So, I stepped in some dog shit at lunchtime today. It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last, sadly, I’m sure. After a trip to the bathroom I was able to pick out (with a plastic knife) all but the most embedded crumbs of dog grumpy from my shoe’s waffle. What kills me is that while much of my trip to and from the Art Institute is a blur, I remember crossing Randolph Street, stepping around a barrier on the other side, and then feeling a momentary sliding sensation along my left heel. “I’m not going to look,” I said. “It was probably some garbage—a bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.” I hoped for the best and trundled on, unwittingly tracking Canis lupus familiaris feces past the Institute’s van Goghs, Vuillards, and Modiglianis.

During the stepping, I experienced my usual irrational fear that I’d accidentally crushed a baby bird underfoot. Once, as a young man, I unwittingly kicked a semi-formed robin, and when I looked down and saw its shuttered eyes, membranous skin, and pathetically snapping beak, I wanted to vomit. I couldn’t even bring myself to end its misery, and moved on. I’m sure it all turned out okay in the end. Sure.

The fun part came when I was sitting at my desk, and the odor began to waft upwards. I couldn’t quite smell it at first, but the progression of scents and the Proustian thoughts they engendered were interesting.

1. “What is that?”—At first my brain was only attuned to the presence of an out of the ordinary scent. I must have crossed my legs quickly, sending a momentary geyser of scat molecules up into my nose. I couldn’t quite place it, and it hadn’t lingered long enough to be unpleasant. It was more a pungent ghost—a brief breeze of earthiness.

2. “Okay… What the hell is that?”—The smell grew strong, and I began to worry. No one else was around (the person in the next cube was in a meeting), making me suspect I was somehow releasing foulness. I’d showered that morning, and while my belly was making the expected post-lunch digestive grumbles, no matter, gas, liquid, solid, or plasma, had exited Mr. Dan Kelly. Certainly not at my desk, for Christ’s sake.

My next thought was that somehow the cats had dosed my clothes, but to not have noticed it until late afternoon was absurd. Furthermore, if you own cats you know what their crap smells like. Cat refuse smells more like ammonia—at least their pee does, which tends to dominate however bad their dung smells. This wasn’t cat though, it was dog. And I knew this because I was a dog owner long before I started adopting cats. I recognized that sour kibble and meat-tinged pong. Strangely enough, this week we just happen to be minding a dog for my wife’s dad, but I knew that Lola (the dog) had been nowhere near my clothing. Plus, unlike the cats, venal creatures that they are, she had no reason to seek olfactory vengeance on my duds.

But then I remembered that this had all happened before. I looked at the bottom of my shoe. Et voila. Figuring out the source of the smell was easier than the last time I stepped in dog doody. That’s a funny story, and I don’t think I’ve shared it with anyone before today.

Several years ago, the same thing had happened. I was walking to work and somewhere along the way the merest bit of dog log got stuck to my shoe without my noticing—I think there was snow on the ground. When I arrived at work I got my coffee, sat down, and set up for the day. Suddenly, a familiar smell, but familiar only in that I knew it was rectally related, but not necessarily canine. I let it pass, imagining it was an olfactory illusion. Then I smelled it again. It was stronger this time. Still not thinking dog, I imagined this was the work of man. The man in the next cube. Let’s call him Jimmy.

Jimmy was a fellow whom I liked greatly. A talented soul with a wry sense of humor, Jimmy could always be counted on for an appropriately off-color response when, say, the receptionist announced that an earring was found (“It’s mine… But it’s not an EAR ring!” He didn’t make that joke, but they were usually in that vein.). I remembered he’d been sick recently, so I thought, “Well… Maybe he’s having some GI problems, and had to let one sneak out.”

Then I smelled it again.

“What?” I thought, eyeing the wall that separated us. “What the hell?” One was a mistake. Two was ill-mannered. The bathroom was just a short walk away in case the cooling tower had to let off a little steam to avoid critical mass, if you know what I mean. And I mean farts.

Again, the scent of stink arose. My mucous membranes died by the thousands; my nose hairs were singed and reduced to ash.

“JESUS CHRIST!” I thought. I stood up and looked over the wall at Jimmy, who was diligently working away. He looked fairly unbothered by gastrointestinal or any other difficulties, other than his daily duties. He looked back.

“Yes?” asked Jimmy.

“Nothing,” I said.

The perp seemed unperturbed, so I had to rethink my approach. I sat back down and leaned over, sniffing the air beneath my desk. I thought the same things I thought above: cat sabotage, poor hygiene, etc. I kept smelling until I pinpointed the hellish stench’s location. Somewhere near the floor, somewhere down there, around… my shoe. I lifted and tilted my shoes, left, then right. On the bottom of my right shoe, pressed deeply into the soul, was a small bowser sausage. Oops. Hehehehehehehe…

All apologies to Jimmy. I’m glad you didn’t have it in you.