These Boots

boots 0119Yesterday I spent 10 minutes fitting Oz’s front feet into recently-purchased dog boots, and then I sent him out the front door while I finished putting on my own boots. I looked down, and found one of his boots in front of the door. I opened the door, and there was the other, on the doormat.

I bought the boots for him last weekend, because when it snows (as it seems to do nearly every day, Platte-style — remember, too much to ignore, too little to shovel), his very furry feet pick up a bunch of snow and ice, and he is perpetually stopping on our walks to try to gnaw it out (and then spends the first 10-15 minutes once inside finishing the job).

Saturday I took him into our new pet store, Pawsitively Native, where the proprietor, Whitney, is always friendly, knowledgeable and helpful. Oz sat very patiently while she traced his paw and then fitted a pair of boots on his front feet.

I have to say, this still astounds me. Oz’s immediate predecessor, Ashoka, was allergic to absolutely everything, and her skin was extremely sensitive. While she always wanted to be petted, you would, within a minute, hit a spot that didn’t feel good, and she would yelp and flinch. At one point she impaled a paw on a nail, and the vet’s first bandage was put on too tightly. After trying at home, Lynn and I had to go back to the clinic, where we leaned our full body weights on Ashoka as the vet fought valiantly to wrestle the bandage off a frantic dog.

Ashoka was certainly an extreme case, but I don’t recall any of my dogs being as chill as Oz when it comes to being manhandled. He doesn’t like it when I roll chairs over him at work (which wouldn’t happen if he didn’t insist on lying right next to them), but I can step and lean on him, and he just absorbs it.

So he was quite patient as Whitney put a pair of boots on his feet, although you could tell he wasn’t crazy about them. He wore them around her store, quite possibly distracted by the astounding assortment of foods conveniently placed at dog nose-level, and it seemed like these would do the job.

As she does with every product she sells, Whitney told me to bring them back if they weren’t working out. She wasn’t going to be excited about that if we got them really muddy, but it sounded like she’d try to take them back anyway.

I’m not going to take them back, even if they spend more time in my back pocket than on Oz’s feet. Retail in Gunnison is not a get-rich-quick proposition. I’m not Whitney’s most consistent customer, but I’d like her to be around when I do need things.

After buying boots for Oz, I turned attention to my own boot needs. I have boots – they’re Muckboots. For years (and years and years), I had a pair of Boggs that I bought from Leatherworks (now occupied by Pat’s Screen Printing). They’re rubberish all-purpose boots favored by the agriculture community — you just shove your feet in them and go through snow, water, mud, you name it, with impunity. They make you feel invincible.

But mine were starting to show their age,  which could be a decade or more, and cracks were forming on the outside layer and the soles. With Leatherworks out of the boot biz, I looked around town, but no one seemed to be selling Boggs. There were some Muckboots, which are the same concept, but I’d had such good luck with my Boggs that I thought I’d practice brand loyalty.

So I made my first (and only, so far) trip to Murdoch’s in Montrose — only to be rewarded for my loyalty by yet another company “innovating” itself right out of my business. Every pair of Boggs now comes with a giant pair of holes in the sides. I understand that the company thinks this is helpful: you put your fingers in the holes and tuuuug, but these boots aren’t that difficult to put on in the first place, and in the second, what good are boots that will dump snow in through the sides? I moved on to the Muckboots one shelf over.

Muckboots come with a sturdier (and heavier) sole, but they’ve done the job. Not that they were tested much last year, since we really didn’t have winter. This year they’re getting much more of a workout, especially when Oz and I break trail from our house-in-progress to the pond. But this has also turned up a problem: they are rubbing a spot on my shins raw.

So Saturday I went shopping for soccer shin guards. I knew I was out of season, so it wasn’t too much of a surprise when All Sports Replay didn’t have anything. The clerk suggested Gene Taylor’s, so I went there. Gene Taylor’s used to be quite a sporting empire on the Western Slope; now it’s pretty much a self-serve operation in Gunnison. The staff seems to consist of indifferent college-age clerks who are reluctant to leave their front counter and who so far haven’t been able to answer questions I’ve had about any specific product.

But they have stuff, so I go there from time to time, including Saturday, where a clerk managed to roust himself from his counter long enough to lead me downstairs to an assortment of shin guards, where I was left on my own to sort through them.

The last time I played soccer I was 9. It was a Gunnison Recreation program, on the South Teller fields that now are exclusive to baseball but then were all-purpose. And on our first day of practice, which I think was my last, all we did was run. Not after a ball — we just ran. Conditioning, it’s called. Not my cup of tea, I said, and if I did go back, I finished out the season and never again.

[Do you know what I remember most? That Russell Osborne, a year or two older than me, did all that running, and then was going to run home afterward. I believe he lived here on Irwin, which is all the way across town, and I couldn’t fathom such an outlandish plan. I still can’t, not quite 50 years later.]

So what do I know about shin guards? And there seemed to be no rhyme to Gene Taylor’s “sorting.” Many pairs said “youth.” They were all less expensive than I was expecting, most of them around $10 per pair. I found an adult pair at $14 that looked like they would work (and measured their size by a person’s height, which seemed novel), but then noticed a $10 set below that. Since this was an experiment, I opted for the cheaper pair, even though it said “large.”

So far, they’re working, and that’s even after wearing my Muckboots while walking to and from work yesterday (for snow that was more flash than substance once again). Plus, while they make my shins sweat, they seem to be keeping my feet warmer. I don’t know how that works, but somehow sweaty shins lead to warm feet.

To recap, then, it took 10 minutes yesterday to put boots on Oz’s feet that came off within seconds, and it took probably five minutes for me to strap on shin guards and slide into boots — but my shin guards stayed in place and I don’t have a raw spot to prove it. And every time Oz stopped to chew on his paws, he got lectured: “That wouldn’t happen if you were wearing your boots.” I’m sure that will inspire him to keep them on.

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