Friday, January 6, 2012

From shoe fetish to buyer's remorse

I love shoes.

I know, I know. A lot of women say that. But, I ask you, do a lot of women have a shoe rack in their office? Which is the very first thing that people notice when they walk in? Filled up with at least 14 pairs of shoes at any given time? None of which are the same colour?

Well, I do. And it is full of every conceivable kind of shoe in every conceivable colour: sandals, flats, pumps, boots, wedges, Mary Janes, and sneakers, in black, brown, camel, bone, turquoise, red, burgundy, metallic, silver, and even hot pink.

And I haven't even mentioned the pairs of shoes that are strewn throughout every room of my house at any given moment.

I told you. I love shoes.

Indeed, I am incapable of resisting a good shoe purchase. Sometimes the purchase is planned, like the time that I knew I wanted a pair of bone-coloured heels to go with my beautiful chocolate brown silk designer dress, and it took me two months and three cities to find the perfect pair.

Sometimes, I will go in looking for one thing and come out with something totally different. Like the time that I really needed a pair of black flats and walked out of the store with one pair of red wedges and another pair of metallic pumps. (I still haven't got a pair of black flats...)

And other times, the purchase is completely and utterly impulsive. Like the time that I was walking through the mall and spotted a pair of blue suede peep toe shoes and just had to have them, even though they were a half-size too big and I had to purchase inserts to make sure that they would not fall off of my feet as I walked.

All of these purchases, from the meticulously planned out to the spur of the moment, have one thing in common: never once have I felt buyer's remorse after buying a pair of shoes. Not once. It doesn't matter how expensive they are or how little I wear them. Shoes just always make me happy, and have never led to regret.

That is, until now...

Picture it. It's October, and the days are getting shorter, making it more and more difficult to play fetch outside with the Beast before or after work. So I leash him up and take off toward our favourite pet supply store to find a glow in the dark ball. As I am browsing through the toy aisle, out of the corner of my eye, I catch a doggie shoe display. Something innate and primal deep within me starts to stir, and I am drawn towards it...

Suddenly, there I am, standing in front of a rack of winter dog booties. And before I can stop myself from speaking, I call over to one of the girls working there and say, "Hey, I think I should get my dog some booties for the winter. Which ones should I get?"

"What a great idea!" she says enthusiastically as she pets the Beast's head, who is far too busy admiring the treat section to care about shoes (this, incidentally, should have been my first sign of impending catastrophe). "They will protect his little paws from snow and ice and salt!"

"Yeah, sure," I reply. "I like these ones!" I say as I point to a box of UltraPaws, which had caught my eye because (a) they were the most expensive, (b) they had two strips of velcro instead of just one like all the other booties so they were doubly cool, and (c) the Labrador Retriever featured on the package seemed to be having the time of his life while playing frisbee and wearing his set of UltraPaw booties, so these ones promised to deliver the most fun. (The second sign of impending catastrophe should have been that the dog on the box was not playing in snow...)

And this is how I spiralled down a very slippery (clearly unsalted) shopping slope and found myself standing at the cash register with a quartet of dog booties. (And also how I completely forgot to get a glow in the dark ball and ended up having to go back the next day).

Now when I bring home a new pair of shoes for myself, I can't wait to find an occasion to wear them and to show them off to all of my friends. So when it took so long for winter's snow and ice and salt to actually arrive, I was super disappointed for the poor little Beast. I mean, Mother Nature was conspiring to keep him from showing off his fabulous new booties! How was the Beast supposed to impress his girlfriend Ruby if he was still running around barefoot in the grass in mid-December?!?

And then finally, it snowed. I was so excited to get those booties on the Beast and get him out there to show off to all his doggy pals. Yes!

And that is when I discovered that the Beast hates his booties. And I mean H-A-T-E-S them. The first time we put his booties on, he cowered. My dominant, pushy, controlling, bossy dog actually cowered in a corner. Head down, spine curved up as though he was trying to make himself into a small, inconspicuous little ball, and if he had a tail, I am absolutely positive that it would have been between his legs. It was like he was afraid that I was going to come after him with a baseball bat and beat him senseless.

Despite his pitiful state, I persevered, telling myself that wearing the booties was for his own good and that it was my responsibility to protect him from the elements. And besides, getting his first pair of shoes was a big deal, so he should appreciate it. So one paw at a time, I put his booties on. And when we were done, he limped around the house like a foal learning to take his first steps, staring up at me as if to ask, "Mommy, why do you hate me so much?"

I figured that he just had to get the feel of his new shoes. You know, kind of like when you break in a new pair of human shoes and you walk around with blisters for a few days until you can stop putting a band-aid on every time you wear them. The Beast just needed to get used to feeling a shoe on his foot, and then he would be fine. So off we went.

Now the Beast loves to be outside and loves to go running or walking with hubby and I. Not today. Whereas his default position is usually right beside or even slightly ahead of me, he was trailing a good foot behind, even stopping every few blocks and refusing to go any further. I had to pull on the leash to urge him along more than once. It's like he was ashamed to be seen in public and just wanted to go home. I kept reassuring him that he looked fabulous in his new shoes, but he just couldn't be convinced. Even when he received compliments from more than one passerby, he just dropped his head and cast his eyes downward, letting out sigh after sigh after sigh, like the canine version of Eeyore.

But I am not a quitter, so we finished our walk that day with the booties on, and tried again the next day. And the next day. And the next day after that. And each and every time, it was the exact same sad story. Until I decided to take him to his favourite place on earth, the Arboretum.

I figured that if the Beast could have some fun while wearing his booties, he would form a positive association and get over this weird behaviour. And for a moment, there was even a glimmer of hope that this would actually work. He was super sad walking to the Arboretum, but as soon as we got there, he was back to being his old excitable, high-strung self, bounding through knee-high snow banks, peeing on every tree, and eating every stick he could find. "Success!" I thought to myself. "I am so brilliant!"

And then I looked down, and noticed that two of his four booties had disappeared. And I realized that they must have come off while he was leaping like a crazed deer through the snowbanks (so much for that second velcro strap that is supposed to prevent this very thing from happening). Only I had no idea how long he had been bounding along without them or where he might have lost them. And so I had to spend the next 20 minutes tracing his paw prints backwards until I finally found them buried about six inches deep in the snow. No wonder the little bugger was so happy! He'd found a way to take them off.

Mumbling under my breath about these stupid booties and my stupid dog who didn't realize that I was only trying to protect his stupid paws from the stupid snow and the stupid ice and the stupid salt, I reached for his paw so that I could put his getaway booties back on. And he started to whimper. And there, while we were standing in his favourite place in the whole wide world, my resolve began to crumble. Why on earth was I trying to ruin his fun by making him wear these stupid booties?

And then another thought struck me. Not one other dog we know - except for the little Boston Terrier-Pug we sometimes run into in the park - wears winter booties. They all go for their walks and go play in the park each and every day with nothing on their feet, and they seem fine. More importantly, none of them look depressed and forlorn. So again, why was I forcing the Beast to wear these stupid booties?

And so this was the precise moment when I decided to let him just be a dog and walk home barefoot. I took off his two remaining intact booties, stuffed them in his backpack, and let him feel the snow, the ice and the salt underneath his paws. Sure, I cringed a little as I looked down and saw him get big fat clumps of salty ice between his toes. And I worried when every now and then, he would lift one paw up while we were stopped at a stop light, presumably because it was too cold to put down on the sidewalk. But then again, his head was up, his ears were back, and most importantly, he was smiling all the way home.

So his booties are sitting in a box on top of his crate. We haven't touched them in at least two weeks. We've taken him out in freezing rain, in snow, and in temperatures plummeting to -30C, and he hasn't complained or shown any signs of bootie-less damage. Who knows if we're doing the "right" thing (although we did ask our vet and she told us not to worry so much about the booties). But at least the Beast is happier...

As for me, on the other hand... Well, I guess I'm processing my first case of shoe-related buyer's remorse. What a strange feeling...

But if any of you need a quartet of dog booties, you know where to find them...