"Please help me find a replacement for a lost 'best friend'," a person who goes by piper2010cameron wrote in an online post. "I have searched everywhere." The description of the missing companion: A tiny stuffed tiger with orange and black stripes, a small triangular nose, and a fuzzy white belly. And then there came this heartbreaking line: "My poor kiddo has been asking why 'Itsy Bitsy' hasn't come home and it kills me."
Photo: Westend61 (Getty Images)
In one of the kindest corners of the internet lives the HelpMeFind subreddit. There, redditors seek assistance in locating everything from the brand of a Russian chocolate bar to the name of the artist who draws comics on napkins to a place that sells this delightfully weird hedgehog bumper sticker.
A hefty portion of the posters are parents, particularly mums and dads of young children who have lost an adored stuffed animal, or "lovey". There have been pleas for help in finding duplicates of an alpaca with a polka-dot bandanna that was forgotten in a hotel room, a monkey that was left at karate class, and a duck that belonged to a child awaiting a transplant.
Sometimes, the parents never made note of the brand or the tag had worn off. Other times, they had gone online to purchase a replica only to learn that the product is no longer sold. In a final act of desperation, they turn to their fellow redditors, who scour the internet for a match.
"Are either of these close at all to the right style/shape?" someone asked, responding to a poster who was looking for a replacement for their daughter's favourite stuffed owl, a gift from her grandmother.
"You're a lifesaver!" the parent wrote. "Thanks so much! She'll be overjoyed!"
Sadly, not every lost friend is found. The search is still on for Itsy Bitsy and many other beloved pals. If you happen to spot them online, head to the subreddit and make a kid happy - and his parents very, very relieved.
Here are some tips for finding a replica of a lost lovey:
- Try a Google reverse image search. In the Google Images search bar, click on the camera icon and upload the image or paste the url. As the HelpMeFind admins point out, this can be very helpful in identifying a source of a random image you may have on hand, or even an object in the image.
- If you know the name of the manufacturer, contact them. We did this when we had an unexpected washing machine incident and needed to find a replacement for Bunny, my daughter's sleeping buddy. The company no longer sold the item online, but my husband emailed them with our dilemma. A kind employee happened to find an extra in their warehouse and shipped it to us for free! Bunny was back! That's customer service.
- Have a duplicate made. There are Etsy shops that can make a replica of your lost or "over-loved" plush toys. Know that these types of projects aren't cheap, though.
- Attach a bounty to your HelpMeFind post. It may give readers some extra incentive. For instance, this poster is offering a whopping $US100 ($129) to anyone who can find an exact duplicate of the grey stuffed elephant they originally bought at a Safeway grocery store.
- Try other online resources. Plush Memories Lost Toy Search Service is a Facebook group dedicated to finding lovies for children or adults. LostMyLovey.com calls itself "the online lost-and-found for children's lost toys".
- Next time, chip the thing. Really. Inserting a Tile tracker into the one stuffed animal your kid sees as irreplaceable, like this mum did, might not be the craziest idea. It may just save your kid from future heartache.