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  • Writer's pictureReyna Bradford

The Toy Tub (Written 3/12/20)

Butterscotch may technically be only one-quarter golden retriever. The other three-quarters are poodle, but as far as I can tell, there's an awful lot of golden in there, regardless. He's a party animal. He adores water. He loves paddling in it, loves wallowing in it, loves splashing and making as much noise and muddy mess in it as he possibly can. We haven't yet been to water deep enough for him to try swimming, but my hunch is that, given the chance, he'll love that kind of water even more.

Especially if it involves retrieving a toy.

Scotch is absolutely enamoured of toys. He is the only puppy I've ever had (and believe me, I have had quite a few!) who has permission to keep eight or ten plush squeaky toys lying around the house at all times. I always have items underfoot for my puppies to chew—whether they be something like a Nilabone, or a cow hoof, or (in their crates where no other dogs can steal something so high-value) a pig ear or beef trachea. But plush squeakies are usually kept in a tub out in the utility room, which is off limits to dogs. Toys are brought out for special occasions, like training or one-on-one play sessions with me.

But I've never had them just wandering at large through the house and backyard. They are too valuable for that, a reward I want to bring out only when earned. And, more practically speaking, they are easy to rip up and destroy. Dundee, for instance, has a real knack for gutting squeaky toys, even while retrieving them to me. He may bring them back as directed, but whether or not they return the same as when they left is up for discussion.

But I've learned that's not how Scotch operates. He is considerate of his toys. He works them hard, but he's careful with them. He can spend minutes at a time squeaking and squeaking and squeaking one of them, dashing around the house and out into the yard with it, but never putting so much as a tatter in it.

Up until now, Scotch has taken whatever toys I have offered. He is not fussy. Every few days, I add to the collection accumulating in the living room, carrying them in from the toy tub and dropping them into his world. Until now. Now he has options. Now he has discovered the toy tub.

I'm not sure how he found it, because the tub is pushed up against a wall of the utility room, and the only way to learn there are toys in it is to put your doggy head over the edge and look inside. The dogs only go through the utility room on their way out for a walk or coming home from one, and that's always done under supervision with their attention riveted on the storm door. However, Tassie, Banner, and Butterscotch do have access to the room one other time each day. Those are the three dogs that I take out front with me to do chores. I lead each one outside individually, no toy tub involved. But when we're finished outside, I prop open the storm door and let them all come pounding back indoors en mass.

Banner comes in at average whippet speed, which is to say at about twenty-five miles per hour. He bounds through the front door, totally oblivious of anything except his goal to get inside the warm house.

Tassie comes in economically. It is, after all, the rule and the routine, and she follows the rules. And then Scotch comes lolloping in, pauses, turns left instead of right—and finds treasure.

He makes his choice quickly. He grabs a toy—a long, stocking type affair with a squeaker in each end, and then dashes joyously indoors. For about ten minutes he runs and squeaks, squeaks and runs. He tours the house, then the backyard, then back in the house to fling himself onto the sofa, flop on his back, and flails his head from side to side, still clutching the toy and squeaking it. He loves that thing.

Tonight his prize was a plastic water bottle secured inside a rope sleeve. Maybe he missed that one, because the bottle only crackles and doesn't squeak. But he was thrilled with it anyway. And now, he can always go back for another one. He knows where mom stashes the goods.

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