|William's bear in the early years|
Eventually, when William learned to trust that I would always come home, and I got tired of vacuuming stuffing and bits of plush off the rug, we kicked the stuffed animal habit. William, however, never lost his fondness for teddy bears.
Three or four years ago, a neighbor put a box of toys out on the sidewalk with "FREE" written on the side. In the box, taking up almost half of it, was a big caramel-colored bear. We noticed the box one afternoon on our way home from a walk, and William went straight for the bear. He grabbed the bear's head with his teeth and started tugging. William is a large dog, but the bear was so big that he had trouble getting it out of the box. I tried to help, but--for the first and only time in our life together--he growled at me. It was his bear. He'd spied it, and he wanted it. When he finally got the bear out of the box, he couldn't carry it without dragging it along the ground and tripping on it. Struggling, he finally decided to accept my help, and together we carried his prize up the street to our house--William holding it by the head, I holding it by the hind legs.
William's bear is still with us. Its face is gone, one ear is chewed, its head and body are empty of stuffing, one forepaw is all but severed, and one foot is partially detached. William doesn't chew on the bear anymore. He just nuzzles it and rests his head on it when he naps. From time to time I think about trashing it, but I don't. William loves it too much.