So while Philippe was busy creating a wonderful watercolor painting of Corsica, I was sitting next to him doodlewashing a stuffed duck. Meet Duckie. This is the good friend of our dog, Phineas, and you’ll always find him like this, unceremoniously plopped on the floor waiting to be grabbed in Phineas’ teeth at any moment.
Though this may seem like an odd way to treat your friend, Duckie doesn’t seem to mind as his expression stays pleasantly fixed in a blank stare. There’s a game that we’re meant to play with Duckie as Phineas brings him over to show us, but we’ve never been able to figure out exactly how to play it. It’s bits of tug-o-war and fetch, but the exact order is a mystery and, after a few minutes, he just looks at us sadly because he realizes we must be stupid.
If you’re wondering why anyone would doodlewash a dog toy, well there’s a secondary significance to Duckie. He’s the first toy Philippe ever bought for Phineas shortly after they met 3 years ago this month. This is a photo of them meeting for the very first time on Philippe’s first night in Kansas City. The initial scrutiny would lead to love at first sight and a bond that was unshakable over the next six weeks of Philippe’s visit.
After Philippe went back to Paris, Phineas was visibly shaken and sad. Duckie ceased to be a toy and became a stand-in for his newly lost friend. No matter where Duckie had landed in the house, you would find him mysteriously appear again next to Phineas on the couch. He would cuddle up next to him every second he could, occasionally licking him with affection. He did this for a two full months while he waited for Philippe to return.
Whenever I look at Duckie, it brings back all the memories of that time, which were both wonderful and bittersweet. It’s hard to know how to comfort your dog, when you’re also sad for the very same reason. When Philippe finally came back, Phineas was thrilled. He immediately ran off to grab Duckie by the neck and bring him to show Philippe. But Duckie was just a toy again now, their toy, and it was time for two best friends to play.
With the change in Duckie’s status, he soon burst seams and one day while he was once again laying unceremoniously on the floor, he was unceremoniously gutted by Phineas. A sad end for a once prominent member of the family to be sure, but we quickly replaced him with a new one. We’ve been doing this ever since. You’re actually looking at Duckie #10, and he is a spitting image of the first one, as this is the only duck they sell at our downtown grocery store.
When Phineas gets a little too overzealous with Duckie, up to and including attempting to give him a tracheotomy, we simply tell him that Duckie has to “go to the hospital and will be back soon.” This worked well at first, when we actually remembered to grab a duck at the store, but sometimes there is a long delay. Phineas just looks at us sadly assuming we must be poor and therefore do not have very good insurance.
But soon all is restored and we’re one small happy family again. And Duckie remains today a symbol of a time when life was uncertain, but love was never in doubt. Although you won’t find Phineas cuddled up with Duckie these days. And that’s just fine. Instead, he’ll be cuddled up next to Philippe, who went from stranger, to best friend, and eventually the best dad, who, for one little hopeful dog, finally came home.