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It's CHRISTMAS!! - Well almost. It certainly Felt like it on Saturday when I ventured into the local, newly opened toy shop; a veritable Aladdin's cave.
I'm a few years older than I care to admit, but going on 6 is about right where toys are concerned.
Now I wouldn't say I was deprived as a child, far from it, but there just weren't the same wonderful variety of toys around in those days.
I must be a store owner's nighmare, for when I see any toy with a switch or button with the invitation "Try me." Off I go, down the isles, pressing every button in turn, listening to what it had to say and sing, or watching it squiggle and dance. Oh what fun, and all for free. It was probably me who wore out all the batteries in Woolworths, last year. Sorry!
Well, I was browsing through this Aladdins cave, in my normal 6 year old manner, no doubt embarrasing my friends with my Ooohs and Ahhhs over different novelties and cuddly toys; when I saw the head of a toy dog peeking out from a brightly coloured box. Its two, white, marbled sized, bulging eyes put me in mind of Gromit, (the dog of Wallace and Gromit fame.) In the centre of its forehead was a tiny sensor, looking very much like a third eye.
Two long, light brown, floppy ears spilled over the side of the box, which I am told is meant to represent its kennel.
On the top of the kennel were the words, written in large, red lettering; "Chuckle Buddies, motion activated rolling and laughing friends." And also pictures of a dog and a monkey. There were no monkies in the shop, but I asume their mechanisms would be the same as the dog's.
Now what 6 year old could resist having a go, especially with no mum around to stop em?
Fortunately, the shopkeeper saw me trying to find the button and came to my rescue, or was it to rescue the dog? He had a demonstration model, in a large open box on the floor.
Obviously, that one had been well used, its once white fur was a grubby grey and the tail, which was meant to twirl, was broken. He revealed a sturdy, plastic battery casing on its belly, covered by fur, which was fastened by Velcro - no 6 year old would have found that in a hurry, surely.
He switched it on and placed it back in the box on the floor. Well, whatever I had expected, it was certainly not the infectious, rib-tickling laughter that emanated from that Yorkie-sized toy. It had me, and everybody else in the shop, laughing helplessly. The broken tail was meant to turn the dog onto its back and back again, as if rolling with laughter. It reminded me of the chucklings of a baby being tickled or highly amused by its parent.
After about thirty seconds, the chuckling stops, but when the dog is moved or something moves in front of the light sensor, off it goes again, chuckling away for another thirty or so seconds and I can guarantee, so will everyone else nearby.
I just HAD to have this toy, so bought it for my great-neice, who I know would just love it for Christmas. I got it home and decided I should check to see that it was in good working order - you understand. At this point it was still destined for the Christmas tree.
I removed the dog from the box and inserted the three AA batteries and switched it on.
Immediately, it and I began laughing; Moses and Mollie ran out to investigate the noise and were fascinated by this intruder, rolling around the floor, laughing it's head off (not barking) and no doubt, wondering, what was sooo funny.
When it stopped, I picked it up to switch off the mechanism, but the movement started it off again. I still had hold of it, but the tail kept flicking around knocking my hand away from the switch. Eventually, I had to hold the toy by the kneck and stand very still, so that when the laughter stopped and the tail remained motionless, I could switch it off.
I have a notion that the shop demonstration model's tail was purposely broken, because it is not easy to flick the switch whilst the tail moves.
Not to be beaten, I eventually discovered that if I covered the sensor with my finger, I could switch off the mechanism without re-activating it.
The body of the dog, measuring about 11 inches from bum to nose, is covered with white, 100% polyester 'fur.' Its ears and tail, curled over the back, are a very light, almost golden, brown in colour.
The feet, head and ears are soft, but the main body, housing the mechanisms,is hard, as is the tail and plastic eyes.
So it cannot really be described as a cuddley toy, though it does look cute enough to be cuddled.
There doesn't appear to be any age range recommendations, but I wouldn't think it a suitable toy for toddlers under four years old to handle, because of the whipping tail action and possibility of the eyes and sensor being pulled out and swallowed.
I have tugged them, and they do seem to be firmly fixed in place. but that is no real test of safety for young toddlers.
Three 1.5V AA batteries, either the standard or rechargeable types are required and it is recommended that rechargeable batteries should be removed each time the toy is switched off for long periods of time; though I would think that should also apply to ordinary batteries.
My Chuckle Buddy cost me £14.99 from the toy shop, I see them advertised on Amazon for the same price. I think these will be found in most toy shops now, especially in the run up to Christmas.
Where is my Chuckle Buddy destined? It is staying with me. My great-niece won't lose out though, I shall be getting another one for her.
I have not seen any of these in the shops this year, but I will keep looking.
2013: still not seen any more of these chuckle making toys.