Almost four years ago I was broke, bored, and very lonely. I had the brilliant idea to get a puppy despite never owning a dog before. Spending more than I could afford, I brought home a five-month-old Samoyed who wasn’t the least bit potty-trained. I named her Rainy, and she’s been my companion ever since.

It wasn’t easy. I scrubbed soiled carpets by hand. I made frantic Google searches (“Do puppies lose teeth??” Answer: Yes, they do, calm down). I bought a carpet steamer. More than one roommate chased a loose Rainy through the neighborhood. 

I paid vet fees for kennel cough, pneumonia, and a bite from another dog at the park. Rainy was underweight, so I did whatever I could to get her to eat more. I turned dinner into a game, tossing individual kibbles across the room for her to catch and eat. If Rainy approached the food bowl on her own—usually around 10 p.m.—my roommates knew they were not allowed to get up and distract her until she was finished. 

Of course, it was all worth it, and even more so during this pandemic. When I left my old life to get married last fall, Rainy was the only friend I could bring with me across the border.

Life’s been tough lately, for me and for everyone. I might not get out much, or eat well, or exercise enough, but I always make sure that Rainy does. 

Our latest struggle has been against sidewalk salt, which is irritating Rainy’s paws more than usual this winter. I bought some doggie boots for her, but they’d always end up twisted when we go for walks. Another set kept sliding off, but did deliver on their promise of “funky mutt fashion.”

Finally, I settled on Pawz latex boots, which are almost literally just balloons. They are the only boot that stays on, but they are the bane of my existence. Imagine a balloon with an opening the size of a quarter. Imagine using both hands to stretch it wide enough to put your whole foot in it. Then imagine the foot has claws and belongs to a sharp-toothed animal who does not appreciate having their feet stuffed inside balloons.

Despite my assurances that “it’s for your own good,” putting the Pawz on Rainy was miserable for both of us. I searched the internet for a solution, and was advised that stretching the boot over some sort of pipe made paw application easier.

Though this particular scenario never appeared in a story problem in eighth-grade algebra, I figured out what to do. I wrapped a tape measure around a belligerent Rainy’s foot to find its circumference. Using pi, I calculated the necessary diameter for a cylindrical object to comfortably slide over her paw. I ordered a short PVC pipe of the appropriate dimensions, and voila!

Now the boots go on with a simple four-step process: stretch the boot over the pipe, slide it onto the paw, gently unsnap the boot from the pipe, then slide the pipe back down over the newly applied boot. The only remaining obstacle is the doggie dew claw, a useless bonus thumb that exists only to be a pain in my ass as I try to cram it into the boot without the attached dog chomping off my hand. 

Rainy gets lots of compliments when she wears her balloons during our walks, which makes me very smug. “See? Other dogs wear boots…” a neighbor grumbled to his bare-footed goldendoodle as we walked by. I laughed as if I was the world’s greatest dog owner.

Of course, no matter how hard we try to keep those we love safe, there will always be slip-ups. A few weeks ago I glanced at Rainy’s bed and noticed that, although there was no dog in it, my antidepressant pills were in a pile on top, next to their chewed-up bottle she must have stolen from a normally-closed dresser drawer. 

If I wasn’t so terrified, it might have been funny. Perhaps Rainy wanted the Lexapro so she could achieve a level of chill unreached since the Christmas where an acquaintance took care of her and returned her to me with her fur smelling like a week’s worth of marijuana smoke. 

After finding the pills, I drove Rainy to the emergency vet, trying not to panic. Three hours, $250, and one poison-control call later, Rainy was completely fine and unsure what all the fuss was about. It seems she dumped the pills out without tasting any, the only lasting consequence being the white hairs I still pull out of the bottle every time I take my dose. 

All our pills now live in a high-up cabinet, unreachable to nosy pups. I laugh about that day because nothing bad happened. Because I can’t imagine what life would be like if I hadn’t been so lucky. I can’t imagine losing Rainy. 

For me, an unemployed expat in a lockdown, having a dog means having purpose. I’ve got to take care of Rainy even when I struggle to take care of me. Dogs don’t let you lay around feeling sorry for yourself for long. 

When it’s time for her walk, Rainy lets me know with a gruff howl or a poke from her nose. I get myself up and grab her leash. Then we put our boots on, one foot at a time.


  1. Geneva Langeland

    Rainy, the wintertime fashionista!

  2. Avatar

    The pride I felt after wrangling my pup into all four of her Pawz today without the assistance of another pair of human hands was immense… Cheers, from one dew-claw-befuddled human to another.

  3. Kyric Koning

    Having a living source of external motivation handy certainly helps when the inner motivation is lacking. That the motivation comes from a furry friend can be pleasing or frustrating, depending. Certainly wouldn’t be my first choice, but I think what you have is special.


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