Who let the dawgs out?

The student flung herself dramatically into the chair.

“I can’t believe it. Mr. Stephen’s dogs are out!”

“They’re loose? Does he need someone to watch his class? Is he leaving school to find them?”

She looked at me as if I was speaking an indecipherable language. She spoke slowly, carefully enunciating every word hoping to facilitate my understanding. “His … dogs … are … out.”

I stared at her, as my brain flipped through its rolodex of dog references. The most obvious was the reference to the Baha Men’s 2000 hit, “Who Let the Dogs Out?” So, I tried that approach, a bit off-key and accentuated by awkward dance moves, “Who let the dogs out? Who? Who?”

Her confusion deepened to concern. “I told you Mr. Stephen’s dogs are out. Why are you hooting?”

“It was a song … never mind.” I remembered this same student thought Jimmy Buffet was a Minecraft character.

The next entry in my brain index of useless information was a movie reference from 1987 — “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” In her world this was old, but maybe she watched it on Netflix. “My dogs are barking today,” actor John Candy sighed with relief as he removed his shoes and socks in his airplane seat and rubbed his feet.

My mind wandered to the next random fact: The legend of the Hushpuppy shoe. Hushpuppies were a comfortable suede creation advertised by a Basset Hound that no one younger than me can identify. The story goes that a sales rep was served a side dish of hush puppies at a southern restaurant. He asked how they got their name. The answer was that farmers threw these fried cornbread balls to “quiet their barking dogs.”

Reality met metaphor and the iconic shoe acquired its name.

“Are dogs feet?” I ventured as I assembled my thoughts.

“Dawgs, not dogs. Dawgs are toes! And can you believe that he is wearing sandals, without socks? He isn’t wearing socks!”

Sandals with socks? Huh? Wasn’t that the necessary costume choice for a loving, but embarrassing, nerdy dad? I distinctly remember friends dying of embarrassment when their fathers were seen around town with that fashion combo.

“And why would he wear socks with sandals?”

“Mrs. Peer, everyone knows showing your toes in class is inappropriate. It’s just wrong.”

I paused, studying this young lady who had been dress-coded for short crop tops and rolling the waistband of her sweatpants way too low. She wasn’t above wearing the hood of her sweatshirt over her ears to conceal earbuds. Some days she was the poster child for what not to wear to school. And she was touting Victorian ideals about covering feet?

“What’s wrong with toes?”

“Don’t you know someone could take a picture of your feet and sell them?” Her tone implied she couldn’t believe I could be so clueless.

“Do you really think there is a market for Mr. Stephen’s foot pics?” I did know what she was talking about. Seniors unsure about their next steps will often joke about a career selling foot pictures to fetish sites. To the best of my knowledge, no one has followed through.

“Not just his feet, anyone’s! You can wear bare feet in sandals to the beach or maybe the grocery store. But absolutely no sockless feet when you’re around people!”

“Oh, so it is a fashion rule like you can’t wear white before Memorial Day?”

“Huh? That doesn’t make sense, we wear white all the time. Toes are just weird and gross and need to be covered. Everybody knows that.”

“Are you suffering from podophobia — fear of feet?”

“Afraid of feet? No. Look, it’s not just me. Everyone knows that you should wear socks with sandals. Just look it up on Tik Tok and you’ll see.”

I did. She’s right. The anti-toe movement, it’s a thing.

I have to say, other than using nail polish to disguise an occasional black runner’s toe, I don’t often think about my feet. I did have a high school English teacher compare my toes to tiny cucumbers, but I think it was during a lesson about metaphors. At least I hope it was …

Coincidentally, my Birkenstocks arrived in the mail yesterday. For three years I’ve been wearing knock-off hand-me-downs, so I was excited to get them.

Do I wear them to school tomorrow?

Do I wear them (gulp) with socks?

Or do I throw caution to the wind and let my dawgs out?


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today