By Greg Clark, March 22, 1947
“Hey, get out of here!” yelled Jimmie Frise:
He was speaking to his so-called Irish water spaniel, Rusty, who had just romped into the living room.
“Aw,” moaned Jim loudly, “just look at that MUD!”
Rusty’s sprawled paws were soppy with liquid mud. He left large loose footprints on the rug and on the hardwood floor as he tucked in his tail and retreated to the kitchen.
“At this season of the year, Jim,” I announced with sweet reasonableness, “you have to put up with a certain amount of dirt tracked in…”
Jim was up, swiping up the muddy footprints with his handkerchief. He followed Rusty to the kitchen and let out a wail.
“Just look here!” He shouted for me. “Just look at this linoleum.”
I went to the kitchen and it certainly was a mess. Rusty had apparently succeeded in pawing the kitchen door open and had brought in about a pint of lovely liquid goo from the melting back yard. He had tracked it all over the kitchen, as though trying to leave no square foot undecorated.
“Here, you!” commanded Jim angrily jerking the back door open. “Git!”
And Rusty, all abject, hustled out into the mucky garden.
“He’ll only pick up more,” I pointed out cheerily.
“What do other people, do?” enquired Jim helplessly, as he took the mop from the broom closet and started to mop up. “Nearly every home in the nation has a dog. What do they do when the spring break-up comes? Is every home in Canada mucked up like this?”
“I suppose so,” I agreed. “From late March until well into May, the average back yard or garden in this country is more or less liquid mud. Dogs will be dogs. You can’t keep a dog shut up for two solid months…”
“Well, if you can train a dog to sit up and beg,” demanded Jim grimly, “why can’t you train a dog to wipe its feet before it comes in the house!”
“I suppose some people have,” I supposed.
“That Rusty,” muttered Jim, looking out the kitchen window. “The most intelligent dog I ever owned. Understands every word I utter. Sits with me in the duck blind, in the autumn, and comprehends the whole game of duck shooting as well as I do. Lies like a rock until I shoot and give the command to retrieve. Up like a shot, into the water and locates the duck with almost human intelligence. And then … does a thing like this!”
He resumed his mopping fretfully.
“Jim,” I philosophized mildly, “this just gives you some idea of what the womenfolk of this country are up against, year in, year out. Just because your wife and family happen to be out this afternoon, you’re getting a little insight into what goes on here in your kitchen every day from now until the summer comes. Mopping, mopping, mopping.”
“I suppose,” said Jim reflectively resting on his mop.
“It stands to reason,” I pointed out. “Rusty goes out every day, doesn’t he? Several times a day? Yes? And every time he goes out, he romps around the muddy streets or the muddy garden, and tracks in…”
“I guess,” said Jim, “we don’t realize just what our wives really do. We’re so used to them busy about the house, vacuuming, sweeping, dusting – we never notice what it is that makes all the dirt until we happen to see Rusty, there, come bounding in onto the living room rug–“
“Heading straight for the chesterfield,” I reminded.
“He’d have been on the chesterfield in a second,” agreed Jim, “if I hadn’t yelled at him.”
Jim looked out of the window again.
“Just look at that fat-head!” cried Jim. “Look at him deliberately stamping in that liquid mud!”
“Listen,” I pleaded. “If you were a dog, wouldn’t you delight in the first signs of spring? That mud along that flower bed, Jim, is the first touch of spring for Rusty. After running around on the snow and ice all winter, in his bare feet, I bet that nice soft mud feels heavenly to him.”
“Well, he’s certainly not going to get back here in this house!” declared Jim indignantly, as he gave the kitchen linoleum a final flourish with the mop. “When I think of all the years I’ve let that darn dog, and all his predecessors, ladle mud all over the place …”
“Aw, the womenfolk are used to it,” I reasoned.
“Used to it!” cried Jim hotly. “Why, I blush all over the way I’ve behaved towards my wife and daughters. Never giving them a thought. Allowing that mutt Rusty to slather mud all over the place … Do you know what I’m going to do?”
“Send Rusty away to the country for March and April?” I suggested.
“No, sir,” asserted Jim, slamming the mop back into the broom closet. “No, sir! I’m going to TRAIN that dog to wipe his feet.”
“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, Jim,” I warned.
“Rusty,” stated Jim, “has got almost as much intelligence as you or I have. I’m going to start training him right now. I’m going to set a little baking pan of clean water out there on the back steps, I’m going to teach him to dip his paws, one after the other, in the water. Then — just inside the kitchen door — I’m going to lay some newspapers on the floor. And I’ll teach him to stand with his freshly dipped paws, onto the newspaper, scrape them on the paper to dry them…”
“Aw, Jim,” I protested, “poor old Rusty could never do that.”
“Haven’t you seen him,” interrupted Jimmie, last summer, scratching his feet energetically on the ground. Making the dirt fly? Every dog does that. Well, all I’m going to do is teach him to scratch like that on newspapers when he comes into the house.”
“I’ve got a far simpler idea, Jim,” supposed I, leading back into the living room. “An idea that has been staring us all in the face for centuries. An idea in fact, that has already occurred to plenty of dog owners — though not for cleanliness.”
“What’s that?” enquired Jim.
“Boots,” I said.
“Boots?” exclaimed Jim. “Dog boots?”
“Certainly,” I assured him. “Dog boots. I’ve often seen them in sporting goods stores. Little leather boots that lace up like a figure-skating boot do. Hunters use them on setters, pointers and hounds, when the dog’s feet get tender after too much running.”
“Well, I’ll be …!” said Jim.
“You’ve seen them?” I said. “Sure! They’re an every day thing for gun dogs. And why all the rest of us dog lovers, who have to keep dogs in city houses, haven’t tumbled to these dog boots long ago, I can’t figure out.”
“Why, how simple!” cried Jim.” Before you let your dog out on a muddy day, you just slip these little leather boots on him. He’ll soon get used to them. He’ll soon learn that he has to have his mud boots on certain kinds of muddy days. Why, it’s a brain wave. Where do you suppose we could get a set of them?”
I got up and went straight to the phone. I called two or three sporting goods stores. Yes. They had heard of dog boots. Oh, yes, in fact, a few years ago, they had had a few sets in stock. But they hadn’t seen any for some years, not since the start of the war, in fact.
“Order some, order some!” called Jim.
So I ordered a set, whenever they came on the market again, the right size for a dog its owner believed to be an Irish water spaniel.
“Well, well, well,” I said, resuming my easy chair. “Think of that!”
“Think,” protested Jim, “of all the women of this country, and what a saving it would be if every dog was trained to stop, before going out on a wet or muddy day, to have its boots put on!”
“From what I know of women,” I remarked, “I think they would prefer to do a little mopping than to have to be stooping down, every little while, to adjust four boots on a dog.”
“Greg,” said Jim seriously, “it’s about time we men began doing a little thinking about how our womenfolk have to slave and toil, over these trifling LITTLE things…”
“Personally,” I submitted, “I think it is safer for men to leave the domestic problems where they belong. It’s usually fatal to interfere.”
“This isn’t interfering,” exploded Jim. “It’s offering to the womenfolk of the world the benefit of the manly imagination, the masculine purpose and drive…”
“Mmm-mmm!” I disagreed.
Jim sat thinking. He suddenly clapped his hands.
“I’ve got it!” he explained. “I’ve got a sheet of light leather up in my den. I was going to use it for a patch on the bottom of my pack sack. Now, look!
I’m going to cut four little squares of this leather. It’s nice and light, but tough. Then, I’ll get four good elastic bands, and –”
He was off and up the stairs. He returned in a few minutes with four small patches of light leather, about five inches square, and a collection of assorted elastic bands.
“Now, see,” he exulted. “I place Rusty’s foot in the middle of this patch. I fold it up around his ankle and secure it with a rubber band. Presto!”
“Well, by golly,” I chuckled “it just might do!”
So we called Rusty to the back door. We spread a good pad of newspapers on the back steps. And then, while I held Rusty steady. Jim started to attach the new footgear.
Rusty didn’t like it much. He struggled quite a bit and protested vocally. He got twisted around so he could look at what Jim was doing.
“See, old boy?” cried Jim, patting Rusty’s noggin and holding up the first booted foot for Rusty to examine and sniff.
So Rusty, accustomed as he is to the oddities of human beings and resigned, largely, to the superior will, if not the wisdom, of his master, relaxed while Jim skilfully placed each paw in the centre of a leather patch, folded it up around the ankle and secured it firmly but not too tightly, with an elastic band.
“There,” declared Jim. “That will have to do until we get his new proper boots. It’s no trick at all to fix them on. The womenfolk will do it in a jiffy.”
I let Rusty go.
He stood for a moment, awkwardly. He raised one hind leg in the air and shook it sharply. He took a step. And as he lifted each foot, he would give it a quick, automatic kick.
He stepped cautiously down the steps, and at the bottom, turned and bit at his front paw.
“No, no, no!” warned Jimmie sharply.
Rusty stood uncertainly, gazing at the lovely mud of the lawn and garden beds.
“Go ahead, boy,” urged Jim softly.
Rusty took a couple more steps, giving each hind leg an automatic shake or kick as he lifted it.
Then he started to run.
“Hurray,” cried Jim, “he’s onto them already …”
But Rusty was running in wild circles. He was twisting and snapping and tearing at his paws. He fell over in his frenzy and rolled in the mud
“Hey,” roared Jim. “Hey!”
“Jim,” I cried, “he’s frightened. He’s going into a panic.”
Rusty was now rolling and biting and fighting madly in the thickest of the mud, the loose, soupy mud over by the lilac bushes. Rolling and kicking and tearing, a regular blur of mud.
Jim and I reached him simultaneously. To get to him, we had to do a little mud-wading ourselves. And to lay hands on him, we had to get a lot of mud in the face, and all over our hands, arms and knees.
“Steady, boy!” roared Jim, pinning him in the mud. And he started to unloose one of the boots.
But Rusty had had enough of our ideas. With a violent wriggle, he slipped from our clutches, and raced for the house.
The back door was open.
“Oh, OH, OH!” yowled Jim, as we sprinted.
But it was too late. We did not waste time trying to scrape our own feet. Nor even to shake any off our pant legs. We dashed through the kitchen, past the hall, into the living room.
And there, on the chesterfield, fought Rusty still game with his new footgear.
Well, Jim locked Rusty in the cellar. And we both peeled off, and got the mop, and the scrubbing pail AND the vacuum AND the broom.
AND some patent stuff for cleaning upholstery that we found in the cupboard.
And I am bound to say, we had at least the rough off before the womenfolk got home. At least, they wouldn’t have too much to do. No scraping, anyway.
“Now,” said Jim, at last, “I’ll go down and put that mutt in the laundry tub. And it’ll be lucky if I don’t DROWN him.”
“Aw, don’t blame the dog, Jim,” I submitted heavily. “Let’s just remember to leave domestic problems to the ladies.”
Editor’s Note: Jim’s dog Rusty appears in many stories. It might have been the same dog, or perhaps they all were turned into Rusty for the sake of stories.