Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
I did not place a request for the 43” Animal Alley Darby Dog we received during Christmas 2002. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to find this when I answered the door to find the ex-husband holding this large stuffed animal stating it was the gift for Matthew, who was six at the time. For a number of years many have had a difficult time trying to choose a gift for Matthew, maybe it is because he is non-verbal and cannot express as others clearly what he likes and does not care for.
Being the sole caretaker I have never had the problem others encounter with picking items of interest for my son. The general consensus seems to be give him large gifts, I guess to compensate for what he cannot do, who knows for sure, but he has received large cars, airplanes and trains that just take up space and have received no interest from said child.
Most autistic children do not have a sense of imagination or creativity, so to get a large item that just sits there is the opposite of what they need to stimulate their senses and create a spark of interest. Nicholas being a higher functioning child on the Autism Spectrum has quite an imagination and played along with the 43” Alley Animal Darby Dog.
The expression from Nicholas and myself at the time was - I don’t believe this large dog is coming inside the house. I dragged it into the bedroom where Matthew was watching his videos and plopped it on the bed. He turned and looked at it and I left the room. A little while later I came back to smell the dog and make sure there was no smoke residue on it from the father. It smelled fine and then I realized I should take this off my bed since I have asthma and worried about fatal attacks in the bedroom. This is because the Mother that lived here before me had one and died at the Hospital, not something you like to learn after moving in. As a child growing up I was never allowed to have stuffed animals so wanted this out of the bedroom.
Matthew would not let me remove the 43” Animal Alley Darby Dog from the bedroom and dropped it onto the floor and sat on it while watching his video. He seemed to enjoy this and not long afterwards Nicholas came in and they played with the Animal Alley Darby Dog taking turns. Nicholas dragged it all around the house, pulling on the ears and sitting on it as well as talking to it.
The Animal Alley Darby Dog is very soft and long enough to be a rug for two kids to sit on and watch television or just hang out. Animal Alley is an exclusive item for Toys R Us selling for about seventy dollars. The contents are all new materials, no idea what exactly that means but the fibers are polyester, and made in China.
The 43” Animal Alley Darby Dog can only be in one position comfortably, lying down with his legs tucked under the bottom end. Nicholas would rub the bottom section of the dog and make its tail wag, this just delighted him and he continued doing this for a very long time.
The paws are a lighter tan color with some stitching on there to add to the likeness of a real dog. The ears are long and floppy with a light shade of brown on the inside. The two black eyes seem very secure and there is some black stitching to show the mouth in a smile. The nose is large in a brown color. With both legs and paws tucked under this gives more room for storing and a child could easily sit on him this way since the back side is higher up and quite round.
The age recommendation on this according to Amazon is six months to seven years, and due to the size I would use caution with this overly large plush animal around small children. Since we have a corner spot in our living room already with the collection of stuffed animals the Animal Alley Darby Dog did not feel lonely here, but he did get moved often to keep Matthew and Nicholas happy. They loved to drag him around the house, gave them each some kind of comfort. This is the closest we will ever come to a dog due to my asthma and not knowing how Matthew would react to a live animal. There is no barking or crap to pick up and it went wherever the kids put it.
This past March when I purchased a stationary bike I found I had no room in the living room with the Jumpolene and the stuffed animals. I donated them to other families through craigslist.org. If we had a larger house or more rooms I would have kept the Animal Alley Darby Dog, but might get a smaller sized one this year for Matthew.
Matthew would bring a soft blanket he loves and stack pillows on the couch while holding the Animal Alley Arby Dog. He really craved deep pressure and would want me to press the dog on him and wrap him over his body with the blanket. Both boys enjoyed hanging around the floor on top of the Animal Alley Darby Dog. What at first seemed like such an inappropriate gift from the father, turned out to be a loving tool for both kids. Matthew at times did utilize his imagination to make the stuffed toy do things and used it resourcefully for his needs.
This article was adapted from a review previously published on Epinions
This article is part of the themed series mentioned in The Interests of children with autism through the years
toys to consider for Christmas
These dogs are no longer available on amazon.com Toys R Us has some Animal Alley stuffed animals
Picture of Animal Alley Darby Dog on Amazon.
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