Friends in High Places: My Cat Finds a New Bestie

Calvin curled up next to his new friend

Calvin curled up next to his friend.

My dogs love stuffed animals. They love to chew on them. They love to play tug with them. They love to de-stuffify them. They love to shred them.

It doesn’t take too long before an adorable doggy plaything is reduced to an unrecognizable empty pelt. Lilah, Jasper and Tucker will play with an ex-monkey or a used-to-be-a-cow until it is not much more than a scrap pile; at that point, the once-fluffly fragments and filling bits are thrown out. When no one is looking: I don’t want to see those faces giving me that “Hey, what are you doing with my favorite piece of skunk?” look.

Jasper and Tucker play tug with an ex-monkey.

Jasper and Tucker play tug with a pelt that may or may not have once been a monkey. A chewed-up chipmunk, an empty bear and half a snake toy are on the floor.

It’s an expensive habit, and our canine destructo force consumes plush animals at a voracious pace. To ensure supply meets demand, I shop at the twice-yearly VNA Rummage Sale, an event so humongous it takes weeks to set up, lasts an entire weekend and offers a multitude of other people’s trash treasures for sale in various tents and buildings stretched out over an area the size of several football fields. Benefiting the local Visiting Nurse Association, it’s among the best rummage sales in the country.

Nearly every time I go, I stop by the stuffed animals tent (Yes, there’s a tent just for everyone’s discarded plush toys) where I purchase about a dozen or so child-safe plushies for about a dollar each. (I also spend a lot of time in the books tent; it’s a book lover’s dream: thousands of books, a dollar each.)

Three dogs, three toys

Tucker with a lion, Jasper has a lemur, and Lilah nose-to-tail with a fox.

After a couple of rounds in the washer (on the hot-water setting), and dryer (also turned way up), the soon-to-be dog toys are stowed in a couple of contractor sized garbage bags in my basement, from whence I pull three at time to give to my dogs. This results in numerous discussion over ownership, as each dog is convinced the other dog has the Best One.

That's Lilah's lion, Tucker.

I believe that’s Lilah’s lion, Tucker. Best to be content with your bunny.

Among the armful of stuffed animals I purchased at a recent VNA sale was a sea turtle. As in previous visits, when checking out, I tried in vain not to feel guilty when the kindly grey-haired woman who rung up my finds smiled at me and said, “Someone is going to be very happy with these new friends.”

I just nodded and said, “Several someones,” trying not to let the mental image of three dogs eviscerating their new friends show in my eyes.

Tucker and a stuffed koala bear

The dogs don’t always have to shred; sometimes a stuffed animal makes a good pillow.

The reason for the turtle specifically was because my husband likes turtles. There’s a pond he passes every day on the way to work, and before the selfish people who owned the property put trees up to block the view, Brian would count the turtles sunning themselves on the log on his way to and from the office. I’d get a text: “It’s a 5-turtle day!” or simply: “7!!!”

So, for a dollar, I thought it might be amusing to buy a stuffed animal for my husband.

The other day, I pulled out four toys, offering Jasper an ostrich, Tucker an alligator and Lilah an otter. (She likes to chew on the whiskers). I handed the turtle to my husband. “This one is for you.”

“Thanks. Great. I”ll bring it to my office.”

At that moment, a loud discussion broke out among the dogs, as both Tucker and Jasper decided the ostrich was the desired toy of the moment. I ran off to referee.

Maybe that’s why I neglected to detect the note of sarcasm in my husband’s voice. Brian does deadpan really well.

The next day, seeing the turtle on the coffee table, I figured he must have forgotten to bring it in. That night I was a bit horrified to find the turtle in Tucker’s possession. “I gave it to him,” explained my son Aaron. “I thought it was for the dogs.”

“Not this one.” I was clear. “It was for Brian.”

“Brian?”

“Yes. You know. It’s a turtle.” Everyone in the family knows Brian likes turtles.

“And what was Brian going to do with it?”

“He said he was going to take it to work.”

My son stared at me, giving me that look that young adults offer their parents when they are sure you’ve gone bat-poop crazy.

“Oookaaay.” He handed me the turtle and walked away shaking his head. I gave Tucker a lemur.

Now that the dogs apparently thought the toy was theirs, I needed to put it someplace that was safe from potential canine carnage.

I tossed it up on to one of the cat shelves in our family room. The cats hadn’t been visiting them recently and the turtle would be visible there so Brian would easily see and remember it.

That night, while we were trying to catch up on missed episodes of Being Human (British version), our cat Calvin wandered into the family room and began his post-dinner body bath. As he was attempting to reach a particular spot on the back of his left hind leg, he noticed the turtle, and froze mid-lick, leg sticking up at an awkward angle.

Calvin, the most introverted of our cats, usually hightails it to the nearest cat cave when anyone new enters his environment. It takes a while for him to feel comfortable enough to make an appearance. But this visitor wasn’t loud or large, and didn’t wear boots. Calvin is very suspicious of boots.

Curious but cautious, the cat decided to introduce himself.

Calvin slink-crept his way up to toward the unauthorized intruder. He stretched from one shelf to another to place two sets of jelly bean toes on the one where the toy sat quietly. Cat stared at turtle. Turtle looked off in the distance in a most cat-like, “I respect you” manner.

Deciding the silent creature was more friend than foe, Calvin jumped up next to the turtle and sniffed it a few times to make a final determination of acceptability. Then he snuggled up next to his new friend and went to sleep with his head on the toy’s furry flipper.

“Look at Calvin! Isn’t that sweet?” I showed Brian the live and stuffed animals sharing a shelf and a nap. “He really likes that turtle. Are you still planning on taking it to work?”

“What? The stuffed animal? Seriously?”

I was quiet.

“Did you really think I was going to take that thing to work?”

“You said…” I didn’t even bother to finish the sentence as both Brian and Aaron dissolved into two piles of snorts and laughter.

Now we often find Calvin on the cat shelf curled up next to the turtle, sleeping in companionable silence.

From unloved and discarded child’s toy, to potential dog prey, to rejected office decoration, our stuffed turtle found a buddy who accepts his quietness, his empty, off-focus stare, and his unlikely fur.

You never know who your next friend is going to be; all you have to do is introduce yourself.

A friend is someone you can share your dreams with.



4 Comments on "Friends in High Places: My Cat Finds a New Bestie"

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  1. 2 Punk Dogs says:

    This is so awesome! Love the pics of the dogs playing & especially love the one of Calvin & his new friend. 🙂 (We call our cats’ toes jelly beans too.)

  2. Sandy Weinstein says:

    my youngest is very destructive, even the go toys she can go thru in abt 1-2 hrs and they are supposed to be indestructible. you can find good deals at big lots, dollar store (be careful abt the made in china ones though), you can also make some by putting a thick sock over a plastic water bottle, even put some small rocks in it to make noise. also go to a fabric store and make some with the plush material, you can also sew in squeakers. my dog is a small dog. i find stuffing, bits and pieces all over the house. this morning she tried to hide a lamb’s ear, in my bed underneath me and between the covers. also tj maxx, marshall’s and other discount stores have some really nice toys, look in their marked down area as well.

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