Stuffed Animals Can Be Soothing,1886,AND_8202_4515044,00.html

I was at another child's birthday party last week.

One of the children there, a toddler started crying and was immediately soothed when her mother handed her a stuffed monkey.

"Here's Monkey!" the mother said, with both enthusiasm and relief in her voice.

Maybe it's a girl thing, because both of the small girls I know have formed attachments to stuffed animals. For the boys I know, stuffed animals are made for flinging across the room.

I can remember when I was a child, feeling that same attachment for my menagerie of stuffed animals. I had so many of them, that when I was in preschool I borrowed my mother's laundry baskets and played "zoo" with them.

But there was one animal that held a special place in my heart. He was Larry the Lion. Larry the Lion (and he came named that way) was created by Mattel, I believe, and if you pulled the string at his throat he said things such as "My name is Larry the Lion," and my personal favorite, "ROAR! Oops! I scared myself."

While I made sure I said goodnight to all of my stuffed animals and dolls (so their feelings wouldn't be hurt and they wouldn't kill me during the night) Larry the Lion had the supreme honor of sleeping with me.

In fact, I didn't go anywhere without Larry the Lion.

He got a little dingier over time, but still I held on to him.

Once when I was in the third or fourth grade, a friend and his family came to visit our family. Being a boy, Mark decided it would be fun to play "Keep Away from Leah" with Larry the Lion. I made a quick grab for my precious stuffed friend and my fingers closed around his tiny tail.

"Keep Away" turned into "Tug of War." The next thing I knew I was sitting on the floor with Larry's tail in my hand and Mark was shouting triumphantly over me.

What started out as a tiny hole slowly worked it's way into a gaping, stuffing sloughing crevice with the help of my dogs Aggie and Frieda.

When I was 10 or so, my sister fashioned pants for Larry to cover his defect, and we added sunglasses to make his ensemble. But still I held onto him. I kept Larry the Lion until my father and my sister held an intervention when I was in my teens and made me get rid of him.

I regret it still.

I am just happy to find I didn't have an unusual attachment to my toy friend.

I once kept a toddler for the day for friends while they were moving.

When I picked Patty up, her mother handed me the normal accessories: diaper bag, bottles, juice and car seat. Then she handed me Bunny.

"Whatever you do," she told me, "don't lose Bunny."

Then she fixed me with a stare.

"If it's a choice of coming back without Bunny and never coming back don't come back."

I have never been more scared in my life. I spent most of the day with a death grip on Bunny.

Patty has moved on, however. When I saw her last week, it wasn't Bunny she held onto, but a Winnie the Pooh. I have moved on as well, although it wasn't by choice. I have tried to find another Larry the Lion, but it seems he is irreplaceable. So now I have a Wylie Coyote.

He doesn't sleep with me, I have grown up that much.

But he does watch out for me while I sleep from his perch across the room.