Most kids have one or two toys that are both essential and irreplaceable. Kids develop such a strong attachment to their comfort toys that losing them is almost like losing a family member. Wherever we travel, we remember to double and triple check for That One Toy because leaving it behind would be a devastating loss for our kids. Unfortunately, their siblings don’t always put as much weight into protecting their Holy Grail toy as we do – and sometimes, their ambivalence has heartbreaking consequences.
When 4-year-old Nico Lavallée was out walking with his family, he made sure to bring along his favorite stuffed animal. Rudolph the stuffed deer has the scruffy, worn look of every well-loved stuffed animal, the type that only gets cleaned after a particularly nasty situation out of fear it would somehow get ruined in the wash.
On that fateful winter day, Nico’s mom Brenda Duke had the misfortune of looking away at the worst possible moment. In a split second, Nico’s little brother Santiago grabbed Rudolph and tossed him onto an ice-covered canal. Rudolph was too far onto the ice to grab from the family’s side of the rail, and Duke was tasked with explaining to her inconsolable 4-year-old that it was unsafe to retrieve the small stuffed deer.
For days, Duke and her sons would visit Rudolph at the pond, watching the snow slowly bury him. They noticed animal tracks nearby, fabricating soothing stories of neighborhood wildlife taking care of the beloved toy. With her 6-year-old son Sebastian’s encouragement, Duke hesitantly posted the story on Facebook.
“I didn’t want to bother anyone. I don’t think anyone would care,” Duke told CBC News.
Before long, Duke realized just how wrong she was. Suggestions for the toy’s retrieval poured in almost immediately, while some even tagged the National Capital Commission in the hopes of a daring rescue.
The people spoke, and the NCC listened. They promised to look out for Rudolph, and soon, a brave member of the skateway crew located the frozen deer and pulled it to safety.
The NCC crew posted a picture of Rudolph recovering after his harrowing journey. They captioned the photo, “After several hours of relentless searching, our courageous NCC Skateway team saved a stuffed baby deer from a most tragic end. He is now safe and sound while he defrosts! We know a young owner who will be very happy to find him.”
After several hours of relentless searching, our courageous NCC Skateway team saved a stuffed baby deer from a most tragic end. He is now safe and sound while he defrosts!
We know a young owner who will be very happy to find him. 😉🦌 pic.twitter.com/mGcImYFV1c
— RideauCanalSkateway (@NCC_Skateway) January 19, 2021
When Duke showed Nico the photo, he couldn’t believe his eyes. “Utter disbelief,” Duke recalled. “He stared. It took a while to click. He’s like, ‘Wait, that’s mine?’ He was just in shock, and then he was really excited.”
Before long, the deer was reunited with its family, and Duke was reminded of just how meaningful little acts of kindness really are.
All thawed out and headed home! 💛
The stuffed deer heroically rescued by the NCC Skateway Team has now been reunited with its best friend. Smiles all around! pic.twitter.com/kSZqTpkaVv
— RideauCanalSkateway (@NCC_Skateway) January 21, 2021
“You just have to just have to ask. People do care. Assuming that they don’t is something that adults do,” she explained. “[My kids] are growing up knowing that other people have our backs and other people care, and that’s really heartwarming.”