What I like to do, first thing every morning, is read the newspaper.
I like to do this in the bathtub, because there's no point being well-informed if you are not also squeaky-clean.
When you are the size of a large kitchen appliance, there is a certain art to reading a newspaper in the bath.
My entire body doesn't fit in a standard-sized tub, so I slide down on my back, hoist my legs into the air, then plant my feet firmly on the tiled wall above the faucet, at which point I reach over to the magazine rack and grab a section of the newspaper.
Flat on my back, I will steep in the scalding water like a giant tea bag on steroids while simultaneously using my outstretched arms to hold the newspaper aloft. And then, in mid-read, I will scream like a little girl.
The screaming is a new thing. It became part of my morning routine the other day when, as I flipped through the paper, I suddenly noticed a large moony face dangling over the edge of the tub.
This face belongs to Toby, my boss's dog. A basset hound-beagle cross with the IQ of a cinder block, Toby has been with us because my boss took his family on a car trip and felt it would not add to their enjoyment to have a dog the size of a ripe watermelon throwing up in the back seat.
When you consider I already have two dogs -- a miniature wiener dog named Zoe and Mr. X, a small white dog that appears to be a cross between a throw pillow and a cotton swab -- this means I have spent the week trying to keep peace with roughly five dogs under the same roof.
You thought I was going to say three dogs, didn't you? The thing is, since we already had three dogs running around the house, my daughter's boyfriend figured it could not hurt to add a couple more to the mix, so he has been bringing his two dogs -- a cheerful German shepherd named Franklin and a jittery Shih Tzu named Kemo, who is approximately the size of a baked potato -- over to the house.
Like I said earlier, the day begins in the tub, where I will read the newspaper and Toby will rest his forlorn, fuzzy face on the edge and stare at me with the laser-like intensity of a fat kid staring at a cheeseburger, then, every few seconds, stab his cold nose into my elbow in case I have somehow managed to forget he is there.
After I finish reading and Toby is weary of staring, I will dry off and sit at the home computer in an attempt to have professionally amusing thoughts form in my brain. At this point, Toby and the rest of the dogs in the house also begin their day job, which consists of jockeying for position in front of the living-room window and barking insanely at everything they see, provided it is either (a) moving, or (b) not moving.
Any dogs reading today's column will understand that barking at things, even invisible things, outside the window of a home you are guarding is the most vital task any self-respecting dog can perform, with the possible exception of peeing on every tree and shrub in the immediate area and sniffing the personal regions of other dogs within reach of your nasal passages.
So, while I sit at the computer and stare blankly at the screen, the dogs, whose numbers vary from moment to moment, will bark non-stop at the decibel level of a nuclear blast.
On the upside, as I sit there scowling, I can't actually hear them barking.
On the downside, the reason I can't hear them barking is because, outside the window, city work crews are rebuilding my street, including the back alley and the entrance to our driveway, a task that requires them to operate ear-splittingly loud machines such as steamrollers, earthmovers, bulldozers, battleships, Toyota Corollas, and pile-driver-style equipment that slams metal poles into the cement and asphalt. The dogs and the work crews begin their assault on my eardrums first thing in the morning.
But the work crews and their massive construction machines are almost finished fixing my street. Soon, if you want, you will be able to drive a tank down the middle of my street and up my driveway.
I will never hear you coming.