When it comes to the delicate process of writing a professional newspaper column, it is essential ...
"WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK!"
I'm sorry. What I was trying to say was...
"WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK!"
Excuse me for a minute. "MOOKIE, DROP THE DUCK!"
OK, where was I? Oh, yes, the point I was trying...
"WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK! "
Hold on for a just a second, please. "MOOKIE, PUT THE (BAD WORD) DUCK DOWN!"
I should probably explain. What happened was my buddy Dan decided to take his family on a camping trip this week and felt it would be best for all concerned if he left their dog, Mookie, at my house.
For the record, Mookie is a lovable Labrador retriever the size of a Shetland pony with the relative IQ of a cinder block. Baseball fans will realize he is named after William Hayward "Mookie" Wilson, the New York Mets outfielder whose ground ball famously trickled through Bill Buckner's legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
But that is not today's point. Today's point is, as regular readers will recall, I already have two dogs -- a miniature wiener dog named Zoe and a pint-sized ball of fluff dubbed Mr. X -- so this means I have spent the past few days struggling to survive with three dogs living under the same roof.
From the moment Mookie arrived, he decided his Favourite Thing in the Entire World is a small stuffed toy duck that, when squeezed or clamped down on by a set of powerful drooling jaws, causes a small battery-operated speaker inside to emit -- "WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK!" -- highly unrealistic but annoyingly loud duck noises.
Tragically, my two dogs, neither of whom is as large as a canned ham, have not gone out of their way to make Mookie feel welcome, forcing our hairy house guest to turn to Duckie, now coated in a thick layer of drool, for comfort.
Whenever I sit down at the home computer and attempt to formulate professionally amusing thoughts -- "WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK!" -- Mookie will stride over and playfully poke his favourite toy into my belly to indicate that, instead of writing, I should engage in a rousing game of Fetch the Duck.
If I try to tug this drool-soaked treasure out of his jaws, however, he will give me a look of complete surprise and waddle rapidly away to convey the concept that -- "WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK!" -- Duckie is HIS favourite thing and I should keep my hands to myself. We repeat this process over and over, because apparently I am a slow learner.
But I do not want to give you the impression Duckie's plaintive cries -- "WAK! WAK! WAK! -- are the only thing you will hear if you enter our dog-intensive house. No, you will also hear "KA-CHING! KA-CHING! KA-CHING!"
I hear this noise a lot when I am attempting to watch TV, because Mookie lies on the floor beside me and (how can I phrase this?) licks himself repeatedly in a sensitive area, causing his head to bob up and down, which in turn causes the links on his metal-chain collar to "KA-CHING! KA-CHING!" as I struggle to focus on a cheesy TV drama.
TV detective (staring intensely): "And the killer is..."
Mookie (head bobbing): "KA-CHING! KA-CHING!"
The other thing you'd notice if you visited our house is it looks like we have a brand-new black shag carpet, but the truth is this is NOT a carpet; it is Mookie's excess hair. In the last few days, he has shed so much hair that, if you had the skill required, you could knit it together and create several new dogs.
As I write these words, all three dogs are snoring peacefully at my feet, but if I attempt something foolish, such as getting up to go to the bathroom, this canine coalition will instantly erupt in a cacophony of ear-splitting barks, because any sudden movement suggests someone is going to get a (bad word) biscuit.
The truth is, the dogs and I have had a pretty good time hanging out, writing columns and releasing potentially toxic gases together. Sadly, all good things must end.
Mookie's family returns on Saturday. I've already wrapped up a welcome-home present for them. I just pray the batteries don't run out -- "WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK! WAK!" -- before they get back.