Friday, September 16, 2011

Pound Puppies: More than Nostalgia

                                                                     Above: Spot Puppy
As a child of the 80s, I enjoyed the simple pleasures of childhood imagination that kids today are deprived of. Before X Box and electronic baby dolls who actually urinate and talk to you, there were Pound Puppies. Growing up, My sister and I weren't allowed to have a dog. Our father was terrified of dogs as a result of a violent childhood altercation with a belligerent pit bull; but if you asked him, he was allergic to dogs. Our substitute was an endless supply of cuddly, lovable, pocket-sized stuffed animals called Pound Puppies. They were all the rave of the 80s and they even became a Cartoon, though short lived of only two years. Their marketing by the Tonka company, was irresistible, as the commercials would beg you to please help the Pound Puppies who need a home, they are abandoned and all they want is love. The little stuffed animals were more than cotton filled toys, they had personalities and adoption certificates that almost made you feel like you made a difference in the world similar to adopting a malnourished baby from Cambodia. I named all of my Pound Puppies and each had a unique personality; for instance, "Pouchie" was palm-sized, brown with freckles and long floppy brown ears, quiet but witty. Unfortunately, Pouchie was lost during a family vacation to Toronto/Niagra Falls and I mourned his disappearance for YEARS. Another, "Spot Puppy", was Grouchy. None of the other puppies would dare talk back to him or dare question his authority, he was a stern dalmation who made me feel like I could rule everyone around me, when in actuality, I was a scared little boy, afraid of my own shadow; shy, with a stuttering problem. "Britney" was a gray female puppy with luxuriously long brown ears and seductive eyes. She was the Carmen Jones of the group, she could stop any dog in his tracks with one flip of her left ear. She was my gossip partner. Now, don't think it was all about puppies, oh no, there were Pound Purries as well. Pound Purries were cats of course, just as cute as the puppies, well I only had one, an orange cat whose name was simply Pound Purry because there were no other cats, she was attractive, reserved and very cunning. You see, with my Pound Puppies, I always felt like I had friends, and they had something in common with me that I was told by my parents to never reveal to the outside world.  Pound Puppies were more than just play toys for me, they were my best friends, my pillows at night, my entourage, my security blankets, my imagination, my creativity, my outlet of expression and my reflections of inner pain. You see, the biggest revelation from my parents occurred with my Pound Puppies...
You see Pound Puppies would come to you with an adoption certificate that you would receive and the Pound Puppy would finally have a home and be elated to be with you. You would give the Pound Puppy the love that they never had while sitting on a shelf (at the pound) A puppet show of sorts was performed for me by my parents who were preachers and teachers by day and horrible actors at home. The puppet show revealed that just like these Pound Puppies who needed a home, I once needed a home as well. I had finally been rescued like my dear sad Pound Puppies. It occurred to my young mind that these puppies were the only ones who understood my identity issues, many of the Pound Puppies, like me, were ripped away from their biological siblings. My Pound Puppies would call each other sisters and brothers but they were clearly of different breeds and they always asked me questions about their biological family. I felt horrible that I had no information for them and would ask my parents about where the puppies came from, and Toys R Us wasn't enough for me, oh no, I needed to know where the mommy and daddy dogs were! And this continued throughout my childhood and into adolescence, somehow the Pound Puppies never left my side as I became a teenager and even as an adult. They remained as my pocket-sized secrets, my best friends who went through the same struggles as I, because they represented a lot more than child's play, they were a nostalgia of a deeper kind, a reminder that I had found a home and it doesn't matter where the mommy or daddy dogs are, all the matters is that new parents have been found and love abounds. Pound Puppies, manufactured by Tonka, have since stopped production in the 90s, but I hope to soon be able to bring them back, I don't know how since my letters go unanswered, but I believe that today's kids need to feel the love that I felt with my Pound Puppies. Simple imagination, companionship and creativity spring alive with these stuffed animals, just like Barbie did for young girls. My remaining Pound Puppies still keep me warm at night, they are old; Spot Puppy is still grouchy, and Britney is like a Sophia Loren of Pound Puppies, elderly but a stone fox! I will never let go of the 80s and early 90s, I will never relinquish my childish imagination. I was happiest in the days of Oscar the Grouch, Fraggilrock, Pippy Longstocking Adventures and Punky Brewster, so I will never let go of the innocence of Pound Puppies and everything they represent. Adulthood is overrated, often times uninspired and down right terrifying. So why not crawl backwards in time, reach into that dusty box and take out your freedom. Embrace your childhood imagination. I know you remember the characters you created back then; the world seemed infinite in those days and life was a joyous adventure where new and exciting things were always around the corner. 


  1. Your way with words is amazing, Isayaah! I'm so glad we have crossed (virtual) paths. Your posts never cease to amaze me and (eek!) even nudge my brain to think/remember.

    For what it's worth, as a 'tomboy' in the late 60s/early 70s, I was alway torn between "Little Kiddles" ('should' like, and kinda did) & Matchbox cars (much more fun!), but nothing ever beat "Chippie" the chipmunk as my best friend and confidant! Still have him too :-)

  2. Aww @ Chippie the Chipmunk! I'm sure he brought you joy and I am glad that someone else understands that these are more than childhood memories, they persist. We all need to hold on to that imaginary innocence, no matter how sophisticated we may think we are. I am glad I crossed your path as well. Thanks so much for reading...I am glad I am not writing in vain!