Do you know what a Wuzzle is? Did you ever play with a Snork or walk in Moon Shoes? If you did, I’m guessing that you were a child of the 1980’s or maybe a parent of one of those Generation Y kids.
There is a website called List Challenges that identifies all sorts of lists, like World’s 50 Best Foods and 180 Books To Read at Least Once in Your Life. Another of those lists is 100 Popular Toys of the 80s. That’s where Wuzzles, Snorks, and Moon Shoes can be found. I wasn’t a kid back in the 1980’s, but I was a mother of a young son and daughter. By my calculations, we owned 37 of the 100 1980’s toys that were listed. I guess my kids were considered deprived. No Easy Bake Oven, no Popples, no Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots, and certainly no Power Wheels Jeep.
We did usually succumb to the crazes, though, like Transformers, Cabbage Patch Dolls, and Care Bears, which I’ve written about in past posts. There was another toy that got its share of attention in my house, especially with my daughter Leslie.
Pound Puppies were a huge hit. You’d have to be living in the caves of Outer Mongolia not to know what a Pound Puppy is. Created by Mike Bowling, they were introduced to Canada in 1984. Produced by Tonka in the U.S. a year later, these plush stuffed dogs with floppy ears and droopy eyes came in a variety of colors, some with spots. Those endearing features made them “loveable” and “huggable” in the eyes of young kids.
Here is a 1986 commercial that I’m sure sparked an avalanche of sales:
Each twelve-inch puppy came in its own cardboard carrier kennel. Here is my son Frank admiring his puppy in its “doghouse” on Christmas morning 1985 when he had just turned eight years old.
On the box it read, “Hi! I’m a proud puppy, and I’m looking for a warm loving home. I’ve been waiting for someone like you to choose me as their very own pet. You can give me a name and play with me! Won’t you take me home with you? I’ll love you very much!”
Included with each puppy was a collar, a care sheet, and a mail-in form. For $3.50, the puppy’s new owner would receive an ownership certificate and a personalized I.D. tag in the shape of a heart, imprinted with his/her name and the puppy’s name specially chosen by the child. I came across one of those certificates a few years ago when I was cleaning out my attic, but I can’t find it now.
The kit also included Pound Puppies stickers. I found this partially used sticker page in my attic as well.
Here is my daughter Leslie’s “Spotted” and Frank’s nameless hound.
To show you the elite status of “Spotted”: Since my kids were born, I began a tradition of taking photos of them in my rocking chair (where I nursed them) in order to demonstrate their growth. During their first year, I took a photo once a month, but eventually, it evolved into a once a year event on or near their birthdays.
Well, one day, Leslie wanted to take a photo of Spotted in the rocking chair, so, of course, I obliged. I’m thinking he was under one year old. She even dressed him up for the occasion. For this photo shoot, he is wearing Frank’s old green and orange striped shirt and green pants that he wore in the above picture. What an honor!
Children were thrilled with owning a one-of-a-kind stuffed pet that they’d named themselves! It’s a good thing that Santa thought to stock up on those puppies early for Christmas 1985, for they were selling out across the country. You know how moms get during the holiday season when they gotta have that one toy at the top of their child’s wish list at all costs. They’ll stand in line for hours, even if eight months pregnant, starving for a jumbo dill pickle, and nearly incontinent. Grandmas may be even more guilty. Plantar fasciatis or arthritic knees won’t stop a grandma on a Pound Puppy mission.
According to Mental Floss’s “A Cushy History of Pound Puppies,” they were “creating a frenzy that had been rivaled in recent memory only by the Cabbage Patch Kids. In 1985, more than 2.5 million puppies were sold at the inflated retail price of $30.”
Pound Puppies were the biggest selling toy line in 1986. That year the phenomenon took a side trip with the introduction of newborn Pound Puppies. These guys were loveable, huggable 7-inch replicas of the originals. Christmas morning 1986 brought a new crop of little puppies to our house.
Here are close-ups of our little darlings, Fluffy, Sparky, and Chocolate. Leslie enjoyed dressing them up in doll clothes.
Around the same time in 1986, Pound Pur-r-ries were created along with newborn Pur-r-ries. Leslie received this Pur-r-rie on Christmas Eve.
On the website In the 80’s, a site visitor named Sabrina once related, “I still have my pound purry! . . . I instantly loved it and it became my comfort item. I slept with it and brought it everywhere with me. I remember once I dropped her in the toilet in the middle of the night and cried until my mom came and fished it out. I’m 25 now and she still stays on my bedside table. She’s been all over the world with me.”
Shipments of all those puppies and pur-r-ries over five years generated sales of $300 million in 35 countries.
Unsurprisingly, a Pound Puppy TV movie aired in 1985, followed soon after by an animated TV show, airing 26 episodes over two seasons between 1986 and 1989. Additionally, a feature film titled Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw opened in 1988.
Pound Puppies have become an enduring legacy. They continued in popularity through the early 1990s and then were produced again in the early 2000’s. Those newer ones included specific breeds of dog along with barking sounds and movements. Pound Puppies were recognized by Time Magazine in 2011 as one of the 100 best toys since 1923.
According to Mental Floss, Mike Bowling estimated that by 2016, more than 200 million Pound Puppies had been sold—”nearly three times as many as there are actual dogs in the United States.”
Sparky, Chocolate, Furry and the rest of Leslie’s crew (and Frank’s one) have long since taken up residence in my attic. Hey, it’s better than a dog pound. It’s a big attic, and they have the run of the place along with a menagerie of other stuffed animals, dolls, games, and toys.
The appeal still lingers. Every so often, when my grandchildren come to visit from Texas and California, the crew comes down to greet them, happy to have some hugging and loving from human children once more.
If you have the urge to reconnect with an old pound buddy or two, they are on sale at Amazon, eBay, and the puppies’ very own website.
The legacy carries on.
KAREN GENNARI is the author of The Crab Hollow Chronicles, a fictitious memoir based on her experiences growing up in a neighborhood full of boys in 1961/62. It also explores the merits and challenges of life in a Catholic family of seven.
Join nine-year-old Karen Schmidt in her attempts to navigate Crab Hollow Road amidst the overwhelming male majority who beleaguer her at every opportunity. Does Karen have the fortitude to weather toadnappings, midnight escapades, false impersonation, and more? Along the way, relive the people, products, music, sports, and headlines of the early 1960’s. Virtually every page references the 1960’s. Lots of your favorite toys are mentioned in these pages.