Every day’s a dog day for me | AspenTimes.com

Every day’s a dog day for me

Janet Urquhart

Just call me Cruella DeVil.I’m pretty sure I’ve been cast as the villain in my household ever since the “real” owner of my canine companions left town and, ostensibly, left me in charge.”I’m in control here,” I announced all Al Haig-like the moment we three were left to our own devices, but privately, I have my doubts.It’s hard to feel like I have the upper hand when I’m carrying little bags of poop and spending my afternoons tossing a slobber-encased rubber ball in the backyard instead of taking a hike because the day is too hot for my companions to tag along.In fact, the little monsters, as I affectionately call them, pretty much have me wrapped around their muddy paws. I make sure I’m home to feed them at the appointed hour twice a day, work from home whenever I can, attend to their water bowl like a doting servant, jump to open the back door whenever I spot one of them lurking there and hand out treats like a pushover.The only harsh thing I’ve done is close the bathroom door so the big chicken of the duo can’t crawl into the bathtub and hide at the first hint of thunder. I’ve grown accustomed to dog hair on everything from the bedroom sheets to my breakfast, but I refuse to emerge from a shower with it stuck to my bare feet.I’m sort of a stepmother to my two charges, who happen to have more caregivers than a thoroughbred racehorse. Their “parents” have split after working out a joint custody arrangement that has the dogs dividing their time between El Jebel and Denver.”But have you considered whether that’s good for the children?” asked one slightly incredulous acquaintance after I explained the arrangement.If it’s having a detrimental effect, it hasn’t affected their appetites.In fact, they’re probably playing their humans like a cheap deck of cards and cashing in on the guilt.I know I like to fancy myself the favorite stepmom, revered over any potential contender on the other side of the Continental Divide, as though I’m in some sort of deranged popularity contest. I take the dogs for hikes and play ball, and remind them often that I’m the “fun one.” Maybe I should just dab bacon grease behind my ears.On the other hand, the very notion that I feel the need to win their favor gives me the feeling I’ve been duped. After all, we’re talking about two creatures who think the outdoors is a food group.Anyway, our quality time together has been uneventful, aside from my shoulder wound and inadvertently dying one of them orange.As a thanks for spending an hour tossing a ball, one of them bit my Teva-clad toes when I stepped on the orb to keep it from her persistent grasp. In freeing my foot, I fell to the ground, reinjuring an ailing shoulder and lacerating my wrist on the edge of a concrete step. While I’m on the ground, groaning, the manic ball freak taunts me to toss it again and the other one tries to lick my wounds, or my face, or whatever.The next day, they give me that we’ll-like-you-best-if-you-take-us-for-a-hike look and I respond, naturally, by complying. This gives the ball freak a chance to behave like an angel while her cohort in mischief takes a turn at testing my resolve to be the model mom. Rolling in smelly things is her forte and she manages to find something suitable in the form of residual skunk spray that was apparently coating the site of a previous firing.Thankful she didn’t find the skunk itself, I reach for the tomato juice upon our return home and commence bathtime in the yard. That’s when I discovered the real key to their affections – pour food on them. As soon as I doused the offensive dog with the juice, a known skunk-stink antidote, she started slurping it off and was quickly joined by her jealous companion.It wasn’t until later I noticed her pure white chest had a decidedly orange tint. I won’t tell if they don’t.Janet Urquhart is actually quite fond of her stepdogs, mostly. E-mail her at janet@aspentimes.com