewhat decent shape. “How long have you had this toy?” I asked. The response was: “Maybe six years or so.”

Six years. This dog toy had lasted six years. And honestly it looked good enough to go another six. This got me thinking about our perspectives of destruction.

Naturally we want things to last, especially if we pay good money for them. But our standards for “lasting” or “durability” can be very broad. For some a toy is ruined the second the first stitch undone, or the instant it becomes silent. For others it’s not until the toy is so tattered it barely holds together.

While our perspectives of the physical state of destruction vary, one constant seems to hold true: one day the toy will no longer keep our dog’s interest. Based on this, maybe we should give durability a new consideration. Perhaps we should look to our dog’s enjoyment as a measure of a toy’s durability.

As humans we tend to derive enjoyment from construction. Give us a puzzle and we will build it. Give us a canvas and we will paint it. Give us flour and sugar, and we will bake a cake. Dogs tend to derive pleasure from destruction (and sleeping in sunny spots). Give them a shoe and they tear it up. Give them a bone and they chew it. Give them your homework, and well, you get the idea.

Toys make dogs happy. Of this we can be sure. Her eyes get bright, her ears perk up, her tail wags, her tongue pops out, she starts to drool, we attribute these physical signals to joy. These signs of enjoyment are only the beginning. They occur even before she’s set the first tooth on a toy. Next comes the teasing: “Who wants the toy?” Then the interaction: “Go get it!” Then prolonged interaction: “Again! Go get it!” Then some individual interaction: ripping, de-squeaking, tossing, tugging, repeat, repeat, repeat. This is the process of canine enjoyment. This is what dogs do (they do not have tea parties with squirrels in hats and little dresses). Why would we stop this process at any point? Why not let enjoyment run it’s course?

torn toy

not destroyed, just well loved

Mark was disappointed to hear that Maisy’s toy had out lasted the company that originally made them. However he was happy to see a few other toys with similar attributes. Hours later I got a call from Mark asking for two more of the toy he had purchased. That should make Maisy’s enjoyment secure for the next 18 years, at least.

*From time to time customers provide us with ideas and stories to write about, but rather than placing them on this public forum we change names to keep their stories private (kinda).

A few words on toy safety:
It’s true, nothing is indestructible (the Rockies may tumble). Tearing seams, taking stuffing out, and popping the squeaker are all part of the canine enjoyment process. Naturally we advise that you purchase toys that are an appropriate size for your dog. We suggest supervision with toys. Swallowing bits of fuzz and stuffing are not uncommon. Swallowing large bits, or the squeaker whole, well, yes that is problematic. Hence, the supervision. Dog toys can live on with a small bit of maintenance. They can be re-sewn, re-stuffed, and even re-squeaked. Get creative: tie a toy in knots, hide a treat or two in it, or soak it and freeze it for a chilly teether. With a bit of effort you can continue to rekindle your dogs enjoyment in their favorite toy.

TRUE: I once had a customer return a toy because their dog had pulled out a little bit of stuffing.  I told her she was welcome to return the toy any time, but she really should take it back to her dog because the dog was having fun with it.  The lady came back two years later!  She said – I want you to know I was surprised by what you asked me to do, but I gave the toy back to my dog and it has been her favorite ever since.

“I’m looking for something indestructible for my dog.”  If I have heard that once, I have heard it a thousand times.  There are currently 357 responses that run through my head.  The response I pose today is “Why?”

Before I talk about toys, let me talk about dogs.  Every dog is different and every one of them plays in a different way.  But one thing they have in common is that they really enjoy a good “kill.” Okay, I said it, it’s out there.  Your sweet Cupcake is a killer.  Be it a squirrel, mouse, mole or bird the result is the same – death.  Maybe there is a dog out there that has a great time chasing a squirrel, then stops, thanks the squirrel for a good romp and goes on about his day.  The rest, well, they just aren’t satisfied until the squeaking stops.

Dogs need toys that provide entertainment.  If you ever find the elusive indestructible toy, there is a high probability that your dog will be absolutely bored solid by it.  She wants a toy that mimics play, one that gives as much as it gets.  Here’s my take on dog toys:  they mimic woodland creatures.  Dog toys are fuzzy, they are often small and roundish, they have voices (i.e. squeaks), and they can move very quickly (either by you throwing it or the dog thrashing it).  So it really should come as no surprise that your dog finds joy in successfully gutting it, destroying the squeak and tossing the remains all over the house.  Perhaps even taking a celebratory roll on the carcass.  This is how your dog is entertained.

Here’s a final thought: for most us movies are entertainment.  Ticket $10, popcorn $5, drink $3, we’ll ignore candy and the cost of a babysitter, that’s $18 for 2 hours of entertainment.  Roughly $.15 cents a minute.  So think of these numbers the next time you are looking for a dog toy.  Start to finish, will the toy meet or exceed a $.15 cents a minute value?  A $9.00 toy only needs to provide 1 hour of happiness, anything longer and you are doing better than a trip to the movies.

Remember – destruction is irrelevant, have fun.

Ric Sommons
Owner – Dolittle’s

NOTE: No woodland creatures were harmed in the writing of this blog. Thank you.