Friday, July 2, 2010

Toy Car

I bought quite a few toys for Abby and then Father once I found he liked them, too. In the grocery store, I would buy tennis balls and racquet balls for the dogs as well as Frisbees. Abby and Father went through those things like a thrasher, so I needed to continually stock up on these items. At the big-box pet stores is where I’d buy the ‘specialized’ dog toys such as a rope shaped in a figure ‘8’ that Abby loved to play tug of war with. I’d also buy the other garden variety dog toys such as the squeaky toys or miscellaneous throwing toys to play fetch with.

Right now, a reader viewing this blog will be thinking “This seems normal. Nothing remarkable here.” However, the next toy I’ll describe which is not meant for dogs is where I pushed the boundaries of eccentricness. First, I’ll give a brief background of the inspiration for my purchasing this toy. I knew Abby loved to chase things such as ball, Frisbees and even little animals such as squirrels. Father, too, loved doing these things as well. “How would they like it if I bought them a remote control toy car?” I thought, “Would they be scared of it?” As I’ve said before, Abby craved excitement and loved doing and seeing new things. Keeping her interested in things and stopping her from being bored was quite a task at times. She had proclivities to be a lazy fat baby if given the opportunity so I had to keep her active.

In order to see how they would react to a remote control toy car, the best way to find out was to go to the store and buy one. The closest store to me at the time was a K-Mart (which is closed now) a couple of miles away on New Bern Ave., but I didn’t go there because the store always had inventory problems, the service sucked, and waiting in those indeterminable lines made a trip 5 miles away to the mall worth my while even when the time factor is considered. In the words of Raymond in Rain Man “K-Mart sucks”.

I went to a Toys-R-Us at the Crabtree Valley Mall. The store wasn’t in the mall itself but in a building across the parking lot from Belk’s. Getting to Crabtree could be a pain in the ass sometimes with the cars backed up all the way to the Beltline at times, the four or five light cycles to pass through an intersection, and of course the parking which could be sparse there. On this day, I don’t think I had much problems making my way there or finding a parking space. Since it was summer, the shopping crowd was relatively thinned out. However going to that place during Christmas can be a zoo.

I picked a silver car in the shape of a race car. I stopped by the grocery store, bought some batteries and went back home to play with my new toy. I was so excited. After I assembled everything and did a test run by myself in my bedroom, I brought the car out to the living room, placed the toy directly in the middle and watched the baby’s’ response.

Abby cautiously approached it, her ears drooped and forehead wrinkled. She sniffed it and walked around it to give a thorough inspection. Father was following Abby’s lead. After a minute or so, they became comfortable with the object which at the time, they did not view as a toy. At that point, I pressed the lever on the remote controller and lurched the car forward a few inches. Abby flinched and jumped back. She looked scared, confused and intrigued all at once. She started whining a little. I lurched the car forward again. This time she only flinched but didn’t jump. She nudged the car with her nose. Next I put the car in full throttle. Abby jumped out of the way as the car sped by. Her vocalization was a full deep-chested bark. Meanwhile, Father, who was watching the event, took on that look—a look he has when he is on the prowl. Father snapped into ‘predator mode’. He, too, barked at the car but in contrast to Abby’s, Father’s was a high pitched, shrill, and piercing bark. They both gave chase to the car. I learned quickly that I could aim the car at Abby and she would dodge it out of fear and hesitation. However if I pulled that stunt with Father, he would use his predatory skills to knock the car over or he would simply grab the car with his teeth and chew it up. It didn’t take long for the plastic protruding parts on the car to become gnarled and mangled.

This toy would give us many hours of fun both inside and out. Outside, I could maneuver the car better on the concrete pool deck and change direction better than what I could do inside. I could also make the car go faster outside was well. Regardless if the car was out or in, the dogs loved playing with it. Sometimes I would bring the car into the room and leave it in an inconspicuous place and leave the remote control by my table. The dogs would hardly take notice of it and after a while forget it was there. I would then lurch the car forward which would whip the dogs into a tizzy. Abby caught on that I was somehow associated with the car’s mobility. I can’t say with absolute certainty she knew, but when I would move the car slightly, she would, while waiting for the car to take off, glance up at my hand holding the remote. I don’t think she knew one made the other go, but she knew to associate one with the other.

I kept that toy car and used it once in a while as Abby grew older but not as much as when she was younger. Her arthritis limited her mobility. That was one reason I didn’t bring out the car as often. The main reason I didn’t play with the car in later years is that Andy was scared of it. If I brought the car out, Abby would slip out of the room and hide on my mom’s bed. Or if we were outside, he would walk up the hill in the backyard well out of the car’s reach and fearfully watch Father, Abby and I play with the car. I love Andy, but he has a nervous disposition and lives his life in fear.

The car itself suffered the ill fate of many battery operated toys. After a long period of disuse with the batteries still in the toy, the batteries turned cruddy and eroded the inside of the toy rendering it worthless. I don’t know how much money I paid for that thing, but I definitely got my money’s worth.

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