South Shore Breaker

Let adults love their stuffed animals

- REBECCA DINGWELL @Bdingz Rebecca Dingwell is a freelance writer and editor based in Halifax, N.S. A self-proclaimed nerd and horse girl, she is learning to navigate her life through new eyes after being diagnosed as autistic. R

I remember the first time I saw Corky, my cocker spaniel plushie.

I was about five and browsing Sunnyside Mall with my mother and brother. Corky sat among other Ty-branded toys in the shop and I asked my mother to buy her.

“Wait for Christmas,” my mom said.

Fortunatel­y for me, Corky did turn up among my Christmas presents. (I now know Corky is typically a boy’s name, by the way, but I’ve always called her a girl and I’m not going to stop any time soon.)

I’m not sure what gave Corky special status among my other beloved toys, besides my desperate want for a puppy of my own. My dad was severely allergic, and so for several years, Corky was the closest thing I had to a childhood pet, aside from the occasional goldfish.

Corky went everywhere with me. I’m sure I was scolded once or twice for bringing her to class in elementary school. She came along on family trips to Florida, Ontario as well as Newfoundla­nd and Labrador. As I got older, I generally stopped travelling with Corky for fear of losing her, but she stayed with me in university residence and my first apartment. I even brought her to a writing residency at The Banff Centre several years ago.

Since my now-husband hadn’t travelled with me, and I was doing emotional work, I slept with Corky in my bed like I had when I was a kid. Much to my embarrassm­ent, I accidental­ly left her tangled up in my blankets one morning. The staff who made up my bed had her placed lovingly on one of the pillows when I came back to my room. I cringed at myself. However, the gesture showed me the staff member understood Corky was special.

Corky has a special place in my home today. I joke that Toy Story and The Velveteen Rabbit had a profound impact on me, so Corky’s presence in my house is almost as important as my husband and, well, the actual dog I have now. These days, she’s a bit worse for wear. One of her back legs is squished from hugs and holding her as I slept. But she always has a place of honour on my office desk or atop my bed frame for times when I need extra comfort.

Sometimes I’m embarrasse­d about her. By sharing her with others, I worry about reinforcin­g the “childlike” stereotype of autistic people. Mostly, though, I’m not all that embarrasse­d. Hearing stories from other adults about their well-loved stuffies encouraged me to share my own story, without caring whether others think it’s weird or creepy. In fact, it’s pretty darn normal.

 ?? CONTRIBUTE­D ?? Corky has had a special place in columnist Rebecca Dingwell’s heart since childhood. And she’s not ashamed to admit it.
CONTRIBUTE­D Corky has had a special place in columnist Rebecca Dingwell’s heart since childhood. And she’s not ashamed to admit it.
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