The ugly, disheveled, saliva encrusted duck you see in the picture above is my dogs’ most beloved toy. Every dog in our household (currently 4) has played with this pathetic, threadbare mallard at one time or another. I’ve had “duckyducky” since 2009 when Kaia was a pup. Duckyducky lives on top of my rolltop desk and he’s the focal point of all the dogs’ attention whenever they come into my home office.
We first began playing with Duckyducky when Kaia was about 8 or 9 weeks old. This was her first retrieving object when we would play fetch in the hallway. For those of you not familiar with retriever pups, the hallway is where we first start retriever training because it encourages a direct return with the object by limiting the directions in which the pup can run, walk, leap or fly.
Since Kaia’s puppyhood Duckducky has been instrumental in the training of several other pups and also some adult dogs. The little, stuffed critter has been through some tough times, but like bumpers and other objects used to train retrievers, he is not abandoned to the dogs to be shredded like normal toys. Rather, Duckyducky has become a kind of sacred reminder of the bond between the dogs and me.
He’s also a reminder to me about my role in the game. When you look at this raunchy little ball of fabric you can see nothing that would explain the kind of intense interest that all my dogs have in this crusty toy. That’s because there really is nothing special about the toy itself. It is merely a representation of the bond we have built through playful interaction.
As we proceed into this New Year I want to renew my promise to share quality time with my dogs every day. We will hunt, walk, train, or play together every single day. Forever. I promise!