My life has gone to the dogs | AspenTimes.com

My life has gone to the dogs

Janet Urquhart

The battle of wits with my new stepchildren has commenced. I’m not sure anyone has claimed victory yet, but I’m the only one with an actual battle scar so far.I’m making them wipe their feet (by doing it for them) every time they come in the door, but they willfully shed blankets of fur whenever they feel like recoating something I’ve just cleaned. Then they look at me all sweet and innocent-like.It’s the same look I got after they whacked me in the face with the backyard gate.Adopting a significant other’s two adult dogs isn’t quite the same as raising a pup. They have no ingrained respect for my authority, though they appreciate that I can reach the dog “cookie” jar and that I will take them hiking. I’m trying to teach them to stay out of the kitchen while I’m cooking and they’re teaching me to keep anything edible in a cupboard or on top of the refrigerator while I’m away. Also, they’ve discovered they can make me walk repeatedly to the back door simply by standing next to it. It’s all very amusing.Needless to say, the household pecking order is in dispute. They think they outrank me. I disagree, even though I’m the one carrying around little baggies of poop. Actually, the dog who has always been on the bottom rung remains contentedly so, blissfully unaware of her status. She sprawls across the carpet to block my way or follows me everywhere, sometimes accompanied by her companion. I’ve taken to closing the bathroom door. She barks with ferocious depth – sometimes at the air – but will cower behind me in the event of any real danger. She drools with Pavlovian predictability at dinnertime.The other mixes pet-me-pet-me-pet-me affection with Cujo-like stares when I plop down on the couch in the evening, as though I’ve taken her spot on the sofa.As far as I’m concerned, there is no spot on the sofa for any member of the family who walks on all fours. This, apparently, is an unsettling arrangement for my new wards, despite the fact that they each have gigantic beds of their own that take up virtually all of the available floor space in the bedroom. If I’m the evil stepmother, though, they’re the misbehaving stepchildren.Family outings are an adventure that, at this time of year, guarantees two muddy dogs and a backyard bathing exercise that elicits Oscar-worthy performances. They’ve both mastered the tortured look.The real torture is reserved for the humans.One dog will tiptoe prissily around anything she finds unsavory – her cohort’s puke, for example – but wade out into the skankiest water imaginable.The other revels in anything smelly, and may choose to eat it. Any form of excrement is enticing, but nothing tops dead, decaying animals. She was in heaven last weekend, when she encountered a chunk of a deer and then a whole hide, left behind by inconsiderate hunters. She also managed to roll around in something truly foul.We had to tie bandanas around our faces to keep from passing out during the drive home.It truly is a dog’s life. And, mine has gone to the dogs.Janet Urquhart wonders if opposable thumbs are really giving her the upper hand. Her e-mail address is janet@aspentimes.com

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