Now it just seems like a sadistic joke I played on myself.
We celebrated Toby's second year of life with lots of extra furry kisses and hugs, a look back through his adorable puppy photos, watching him toss around a new rawhide bone with glee and me promising to resurrect all of the stuffed animals in the toy graveyard.
As Toby has grown, his penchant for violently shaking the crap out of his stuffed animals has grown, too. It's almost as if we're not playing rough enough with him, so he takes his latest victim by an appendage and shakes his head back and fourth until it flies out of his mouth at any random trajectory then he happily pounces after it.
The result, after weeks or months of abuse, is typically a torn seam. And if we don't stop it at that, he will dig out all of the stuffing and spread it around so it looks like a crime scene of white fluff.
When a toy bites the dust, instead of throwing it out, I toss it in a drawer with the other casualties. Then, every once in awhile, I dig out a needle and thread and give all of them new life.
They never quite look the same -- sometimes I have to stitch up a missing ear or an eye -- but Toby doesn't care. It's like revisiting all of his old friends at once. A stuffed animal reunion party. With lots of good war stories.
The wait for each toy nearly kills him. I pile all of them on the coffee table in the living room, settle in on the couch and work on them one by one. Toby doesn't understand, of course, why he can't just leap up and unleash his wrath on the mound, but he does understand that the table is strictly off limits. So he just sort of paces in a frantic circle, every once in awhile letting out a muffled cry like, "Pleeeease, pleeease, PLEEEAAASSEE CAN I HAVE THEM?"
"Patience, Toby," I tell him, laughing. "You can have this one in a minute."
Eventually he keys in on the one I'm holding, leaps up on the couch and sits as close to me as he can without actually crawling under my skin. Then he employs his most mastered technique, pitiful-looking eyes, and nudges an inch at a time toward the toy, sometimes extending his tongue to see if maybe he can get away with just. licking. it.
"Ah," I say, and the mere syllable forces him to snap his tongue back into his mouth and let out a deep sigh. "Not yet."
By the time I'm tying a knot in the thread, his interest is so piqued that the energy is practically bursting out of his tiny body. His tail nub is flailing, every muscle shaking in anticipation of that first toss. Then, finally, finally, I give it a heave across the room and he takes off so fast that it leaves me wondering whether he was ever even sitting next to me.
Then, as if right on cue, he greets his old friend as only Toby can.
By violently shaking the crap out of it.
And I know it'll be back in the toy graveyard soon.
Happy birthday, buddy. May you have many, many more.