Last Saturday, our home nearly suffered the loss of a dear family member. His name is Woofy, and he is our youngest son’s favorite stuffed dog. Woofy is a chocolate lab with a soft, faux leather nose that is losing fluff from a previous wound and matted fur that proves he is dutiful, diligently, and deeply loved. Woofy travels with us. Woofy has been to school. Woofy visits grandma’s house. Woofy is well-liked and popular among all the other stuffed animals. Woofy is a model pet. In short, Woofy is indispensable.
It was early evening and the boys were upstairs playing. Hubby and I were downstairs starting dinner and enjoying the fact that the kids were laughing and not bickering...for once. Suddenly, the laughter was rudely interrupted by a disconsolate wail. Immediately, I froze, my Mother’s Sixth Sense instinctively trying to determine if it was a cry of physical pain, anger, indignation, or another of the myriad cries our children have perfected. I didn’t have to wonder for long as our youngest appeared at the top of the stairs, mouthing completely unintelligible words, tears already streaming down his face. I realized then that it was the worst of all possible cries...the cry of heartbreak. It didn’t even matter what had happened. My son was so tortured in that moment that my heart was right there with his. I felt sick to my stomach.
“Slow down and tell me what happened, sweetie.”
He barely managed a broken and pathetic, “W-OO-OO-OO-OOOOOOFY!” Then the impossible words formed on his lips: “Woofy is GONE!!!”
I don’t know exactly what took over my brain at that point, but I’m fairly sure that if temporary insanity exists I had it. Apparently a deep-seated post traumatic stress disorder memory from a stuffed animal mishap during my childhood took hold of me. I raced up the stairs on a mission with my sobbing little boy trailing behind.
“WHERE’D HE GO?” I screamed. My children just stared at me, clearly unsure what to make of their wild-eyed mother.
They pointed to the corner of the room and an air conditioning vent that was missing its cover. I ran to the corner, flew onto my son’s bed as if channeling Superman, and peered down into the dark vent hole. I could see nothing. Hubby soon arrived to see just my legs and feet as the rest of me tumbled off the bed so I could reach down the vent to determine if Woofy went straight down or, by some dumb luck, hit a curve in the vent and stayed close enough to grab.
Bad news. Woofy really was gone. I started shouting commands like an officer at a Marine boot camp.
“Get me a flashlight. I need a flashlight and a tape measure NOW!”
The three men in my life stumbled around dumbfounded, trying to locate flashlights that were long since appropriated for more fun endeavors like making scary faces while pretend camping in the basement. When they finally located a cheap, plastic, children’s flashlight and fresh batteries, I aimed the flashlight down the black hole. And, sure enough, Woofy was down there. WAY down there. Twelve deep, long, bleak feet down there, to be exact. The pain on my son’s face as he registered his loss was excruciating. Woofy was our Baby Jessica in the well. We had to rescue him, no matter what it took.
With hubby’s stomach growling, we reconvened in the kitchen to discuss our game plan. Hubby didn’t seem very concerned given the gravity of the situation. Of course, Attila the Hun might have appeared a bit of a milquetoast when compared to my frenzied hysterics.
“I’ll open the vent from the crawl space after dinner,” he said, far too calmly for my liking.
“It may not seem this way to you,” I said in my most-restrained, protective Mama Bear voice, “but THIS is an emergency!”
I stomped downstairs to the crawl space, fully intending to take care of the situation myself...until I got there and stared into the recesses of that cavernous space, the space that is filled with spiders, large wolf spiders known in our house only as “the creatures that must not be named.”
Realizing that I was not going to let this go until Woofy had been rescued, hubby caved. With flathead screwdriver in hand, he braved the depths of the crawl space and went to work taking the vent apart. The boys and I stayed near the crawl space, ready to help in any way possible as long as actually entering the crawl space did not come into play. In a few short minutes, I watched my husband become a hero as he pulled Woofy from the vent and gently handed him to his tearful owner.
In that moment it went from Threat Level Red to Threat Level Green in our house. We all took turns hugging Woofy and talking about how happy we were. Disaster averted. Crisis resolved. The nightmare was over. Or, so I thought.
Three nights later at dinner we were talking about the whole ordeal again when our little guy spoke up:
“Can we please stop talking about Woofy?” he said nearly in tears.
I knew then that this experience would change my son the way I was changed 30 years earlier when my beloved orange bean bag dog, Drooper, sustained a life-threatening loss of beans during a household tussle. Someday, I imagine that my son will have his own post traumatic stress moment when his child’s stuffed toy is in peril. I know he will react as I did. He will relive the entire emotional experience of fearing that the thing you love most has been lost forever and temporarily misplace his sanity. And, hopefully, in that moment his memory will erase the near loss of Woofy and in its place put a new memory, the memory of a wild-eyed father who would not rest until all was set right again.