For my kid sister's fourth birthday, I made her a tiger. Well OK, let's say I genetically engineered this cat-like cuddly toy into a tiger-like cuddly toy. It was huge, about as big as a real cat, but it had this dull, off-white or light tan color. At the time, I was into making a mess with dyes, so I made it orange with black stripes, like Tony the Tiger as seen on Kellog's boxes of corn flakes.

Apart from having no sense of color, the makers of that depressingly plain cat forgot to give it a tail. So I took some twine and some wooden beads, also painted orange and black, and made a tail for the tiger. I carefully strung an orange bead, then a knot, then a black one, another knot and so on. Actually, I'm embarrassed to say I was so intent on getting the knots tight that I ended up using the wrong color once. So in the middle of the tail there was this double-wide band of orange, which I was too lazy to correct.

My sister loved that tiger. She played with it all day for a while, and after that she would refuse to go to bed without it. The tiger was her faithful companion through kindergarten, grade school and all the way into high school.

One day, when I was getting something from her room, I noticed the tiger sitting in his usual place on her bed. Most people would not have noticed, but... the tail was wrong! Or rather, it was no longer wrong, but all the colors were right. My pseudo-professional interest kindled, I picked it up to examine the tail. Sure enough, she had substituted kite string for the twine. The twine must have broken after all those years.

But why? What kind of stress could she be subjecting the tiger to that would break its tail? I knew she'd never sit on it!

As I was turning the beads over in my hands, I caught a whiff of a strangely familiar smell. Held right up to my nose, the odour was unmistakeable. It was the same smell that would linger on my fingers after a successful petting session.

I carefully put the tiger back exactly where I had found it. Leaving the room, I smiled as I thought to myself just how much she liked my gift.

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