Zzzzz, Bark?

At the top of every suitcase, every sleeping bag, every pillow, I know there’s someone on whom I can rely. Someone who has moved houses with me, traveled across the world, gone to explore big cities and make new friends when I though I was alone. Someone who always listens to all I have to say, without ever interrupting, a smile permanently glued to his face; someone who reads whatever I want to read together, without protest; and someone I know is always exactly where I want, when I want, and how I want this someone to be.

I realize this next revelation may make me seem like a bit of a fool, but this someone, who holds a place so deep in my heart, is Woof. (Yes, that’s right, my dirty, tattered, partially stuffed animal.) However, it’s not the frayed threads, the discolored ribbon collar, or the stretched out ears that make Woof my special little friend. Woof has been with my through thick and thin, soaked up my tears when I’ve stomped angrily off into my room; traveled everywhere I have, never leaving me completely on my own; never making me feel lonely.

I am questioned frequently, “You’re 18… and you still sleep with that? Seriously?” When I was younger, I used to feel insecure about needing this security; I hid Woof under my pillow, not removing him until we were surrounded by total darkness and I needn’t worry about anyone seeing him. I was afraid of looking like a baby, not sufficiently proving myself to be the coolest thirteen year old ever with neon blue braces and a Limited Too wardrobe. Yeah, right.

But Woof, mi amigo, I apologize for those days now. As I grew more confident in myself, becoming my own person and acknowledging the unimportance of other people’s remarks, I realized that Woof was a part of me, absorbing my memories, dreams, and feelings, as I tucked the plushy cloth body under my chin before going to sleep each night. On flights to Milan, sick days from school, camping trips in the backwoods, I know Woof will always be there for consolation.

I no longer feel ashamed to remove Woof from a suitcase and cuddle up with him before bed. I openly embrace him on plane flights, even if I have the middle seat, refusing to cover him with a scratchy American Airlines blanket. I may receive a perplexed stare, a quizzical remark, only acknowledged by my pride: Yes, Woof is mine and no one else’s; don’t you wish you had such a wonderful, trustworthy, adorable friend?

So every night as I go off to bed, I await my dear Woof in his usual spot-- sitting on top of my velour blanket, because I know he will always be there. He won’t disapprove when I stay up an hour later than planned to journal, flip through Vogue, or watch the night’s previously recorded episode of the Rachel Maddow Show. (Woof appreciates a good political pundit more than your average blankey.) And best of all, his miniature distended paws make it infinitely easier to reach the snooze button every morning.

Woof celebrates in Roma: