As my dad checked into a rehab hospital after spinal surgery several years ago, I noticed a woman down the hall who was preparing to check out. Actually, it was her companion who caught my eye — a nearly full-sized Golden Retriever: a beautiful stuffed animal perched alertly and affectionately at the foot of her bed.
Dad had lost his beloved companion of 14 years — a loving Golden named Amber — not long before, so my mandate was clear. I learned from his neighbor that her Golden had been made by the Douglas Company of Keene, New Hampshire, and a quick jump to their site let me identify the name and model number. An Internet search turned up a store, and Blondie (as she was quickly named) joined my dad in the rehab hospital.
It’s almost impossible to describe the effect her arrival had on my dad. She’s been his constant and loyal companion ever since. Blondie has been there to smooth the way as he’s moved to new hospitals, to Assisted Living, and, more recently, to his nursing home.
When my dad and I flew from the west coast to the east coast in an air ambulance, Blondie was squashed into the flying tube with us and the medical team — keeping watch at my dad’s feet. As a result she was with him from the first moment he was in his new nursing home.
Blondie has also been an amazing ice-breaker — everyone wants to ‘meet’ her, and to talk about her. Her proud ‘Daddy’ basks in the glow of all this attention; he’s never been “that new patient in room whatever.” Everybody knows who Blondie and her Daddy are.
We sometimes talk about Blondie when I visit him, and he frequently lovingly shakes a paw. She’s clearly a companion — my dad always has a friend in his room, even when no people are around.
I don’t see Blondie on the Douglas Toy site, but Sherman (pictured right) could be her younger brother, and he’s clearly all Golden — ready to love anyone on a moment’s notice.
Blondie and Sherman are big dogs — Sherman is 32 inches long, and I suspect Blondie is even a little larger — so they aren’t necessarily the right choice for every dog-lover. Most of the Douglas Toys are exceptional for an uncanny likeness to real life, though, and they do cover all the bases from little 6 inch puppies on up to the likes of Blondie and Sherman.
Sherman will set you back a hefty hundred dollars at his regular retail price, although I see that at least one Internet store has him for around seventy-five dollars. Never fear, though, Douglas has puppies for far, far, less, too — all of them as heart-meltingly sweet as Blondie and Sherman.
See also: Love, Imagination and Human Interaction