Everyone loves gifts, right? Jonah certainly did. If it was something someone gifted to him, he seemed to know it and then treasured the item. The first incident I can think of is the stuffed frog that he carried with him everywhere. He would even take it on walks with us sometimes or we would find it on the driveway where he would have left it after sunning himself there in the afternoon. I had given him toys throughout his life but this particular toy he selected for himself one day when I’d taken him into the store with me to pick up some food. I must have had a few extra dollars that month so decided he could have a new toy or chew. I walked him down the aisle, letting him sniff everything he might want and telling him he could choose something with an encouraging note to my voice. He came to this bin of pink and green stuffed things: the pink ones were pigs and the green were frogs. Each was somewhat quilted in texture with a squeaker inside. He stopped and nosed around in it and came out with a frog. He set it on the ground and then rooted around in the bin again. I offered him a pig, which he sniffed and nosed, before returning to the frog. He pushed it a couple times, picked it up, and walked down the aisle with his tail wagging. Ok, that was the one.

I realized later, after returning home, that the first toy I’d ever given him was a small frog. I’d bought it at Target, where the toys weren’t really sized for big dogs so it was way too small for him and he’d outgrown it quickly. Was it a coincidence that he chose another frog for himself many years later? I like to think not.

Another cherished toy was the squeaky reindeer that Grandma Ann had given him the year we drove out to Alabama so he could come with us. Our granddaughter was just under four and it was the first year where she was starting to get into the holiday spirit. We were all excitedly opening gifts pulled from under the tree. I hadn’t thought about getting anything special for Jonah because he was already a dog with a box filled with toys and didn’t need any new ones. He’d never been a destroyer of things, other than cardboard or to surgically remove any hard-plastic eyes that a toy might contain leaving bits of white fluff coming from the orbitals. So he just tended to accumulate toys.

Thankfully, my mother-in-law is one of the most thoughtful people I know and had bought him a special something. She brought out a small gift bag, stuffed with some paper as one does with gift bags, and offered it to Jonah. He knew it was for him, and likely smelled the furry toy within, so he started nosing through the paper to find the toy. He happily pulled it out after a few tries and then proceeded to play with the toy for the remainder of his life. The frog and the deer were two of his favorites and he knew them by name. I would ask him, before he lost his hearing, where one or the other was and he’d look up at me, then wander off to wherever he’d last left them.

Last year at this time he was given a present by a friend. It had come completely wrapped, but he knew when the gifts were left which one was for him and he had nosed it but left the others. Come Christmas morning we were all curious what was in his box that he’d been able to detect was something particularly for him. I assumed it must have treats or some food item inside. We gave him his box and told him he could open it. Inside we found a stuffed seal (no ears) and a new water dish. No food. Huh. That was a surprise. There must be some particular scent to a stuffed animal. It was squeaker-less, but he loved it anyway and carried it with him for days.

Jonah getting into the Christmas spirit

There are other stories of special gifts given to him, like the slightly too-small bed from my Sharon and the purple dragon from our son and daughter-in-law. All of them he treasured and would use from time to time. I suppose we gave him the greatest gift this year by releasing him from this life where his body hurt and he struggled to enjoy his favorite things. He hadn’t played with his toys much for a while and he even had stopped obsessing about treats, so those were signs of what was going on for him. I had hoped to have another year with him, but life, as it often does, did not go as expected. I hope you have all your favorite toys surrounding you, Bubbaloo, and that you are chasing squirrels, birds, and deer to your heart’s content. There are days when your absence doesn’t hurt as much, and then there are gift-giving seasons when I think of your antics and I couldn’t miss you more. Merry Christmas Jonahroo. We love you.

Jonah with his favorite stuffies