So why a stuffed duck? Me, a grown man with a stuffed duck. I’ve had him since sometime in the ’90s. I bought him in a card shop in a mall. Y’know, one of those Hallmark kind of shops that also sells a gazillion little gifts and lots of candles. Dutch–that’s what I named him, Dutch the Duck–was in a big container on the floor with about twenty other identical siblings. I actually selected him from among the crowd. Don’t remember exactly why, but he stood out…spoke to me sort of. So on impulse I bought him. I have no idea how much he cost; can’t remember. It makes no matter because today I consider him priceless.
Dutch is basic duck yellow with orange bill and feet. He’s got a little fluff tail that no longer stands tall on its own. Now it just kind of slumps over his exaggerated butt. Dutch has worn-out Velcro pads on all four feet. Used to be he liked to hug you anywhere he could wrap his feet around you and stick them together.
Dutch’s default posture is lying on his belly, all fours extended. Once in a while I will cross his front feet together and lay his head atop them, but that’s it. Most days he’s on the bed after it’s made and there he stays until he moves to the floor at night.
Dutch is silly looking. That’s perhaps what drew me to him. I do like silliness. He’s also sad appearing at times and often seems to be merely observing what’s going on around him.
Over the years, Dutch got to be a bit dirty and was beginning to look as though he wasn’t taking very good care of himself. I decided to gamble a few months ago and give him a bath. So I put him in the washing machine on the slow cycle, cold water only. Then I dried him on the delicate setting. He came out looking brand new. He looked great. I quietly did the dance of joy.
Now, I will disclose one thing that I hesitate to divulge because not everyone will understand. Dutch and I have a pact. We won’t advertise all over the place that we talk to each other and if we are asked we will deny it.
I do have to tell you he is the optimist between the two of us. Most times, everything to him is just ducky. He’s also quite comfortable within his own feathers. He doesn’t spend hours primping his plumage or tweaking his bill. He’s happy being dumpy looking and maintaining that image. He knows others find it warm and endearing. And that’s one other big thing about Dutch—he is what he is, a lovable, goofy soft character whose only mission in life is to be there for you. He has no hidden agenda, no false pretense.
I realize I risk a little disclosing all this about me and my stuffed duck. Other people have pets to fulfill this kind of quirkiness…a purring cat rubbing up against you or a pooch on your lap licking your face. I don’t need those kinds of comforters. I’ve got Dutch. He doesn’t lick, doesn’t purr and he doesn’t sit or roll over on command. But he does just as much, if not more. He never makes a mess, never destroys the furniture or makes you feel guilty if you’ve had to leave him by himself for a period of time. And, most of all, Dutch won’t die. There’s nothing much worse than having a pet be a part of your life for a good number of years and then, usually suddenly, it’s gone. It’s a devastating experience.
We all need a little Dutch in our lives. In fact, I suspect it would give lots of people at least a brief moment of the one thing we all have trouble achieving…and that’s peace of mind. There’s something about a silly stuffed animal that is universally calming and peaceful. In the movie Cast Away, Tom Hanks had Wilson. I have a stuffed duck…I consider him a worthy Dutch treat.