Christmas, 1966. For months I’d been begging my parents to buy me the hottest new toy the commercials were telling me I just had to have: a walking, barking dog called Penny the Poodle. Even if you’re old enough to remember this horrible toy, you may not, because it was quickly forgotten after the initial pre-Christmas hype. I’m sure millions of small children spent that Christmas Day in tears of disappointment and frustration when they realized Penny the Poodle did NOT live up to the hype.
Here’s the commercial, which in retrospect, was pretty creepy, even for those days:
I remember unwrapping the large box with joyful anticipation, ripping off the green and red foil paper and bows to reveal the “Penny the Poodle” logo and the see-through window on the side of the box that revealed Penny’s Pepto-Bismol pink head.
Eagerly, I pried her out of the box with my small sweaty hands and tried to get her to work. No batteries were necessary. Penny was supposed to stand, walk, wag her tail, bark, and turn her head. She was supposed to do everything a real dog does except poop and pee.
She did nothing. Instead, she lay on her side on the floor, twitching as if she was having an epileptic seizure. I tried to right her and squeezed the little remote control to get her to walk, wag her tail, do SOMETHING, but no dice. She fell over again. This time she didn’t even twitch and convulse. I righted her again and manually tried to make her legs move. Her right leg fell off and lay there on the rug like a turkey drumstick covered in pink gravy. Penny was DOA.
I was heartbroken. I opened the rest of my presents apathetically, because Penny the Poodle was the toy I had REALLY wanted for Christmas. I cried on and off for most of the day.
My parents returned Penny to whatever store they had got her from and brought me home a replacement, this one powder blue instead of Pepto Bismol pink. But this one wouldn’t work either. Back to the store it went. My parents refused to get me a third Penny, but by then, I’d given up and was happily playing with my Barbies and Wishnik troll dolls.
Penny the Poodle has curiosity value to toy collectors. You can find a few on eBay, but none of them seem to be in working order, and probably never were.
Thanks to my readers who voted for me to post a funny true story tonight in the poll I posted earlier. I know this story’s a little sad, but there’s always humor in pathos. Or pathos in humor. Or something like that.