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In May I started seeing the owner of an intelligent, well-trained Basset mix. The dog and I seemed to have an agreement from the beginning: I would stay out of his way, and he would stay out of mine. Faithful to my end of the bargain, I didn’t cover my girlfriend in kisses when she was throwing a chew toy across the room. Faithful to his end, the dog didn’t force his way between us in bed.
This was how it went, until one night, when all got tense. My girlfriend and I were doing one of those things in which dogs do not generally participate. As I lay afterward in a pleasant exhaustion, she said: “Aw, man. Your shoes are fucked.” Actually, they were masticated. Her dog had chewed the left heel and the right tongue off of my leather Red Wing loafers, which were sent by my grandmother and had become the sole possession on which I always relied.
The dog and I have made amends. I didn’t know—-still don’t know—-why jealousy took my shoes in its jaws. But I knew I couldn’t go around in those mangled excuses for loafers. So I bought a cheap pair of Mossimo slip-ons. One day I was trying to learn what sort of shoes they were, and a friend thought he had it. “Those are boat shoes,” he said.
Since he attended Georgetown and should know, I took his opinion. My buddies were trying to get a houseboat at that time, and yes, I could imagine myself on deck, leaning into the dusk wind that sprang off the Potomac.
Then my girlfriend expressed a more sober thought. “Those are prison shoes,” she said.
“No, they’re not!”
But if she said so, they probably were. I walked through the city ashamed, afraid that an inspector was tracking my movements, or that some derelict would remember that I was his comrade in chains. The restlessness continued through this week, when I determined not to play Jean Valjean any longer: I bought new black-and-white Chucks in the middle of the workday.
Good shoes should bring good fortune. For two days, I enjoyed more esteem from my friends, more success in the office, more confidence in bed. But this morning, I’m sad to report, some low-minded cur left a mess in my path, and some snotty owner didn’t scoop it. I tried napkins, I tore paper towels, I covered the sole in heavy-duty cleaner and scrubbed it down hard with a dish pad. The stench remains.
Dear dogs, what did I ever do to you? Why do you have it out for my shoes?