“We need to talk about the elephant in the room,” said my husband.
I gulped and nodded. It was a conversation I had tried to avoid for some time, but it was clear that there was no putting it off any longer. This was something that was not going to get better on its own. It had to be addressed.
“The elephant has got to go,” he said decisively.
We both looked over at the dog lying on the rug, sleeping blissfully with a tattered stuffed elephant clamped in his mouth. It wasn’t just “a toy.” It was the love of his life. He greeted everyone who came in the door with the elephant, crispy in some places and wet with drool in others—just what every guest wanted to receive upon entering our house. He carried it from room to room, just in case he decided to stay there so it would always be nearby. And, just like a child, he took it to bed with him every night.
The elephant had definitely led a tough life. He was missing one leg, had no eyes, and a very sad little hairless tail. There was a hole in the side I kept sewing shut that he would reopen, leaving tufts of toy elephant stuffing around the room. I washed it as often as possible, yet the scent of dog slobber lingered, no matter how much doggie detergent I used. But the dog loved the elephant, three legs, no eyes and all, and was unwilling to trade up to another brand of stuffed moose or squirrel. When we hid the elephant, he sniffed around the house until he found it. Apparently the dog had a better memory than an elephant.
When the kids were little, they each had their own blankies that they dragged around, slept with and sucked on, just like the dog. Kid number one had a special, one-of-a-kind blanket that was impossible to replace when it started to fall apart. We finally had to give him another lesser blankie, which scarred him for life. We wised up with kid number two and gave her a blanket that was mass-produced and could be found in every kids’ store in the country. When we finally told her at age 18 that we had swapped out her blankie about a dozen times when she was little, she said she knew and was on to us from the beginning. When I asked her how she knew, she would reply, “The new ones were too clean.”
So, now we had this situation with the dog and I was desperate to find a replacement elephant so he wouldn’t be scarred for life, too.
Dragging the crunchy, three-legged, blind elephant around with me, I went to half a dozen pet stores, but no one carried the exact one. Then I looked online, but the darn stuffed elephant was nowhere to be found. Finally, on an obscure pet website, I found it. It was the same brand and the same material and squeaked in all the right places. The only problem was, it wasn’t a gray elephant. It was a pink bunny.
“I don’t know,” I said to my husband, showing him the image on the website. It’s exactly the same but it’s not an elephant, its a bunny. Do you think he’ll mind?
My husband looked at the picture and shrugged.
“Just pull off a leg, leave it out in the rain, and poke its eyes out, and he’ll never know the difference.”
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