|Pets for Your 18" Doll ~ A Doll's Best Friend|
Girls who are of the age to love and play with dolls are also of the right age to love and play with animals. So, it makes sense that girls would want their dolls, who are often their little alter egos, to have a pet of their own. Because they can play out their fantasies with their dolls, girls can have the pet of their dreams. They can have a pony or a great big dog for example, when in reality they may be limited to a fish or the classroom hamster.
Pleasant Company recognized this from the beginning and provided animal companions for its American Girl dolls. The horse Penny plays a big part in Felicity’s first story. In a later story, Felicity gets a lamb named Posie as a gift for her birthday. Kirsten has a Momma cat named Missy and her kitten to play with; Molly has a little mutt named Bennett; Kit has a basset hound named Grace; Josefina has a baby goat named Sombrita and Addy plays with a canary. The newest American Girl, Kaya, has a dog named Tatio who is not only her companion but helps her carry her belongings as her Native American family moves from camp to camp. She also has a horse, Steps High, and a foal named Sparks Flying to call her own.
The American Girl Today collection has Coconut, the little white dog, and Licorice, the black cat. There used to be a bunny named Baxter. The newest Coconut has a magnet in his mouth so he can hold special toys and has his own line of outfits (!) and accessories, including the cat costume shown on the left. In her authentic-looking equestrian outfit, the American Girl of Today also looks cute sharing the American Girl horse with Felicity. The American Girls of Today even briefly had fish! You can see the Pleasant Company animals at the American Girl Store on-line. Most of the small animals retail for $16, while the big horses go for $60. Like most Pleasant Company products, all of the animals are well made and sturdy.
Pets are also important in the stories of the Magic Attic Club girls. Ellie, who lives in the old Victorian house with the magic attic, has a dog named Monty who accompanies Alison on her circus adventure. Monty is another little white dog who looks a lot like Coconut but is a soft plush. Megan also shares an adventure with a dog – a playful husky pup named Max that she meets in her skiing adventure. Megan has a ginger cat that likes to curl up on her bed and also meets a monkey during her rainforest adventure. Some of these animals are still available through Magic Attic Club retailers, but all have been discontinued. None of these pets are particularly well made or special except as props for playing out the Magic Attic Club stories. The monkey, for example, is a bright green and yellow and looks more amphibian than simian.
My Twinn sells a line of Poseable Pets that come in two sizes: child-sized and doll-sized. The 9", doll-sized kittens and puppies are a bit big to be companions for 18" dolls, but they are so poseable and lifelike that the slight difference in scale is forgivable. An internal skeleton, similar to the one used in the dolls themselves, gives the animals the ability to assume very lifelike poses. The company sells a wide range of accessories for the pets, too, from bowls and leashes to bandanas and jackets! These pets are highly recommended and are quite reasonably priced at $19.95.
Similar to the My Twinn Poseable Pets, the animals from U.S. Dogs (formerly American Dogs) are also poseable and lifelike. [Editor's update: U.S. Dogs has also gone out of business.] Instead of an internal armature, these dogs have teddy bear type jointed legs. In addition, the U.S. Dogs have open mouths with velcro hidden in the top so they can hold special toys and their puppies. With many different breeds to choose from, the U.S. Dogs are really great doll pets and are specifically scaled for 18" dolls. (You can also purchase 18" Gotz dolls from their catalog.) Some of their very clever accessories include a Potty Training Kit (including crate, pooper scooper and fake doggie doo) and a Grooming Kit (including brush, mitt and teeth cleaner). The accessories come with mini-books that describe how to use them for good dog care. The U.S. Dogs are fairly expensive (currently $24 to $38 on sale, but regularly $48) and not as life-like as the Poseable Pets (my black lab's ears need to be tacked down so they don't stick out like a bat's). However, they also come with a soft-cover book about the breed that is quite well done.
U.S. Dogs is a wonderful, family-run company with a mission. I spoke to co-founder Lori Hannon on the phone about their goals and she said, "Our hope is that role-play with our dogs will help children realize the importance of responsible dog ownership." She described how they started the company after going through the process of choosing their own family dog (Katy, explaining why the parent company is The Katy Company) and how all of her children and her husband are involved in different aspects of the operation: from product ideas from the youngest, to packing and shipping with the older children. The company donates a portion of profits to "charitable organizations that benefit children, animal humanity or our environment" and will be coming out with a mixed breed dog soon. "We had a contest to select which to dog to model our mixed breed after and hundreds of children sent in pictures and descriptions of their pets," said Hannon. Given the number of dogs waiting in shelters for adoption, this choice is particularly in keeping with the company's mission.
Robert Tonner Doll Company doesn't have any pets specifically for their 18" dolls, at least not yet, but Ann Estelle thinks that little Nosey looks very cute with her. Nosey is really the pet of Tonner's 14" Betsy McCall.
Is your child (and therefore her dolls) in the horse crazy stage? In addition to the American Girl horse, you have several other choices. U.S. Dogs sells plush, doll-sized horses (22" tall) for $75. Target sells a large, molded plastic horse for $29 that is reminiscent of a Breyer horse. You can find this in the Our Generation (formerly Collector's Lane) doll aisle, along with several sets of horse accessories, not to mention some inexpensive dogs and cats. If you can sew, you can design the perfect horse for your doll using the Vogue pattern #7603 (picture on left). This horse is designed specifically for 18" dolls. By adding a wire skeleton you can also make the horse firm enough to stand and hold a doll rider. The pattern also includes a saddle and tack for the horse.
There is no reason to limit yourself to "official" doll pets, of course. Many stuffed animals come in the correct size to be used as companions for the dolls such as this Ty poodle friend of 18" Effanbee Patsy Ann. And there's no reason to limit yourself to boring pets -- wouldn't your doll love a pet cougar, wolverine or dragon? Imagination is what doll play is all about and pets for your dolls can really add to the fun.
Special thanks to Lauren and Emily for letting me take pictures of their American Girl pets.
Copyright © 2002 Maria Greene All Rights Reserved
Vogue Pattern photo Copyright © Vogue Pattern Co. and used with permission
This page was last updated 11/23/05