Roadside Assistance: A Small (and Furry) Anecdote

My kids each grab an animal every time we leave the house. They bring hard plastic animals on our jaunts to the woods, stuffed animals on our family stroller walks, and sometimes one of each on our trips to Grandma’s house. Different ones almost every day!

If those Pixar movies were right about toy sentience, then I’m pretty sure every inanimate animal in our house feels deeply loved at some point in a given month. (Or at least deeply useful, given that the kids have been utilizing some of the farm animals as snow shovels lately.)

The other day, Violet grabbed a stuffed white puppy — her “woof-woof” — to accompany her in the stroller on our lunch-break family walk. We did our usual rounds, down a quiet countryside road to our favorite farm and back. The kids happily gabbed and sang songs and delighted in seeing the cows, the sheep, and Buster the dog.

Meanwhile, Danielle and I grabbed some of the only adult conversation we can find in a given day. (Fun Fact: Expressing thoughts in complete sentences is a rare occurrence when you have small children. Who knew?)

In the midst of the kids’ cute gabbing and our conversation-grabbing, we didn’t notice until we were almost home that Violet had accidentally dropped her puppy at some point along the way. Not wanting it to be run over by a tractor on this farm-adjacent road, I assured Violet I would find her little pal and jogged home to get the minivan so I could retrace our steps. Then I drove along, scanning the margins of the road but seeing nothing. I began to envision having to be the bearer of bad news for our spunky but sensitive little animal lover. I could just imagine her saying “woof-woof?” with those big, sad eyes.

But then I saw the puppy, all the way back near the farm we had visited. He was lying on his side, his white fur blending in with the nearby snow. His wide black eyes seemed dazed and forlorn, maybe even despondent. (Darn you, Toy Story, you’ve really done a number on me!)

I pulled over and snapped a picture so I could send it to Danielle, who could show it to Violet right away and put her little mind at ease. (But let’s be honest: I also snapped a picture because I immediately envisioned putting this on social media.)

Regardless of my multiple motives, I sighed with relief that I could be a hero for Violet, striding in the doorway holding her beloved lost puppy aloft, like some noble rescuer of lost canines. I happily got back in the minivan and started heading home.

But 100 yards down the road, I realized something.

Something fairly crucial, I might add.

And that something was this:

I didn’t actually pick up the puppy.

So just to be clear: I found Violet’s lost dog, pulled over, took a few pictures of it, admired those pictures, texted one to Danielle, and then proceeded to leave that poor pitiable pup on the side of the road.

Some heroic papa I turned out to be. Assuming stuffed-animal sentience, can you imagine what that little guy thought of me as I took his picture and then drove away? Because I’d rather not.

So here are my 3 takeaways from this tiny, furry little saga:

#1 – It feels really, really good to be a hero for your kids once in a while. Violet beamed with joy when I walked into the house with her lost dog. And even now, a week later, she looks up at me and says “Papa, van, woof-woof!” nearly every day. My daring, harrowing rescue of her beloved puppy has clearly made an indelible impression on her.

#2 – Social media has done quite a number on us, especially as parents. Generating content about our kids can supersede the actual lived experience of being a parent. Sometimes we’re not fully in the moment because we want to share the moment. We can want to document a thing so much that we forget to actually do the thing. This is something our grandparents would not be able to fathom, and for good reason. Because it’s fundamentally unnatural. I have some soul-searching to do in this realm.

#3 – This puppy should be the protagonist in Toy Story 5, right? I mean, look at those eyes!

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