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Updated: Jun 30

Rocket Dog, Trumble Galaxy, black mid-calf boot. 


Broken in, but still holding onto that faux leather finish. Just the right amount of comfortable and presentable. 


This morning they are the bane of my existence. 


Stella, my family's latest canine addition, has a shoe fetish. Ever the fearsome footwear hunter, she had stalked her prey, broken through the barrier that separated her from her quarry (a.k.a. the door to my closet), pounced, and proceeded, unbeknownst to her humans, to pull out the interior sole of the right boot and chew it to bits. 


They were not her first victim. 


Which is why I had put them in the closet. Where they should have been safe. 

As Stella stared up at me with her beautiful blue eyes, inordinately proud of her work, I spiraled into a panic. 


The morning had already been the normal chaos of a multi-generational household. My husband was taking care of the dogs (unfortunately, the pup in question had gotten away from him), both of my parents had come over at some point to ask some question or other, my son was not eating his breakfast and resisting taking his morning allergy meds, while I was trying to get dressed and out the door. There were finishing touches that needed to be completed on the most recent gallery exhibit, and the reception started at 4 pm.


I needed to leave. 


The boot in question was fine on the outside—no ragged edge or tooth mark to be seen. No problem, right? 


Except it is a problem, when you're living with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). 


I was diagnosed as an adult with SPD in my late twenties, after years of inaccurate diagnoses (obsessive-compulsive disorder), casein allergy (really, I was told my problem was milk products), elevated levels of cerebrospinal fluid and hydrocephaly (yes, really, I even had a spinal tap to remove "excess" fluid), and incomplete diagnoses (anxiety and depression- no surprise there) and all of their prescribed treatments—none of which were completely effective. Each failed treatment left me feeling more broken, weird, abnormal, and ashamed. 


Since my initial diagnosis, information about SPD and subtypes of SPD has become more nuanced. My particular brand of SPD is Sensory Modulation Disorder from sensory over-responsivity. 


For me, the worst is tactile sensation. The typical examples you hear of with SPD are tags and sock seams, which, believe me, are a problem. It is different for everyone, though. Add to tags and seams the weight of one layer of clothing over another, the way the edge of a collar feels against my shoulder (and only the right, not the left), and how the edge of a tennis shoe at the back heel rubs when I walk. I won't bore you, but the list goes on.


Getting dressed on a normal day is a challenge. I've developed coping mechanisms and workarounds, but when I am overly tired or overly stressed—which, if you have ever managed a gallery or been a caregiver, or hell, just been alive, you know stress is a continual state of being—my ability to cope with my hypersensitivity is essentially non-existent. The amount of frustration and rage that is triggered in me is unreal. I want to tear, rip, destroy the thing that is causing so much irritation. It triggers my fight-or-flight response, and since I can't flee from my clothing (ha, what a visual image that is), I destroy it. 


Which has had an unfortunate effect on my wardrobe. 


This particular day, May 2nd, was the morning of the opening reception for the exhibit "The Hottest Blaze in Town" about Blaze Starr. It had been a particularly challenging install. The curator, my staff, a plucky volunteer, and I had put in over 400 hours between us during the four weeks it took to transform the gallery into a facsimile of Blaze's Two O'Clock Club in Baltimore. It was a very cool show, but after that install, let's just say if I were a car, my gasometer would be on E, with no fueling station in sight. I had a reception to run that night from 4 pm – 8 pm, I had work to do before the reception, it was only 8 am, and I was running on fumes. 


I needed those boots. Not just as a part of an outfit. I needed them for my sanity.


Those boots fit just right. They don't hit any of my trigger areas, and because I wear them every day, I order a new pair each year because the toe starts to separate from the sole and I wear them until they're basically peeling away from my feet. If Rocket Dog ever stops making that boot, I am screwed. But that is a problem for future me. 


Today, though. Today, without those boots, I didn't know how I was going to make it through. 

You don't call out of work for "my dog ate my shoes." 


I had a melt down. 


Lucky for me, though, my family rallied. My husband pulled inserts out of a pair of his boots. I tried it. But it felt...wrong. Wrong in a way that, on that day, the stressed-out, overstimulated version of myself could not handle. He went to the local Walmart to look for a solution while my mom and I searched online at every shoe store within driving distance for a replacement. 


There weren't any. And ordering from Amazon was not an option. There was no same-day delivery to the rescue for this one. 


I did, however, order two pairs—cost be damned, and in an "I'll figure it out later" mindset. Just in case my blue-eyed shoe thief decided to Houdini her way into my closet again. 


My husband returned with three different brands of shoe inserts. Out of those three, one worked. Sort of. They didn't feel "normal" or at least my normal, but better. 


Thank you, dear husband, and Dr. Scholl's. 


Not willing to risk not liking the inserts- because things don't always feel right the longer they're worn, I drove to work barefoot, Macgyvered boots on the passenger seat beside me.


By the time I arrived at the gallery, the panic had subsided. Mostly. I slipped into the makeshift boots, took a deep breath, and reassured myself that at least the rest of my wardrobe wasn't actively trying to ruin my day. 

Today wasn’t going to be perfect, but it would be manageable. Probably. 


As the evening wore on, surrounded by Blaze's family, fans, and enough glitter to make a disco ball blush, I couldn’t help but smile. Despite the chaos, we had pulled it off. My husband's quick thinking and my family's support had saved the day. I mentally added Dr. Scholl’s to my list of heroes right alongside Wonder Woman and the inventor of coffee. 


And Stella? Well, she’s still got a lot to learn about shoes. Maybe I’ll open a Zappos account for her, so she can have her own footwear to chew on. But she’s also got a lot of love to give, and at the end of the day, that’s what matters most. 

Even if my boots beg to differ. 

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