Archive for November, 2007

What’s In A Name

November 29, 2007

Years ago my friend Bob was living up north on a few acres of land. Growing tired of mowing the grass himself, he decided to get some help. But unlike the rest of us who would just pick up the phone and call a gardener, Bob opted against the bipedal route. 

Instead, Bob decided to purchase some sheep.

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A few days after he called in the order, a grizzled sheep dealer arrived at Bob’s place. The sheep were quickly released onto Bob’s property where they immediately got down to business. Bob stood waiting in silence for the sheep dealer to finish writng up his paperwork. A man of few teeth and even fewer words, the dealer tore a receipt from his book, handed it to Bob and eventually spoke only these words before he took off in his truck, “Don’t name and don’t tame ‘em.”

The next day Bob called to tell me about Madge, Simon and Bud, the three sheep he put on his credit card. He didn’t plan on inviting the sheep inside to watch TV on the sectional, but he did want some sort of relationship. And with no plans to make mutton, why not name ‘em?

I thought about Madge, Simon and Bud when I was trying to think of a name for the puppy. Naming something doesn’t only mean you won’t be eating it. Naming something means it becomes a someone And it was for this reason I couldn’t name my puppy.

After all the bridges I crossed I did not anticipate that this would be the last one. But it was. Deep down inside I thought I could back out and say I’ve reconsidered if I’d never named her. But to name her and back out well, that was worse than a hit and run.

So the internal confict raged on. In bed I lay awake, restless, churning over a puppy—a puppy that played all day in the sun with her eight littermates—a puppy that was being prepped for departure the following week—a puppy, that, for now, would remain nameless. 

Frozen Feet

November 16, 2007

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I’ve purchased two houses in the Bay Area. For those not from this part of the world, this translates into a honking amount of debt and a lot of responsibility—financial and otherwise. Oddly, in neither case, likely due to stupidity or ignorance, did I experience the typical cold feet and buyer’s remorse that everyone else experiences. I wasn’t quite sure what people were talking about when they described these feelings of panic and nausea.  But then I said yes to that puppy and now it was all falling into place for me.

 

My feet weren’t just cold, they were frozen solid.

The problem started, most likely, because I couldn’t take the pup home with me soon after the open house. The litter would stay together and all be spayed and neutered before anyone would be released.

This left plenty of time for me to stew in my neurotic juices. There was no adorable puppy roaming the premises to reinforce that the sacrifices I was about to make would all be more than worth it. Instead, there was just the theoretical responsibility of a high maintenance puppy taking on a life of its own in my head. So the fact that I eventually nudged myself over the edge wasn’t exactly a big surprise.  

It was innocent enough. B. forwarded me a friendly email with an article she found online about a nice couple who adopted a nice couple of Greyhound puppies. The woman half of this couple, while not complaining exactly, chronicled the endless and massive number of times these creatures pee. She described in detail a home ripped apart and the personal sacrifices, like sleep, that come with the “joys” of raising Greyhounds. In the end, she added something forced and cheerful like, “Take pictures of this sleepless blood bath because it’ll be over before you know it. Ha, ha ha!!”

At the end of the article, which I could barely finish reading, I had a full blown, flop sweat panic attack.

When I came to I decided I just couldn’t do it. I would not let a dog destroy my house. I would not let a dog eat my Adidas Trail Runners. But most of all, there was no way any dog would get in the way of my REM sleep. It was there that I drew the line.  For me, the world without sleep is a world I’m better off not occupying. I picked up the phone to call Dee.

It is here that I should tell you that somewhere along the lines B. had given me the name of a very nice woman who knew a thing or two about Greyhound pups. Dee had raised dozens of pups from scratch (AKC show Greyhounds) as well as adopting rescues. When it came to pups, Dee was the Man.  We began talking early in the process so, by now, Dee had a sense of me so I could let loose.

“I love my home. And I can’t live without sleep. I can’t do this…I…”

Dee interrupted me, “These people are idiots. Who lets a dog rip their entire house up and eat all their shoes?”

“They did!”

Dee reassured me, “Calm down. It’s gonna be fine. The problem you need to focus on is how LLewis is going to react. Because if your cat can’t handle the puppy and you have to give that puppy back you will be, and I guarantee it, broken hearted.”

Dee was right. I was freaking out and obsessed about some stupid article online. She also added that this should be a happy time. A little scared is fine. But more scared than excited, I need to look deep within on that one.

I sat silently on the other end of the phone.

“You there?” she asked.

I bit off the last remaining nail left on my last remaining finger that still had a nail. “I’m here.”

“I don’t want you doing something you don’t want to be doing but hear me out. Raising a Greyhound pup is an opportunity of a lifetime and it won’t come around very often. I’d hate to see you let that slip away because you got scared off by some bozos who wrote an article. So promise me you’ll take a few deep breaths before you do anything.”

Dee was a Greyhound angel from heaven and I’d never even met her. She was wise in general and specifically about this breed.

“I promise” I said. “And thank you. You know you’re the best.”

“Nah” she said, “I’m just old and know stuff.”

I went to bed and, like Dee said, did nothing—except breathe.

Won’t You Be My Number Two?

November 15, 2007

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P. and I arrived in Auburn one half hour after the open house began. Hot, humid and a three hour drive from civilization, we thought we’d be the only two.

The place was mobbed.  It was as if everyone thought Greyhounds just sprung from their mothers’ heads and were born full grown. Few, aside from the breeders at the tracks, ever get to see the babies. Having learned of the open house, those who loved their retired racers (and there were plenty of them) came from near and far to witness the puppy sized versions of their beloved hounds.

We were told that no adoptions would take place at the open house so it should be just a kick back, get to know you kind of a day. I felt good about this—it made me feel relaxed. We could just take things slowly.

When we went through gate we saw profiles of each puppy on the fence: three were already adopted.

Great. It was mobbed, a third of the dogs were gone and now, I said to P., take a look at the profiles of the ones left.

Big Trooper is the leader of the pack.

Irene is a loving, sweet girl.

Xena likes to have fun!

I instantly grew suspicious of these descriptions like I would a too rosy description of a piece of real estate. Sweet girl meant needy girl. Playful and fun loving meant destructive and noisy. And it took no genuis to figure out  the what rhymes with Big Trooper.

As people continued to stream in, I wanted to cut to the chase. So I asked the manager of the facility if she could pick out the top three easy going pups. Specifically I was interested in ones that could hang with a cat that would never stop hating him or her.  

She instantly pointed to two black pups and a black and white one.  “One, two and three” she said as she pointed, “in that order.”

We spent time with One, Two and Three but they all seemed the same to me. They were all cute and squirmy and when they weren’t playing they looked like fat little corpses laid out on a field of grass.

Having said that, we did begin to zero in on the cow print girl: Number Two. More than anything, we observed. We watched how she interacted with people and her siblings. We also kept a close eye on Number One—we began to think she could work too.

P. has amazing eyes. He could spot a fly taking a crap from a mile away. We figure he must have been a sight hound in a previous life. So it was P. who saw The Enemy coming. He called it dead on just as he squinted at the sun reflecting off her hand in the far distance.

You see just as we were beginning to discuss how Number Two might match the décor in my living room, The Enemy entered. P. said she was trouble, that she was up to no good. And that we should be afraid. He was right. The Enemy ran towards Number Two and then just scooped her up—just like that and said, “Mine.” I wondered if this is how it’s done—if Greyhound pups are like gold and I should have done that myself. Had I been a fool?  Should I have just grabbed the first pup I saw and said “mine” before anyone else could?

The Enemy held Number Two up in the air and then back down in her arms. “Mine” she said again. If you’re wondering what age The Enemy was, let’s say she was no spring chicken. To add insult to injury she had bling dripping from every digit given to her from what, we figured was her eighth or ninth husband. 

Paniced, I did what any dog virgin with no experience would do: I headed to one of the coordinators for the day and asked: “Exactly what’s the deal here?”

The coordinator, who truly was sweet–and not in a fake real estate euphemistic way—saw the fear in my eyes and said she would note that I was interested in Number Two.

Phew.

The day progressed. More people piled in. And turns out The Enemy was a pretty nice lady.

“Please adopt her” she said, “Because if you won’t, I’ll have to.” She loved Number Two but was not at the stage in life where a puppy would really fit in.

Turns out, 99% of the people that showed up fit this category.

We stayed longer than most. And as the day finally wound down, we narrowed it down to Two—and to One. We couldn’t decide. Number One or Number Two…we were mulling when I heard: “Yes, we’ll take her.”

I spun my head around and before I knew it, Number One was gone. Like that. A couple had come in and decided, instantly, to take Number One.

The choice was made, and the cow print girl, by default, was ours. That is, if we still wanted her. The coordinator looked up at me, “I have you down for Number Two, do you want to adopt her?”

I went and looked at her description: A very photogenic little girl, she has a tiny spot interrupting her white blaze. She is, of all the puppies, one we would call Miss Congeniality.”

Miss Congeniality. I tried to think of what they were really trying to say. Is she overly friendly? Does she try too hard?  As I continued to strain my brain, P. nudged me and then pointed out to the field.

 

And there, in the patch of grass, all by herself,  I saw Miss Congeniality, her little black and white cow print body stretched out in the sun, sleeping. If this wasn’t the best house on the block, I didn’t know what was.

 

“We’ll take her.” I said

And Then There Were Nine

November 14, 2007

sixofnine.jpg I began to accept the fact that a dog was not in my future and started making plans that had nothing to do with dogs. Sorta like what you do if you find out you can’t have kids. I perused the community college website looking for the next course I would take. I also pulled out some new swim workouts. And I gathered up drawing materials so I could get back to a little art work. I tried to stop thinking about rearranging my bedroom for a crate and where the water dish would go. I need not worry about these things anymore.

But it was only four days after I left B. the voicemail and I was still a bit raw so I decided I’d go to the GFFL website, just like I’d done an embarrassing amount of times before, to see who had come in. They put up new photos of the dogs every few weeks and it had become habit, or perhaps addiction is a better word choice, to stalk the hounds online.

It’s hard to remember the exact feeling when I landed on the homepage. I guess it was a combination of excitement and dread—like finding out you’ve been accepted into a university that should have thought twice. 

“Greyhound Friends For Life has rescued a litter of nine Greyhound puppies. Five girls and four boys were rescued Memorial Day weekend and have been taken up to Auburn for adoption.”

I called P. and then called about seventeen more people after that. I was completely struck by this coincidence. I am not religious but I’m open to listening to what’s out there. Something was definitely out there, including nine squirming Greyhounds, each needing a home.

The last call of the day was the one I made to B. at GFFL. She had been way too busy dealing with the influx of puppies and absolutely clueless really on what to tell people because they simply never had dealt with adopting out puppies that she’d not have a chance to call me.

“I can’t believe this.” I said.

B. was also a little dazed, both by the influx of pups and by how my story so oddly or beautifully, depending upon your perspective, seemed to dovetail into these circumstances.

“Well, there’s an open house next weekend if you want to come look” she told me. “They’re cute as the dickens but, well, you know, Greyhound pups are little devils.”

Devils, hellions, whatever. I would be there. P. would be there. But, more than anything, the universe would be there because, apparently, it clearly had a hand in this all along.

Expect The Unexpected

November 13, 2007

bally_hat.jpgJ. brought Bally over but not in a steel, triple sealed, ultimate security crate. She brought him over in some hard plastic gizmo. However, she was right: this crate seemed to offer enough safety from say a domestic cat on up through a panther.  I was okay with it.

Next came the oooohing and ahhhing. Despite the fact that I’m not a big fan or puppies or babies (I prefer the adult versions of each) this little dude with the seriously crushed snout was kinda cute.  

While were ogling Bally, LLewis stopped over. My body kicked into protective mode, readying myself to grab LLew as he ran to attack the cage. But it was for naught.

Llew didn’t do a thing. Not one thing. It was as if I’d turned the channel to something boring or distasteful to him.

Llewis took a small sniff and then left the room as if to say, “Page my service when you’ve got something interesting. Otherwise I’ll be in my circle.”

J. and I looked at each other.

Tempting fate, I carried Llew from his circle and brought him to Bally’s cage,  encouraging him this time to look at the nice puppy.

LLew looked instead back up at me, “Did you not hear me? I said page my service when you’ve got something interesting.”

After J. and Bally left that day I called B. She wasn’t there but I left her a long voicemail “I know it doesn’t matter most likely because it’ll never happen but Llewis could care less about puppies He had no reaction. He was fine. So if you ever have a litter…”

The rest was a tad bit out-of-body because I knew as I was leaving the message that it wouldn’t happen. Greyhound rescue groups rescue retired racers. And last I heard, they don’t really retire puppies.

I listened to my own voice trail off on B.’s voicemail but I finished up my message and went back…back to the ranch.

$1000 Later, Tax Included

November 13, 2007

We hit our six month goal. And on the day I made this official, J. ordered up (would you like fries with that?) puppy. She quickly decided on a name for him: Bally. It was close to the name of our sales guy, the person instrumental in bringing Bally into J.’s  arms.

“The name’s cute too.” J. added.

Bally had already been born so the wait time to get him was minimal. Within just a week or two J. was able to go and get him from the broker. And, within a week after that, J. asked if they could come visit me.

“Uh…you do understand what you’re asking, right?”

J. had heard about my “situation.”  She knew Llewis well. He had sat in on many, many production meetings with us and I’d threatened that one day he’d call her into his circular office for a “meeting.”

“Can you lock him up?” she asked.

“Not for hours and hours.” I responded.

“Well, I’ll bring Bally in a carrying case and he’ll be fine.”

She seemed much more casual than I was.  While Llew’s close encounters with large dogs involved lunging and biting, I was concerned that, with a small dog, he might add swallowing to his repetroir.

“Okay, bring him over but bring him in a steel container with a padlock.”

“Will do, Boss” she sarcaszed into GoogleTalk.

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch…

November 13, 2007

The phrase “Meanwhile, back at the ranch…” comes from the era of silent films; it was so common back in the day that it was a stock caption, used over and over again—apparently so much that a hundred plus years later it’s being uploaded to my blog.

The “Ranch” for me at this time was the rest of my life that was happening during all this dog drama. The ranch was the part of my life that wasn’t torn between getting and not getting a dog. The ranch included me working during the day with partners and clients and not watching  Youtube video clips of Greyhounds sleeping.

Whether it was in the foreground or background of my life, honestly it was hard to tell, my small business was becoming less small. We were really beginning to ride a nice wave of growth and changes.

In an attempt to be a good boss, I asked my production manager what she thought she’d like for a six month incentive. I asked the question in Google Talk and about a half a second later I received word that J. would like a puggle.

“What’s that?” I typed back.

“A cross between a pug and a beagle.”

She called it a “designer doggie” (www.designerdoggies.com), others might call it a mutt.

I asked how much these things cost.

“$700 or so” she casually typed in.

“Does that include tax?”

“I don’t know. I’m not sure if dogs are taxed. I’ll need to look into that.”

Tax or not, $1000 or so for someone so effective in helping our business reach its’ goal seemed reasonable to me.

“Okay, we’re on. If we sell a hundred billion widgets by end of June, you’ll get one of those strange little mutts they’re breeding for way too much money.”

“Game on.” she typed back.

Déjà Llew

November 12, 2007

My birthday closed in on me fast. Not only would there be a show down between Llew and Sundance, but there would be an audience to witness it. I had invited a group of friends to share pizza, cake and possibly some flying fur, depending.

Sundance, amiable old guy that he is, ambled up the front steps walked through the house and politely stopped in his path when he saw the Grey One sitting on the patio out back. Sundance, trying hard to be polite, gingerly took a step forward.

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Lllew gave a repeat peformance of the other night. He hissed, growled and puffed up. But the feeling of déjà vu  really amplified when he suddenly lunged on top of Sundance’s back. Sundance barked but LLew wasn’t budging. I saw the message in Llew’s green eyes; he was saying to Sundance, “Oh yeah? You want a piece a me??”

I ended up having to peal Llewis, once again, off of a dog—this time a pit bull. I let him down and, stupid me, he lunged again. This second time when I pulled him off I held him allowing Sundance some time to escape the madness. In doing so, in holding him down, Llew managed to carve a few happy birthdays into my arm.

Sundance trotted back into the living room remarkably un-phased which, of course made everyone love him more.

 “You know you can’t have a dog. You simply cannot.” my friend Wendy declared, somewhat shaken by what had happened.

“Yeah…well, maybe if…”

No, she said. You can’t.

As parental as that all sounded I knew she was right. Greyhound, Pit Bull, Malamute, Schnauzer, I needed to face the reality that Llew’s tastes in dogs weren’t breed or age specific: he hated  them all equally and passionately.  

I’m not sure but I think we sang Happy Birthday and ate cake. Or maybe the part of me that was scared to get a dog sang in delight and the part of me that wanted one sat back quietly rubbing at the bloody claw marks on my arm.

This Is How Badly Greyhounds Need Adopting

November 11, 2007

The next day I went through the motions at work. I responded to emails, talked on the phone and wrote some checks. But deep inside I was desperately trying to accept the facts:  I loved and lived with a cat that bit a dog. I kept saying it to myself, out loud, each time slower.

My. Cat. Bit. A. Dog.

Over and over, slower and slower. Maybe this would help me to accept my circumstances.

 

The day felt long and I shared my strange tale with a few friends who, of course, took Chloe’s side. “Poor sweet thing” was the gist of  it. The other comment was, “Maybe you should pursue something else.” 

 

I was about ready to call it quits for the day when the phone rang.  I saw the caller I.D.: Greyhound Friends For LIfe. I figured I should let it go to voicemail. I could listen later on to the message informing me that they were going to be filing a lawsuit.

 

Instead, however, I decided to just deal with it head on and pick up the phone.

 

What happened next was possibly stranger than Llew drawing blood from Chloe’s chest to begin with. 

 

B., the uber adoption woman at GFFL was the person on the other end of the phone. And while she had, predictably, heard news of the viscious attack, the reason for her call apparently was not to discuss Llewis’ territoriality or Chloe’s puncture wounds. She didn’t want to yell at me and call me a psycho for loving such a beast. She didn’t even want me to put him on the phone so she could give Llew a piece of her mind.

 

B. wanted to talk about what these guys ALWAYS want to talk about. “I heard you need a little fence work.”

 

Huh? I looked at the phone. Did she call the wrong number? She must have accidentally hit a number on her phone thinking she was calling another prospective adopter, one that didn’t have black marks plastered all over her application. “Uh…fence work?” was about all I could manage.“Yes. There are a couple of areas like the gate and around the back that could use an extra foot or two.”

 

I was elated that this would be the main topic of conversation and I quickly kicked into some odd denial mode where I somehow believed, because we were discussing fences, that the subject of Llewis would never be raised. My mood lightened, my sense of humor kicked in and I was confident, relaxed and enthusiastic about everything including and mostly, fence work. We discussed possibilities for a friendly neighbor fence or perhaps just a few planks in certain key spots for starters. I went on for a while, elaborating on my ideal fence, when that would happen, the type of wood I would like. But as hard as I tried there really is only so much fencespeak to be had.

 

Silence crept in. And then B. used that classic throat clearing move. The one that communicates that we’re changing the topic now.

 

“So…I hear Llewis is a little territorial?”

 

Enter the pink elephant from the other day.

Part of me was actually relieved to be talking about it. Yeah, 50% of me was super high on getting a big skinny dog, but part of me was really scared. I truly was scared of getting a dog. I was scared of having this 70 pound dependent that never would never grow up and support me in my old age, scared about the prospect of picking up dog logs day in and day out but, most of all scared to have to, in the end, say goodbye to a creature that stretched my heart in more directions I knew possible.

So the part of me that was really scared was actually relieved to talk about the fact that I had a true issue here with Llewis.

The universe spoke to me in italics:

If there ever was an excuse to get out, you’ve got it sitting and drooling all over your lap. Your cat hates Greyhounds. You love Greyhounds—you’d take twenty of them if you could–but, well, you can’t. You can get out now and still look good.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on which side of the split in my personality you’re talking to, B. was pretty low key about the whole thing and, surprisingly, humored by it. When we finally started really talking, she admitted that, well, it was kinda funny. “Maybe it was just this specific situation” she suggested and then added, “Do you have any friends, friends with dogs, that would be willing to come over?”

I thought for a moment. Isn’t that like saying your pet python swallowed a fourth grader but maybe it was just this one kid he didn’t like and would you mind bringing your child over so we can see?

 

“Well…I could…maybe…” I stammered. She cut me off quickly, “Good. Give that a try. Then let’s plan on talking, okay?”

 

After we hung up I flipped through my mental rolodex of everyone I knew with a dog. I would have to be honest but how would I both offer full disclosure on the incident while at the same time not scare them off?

I was stumped. But not for too long. The neurons in my brain finally all fired at once and the obvious answer flashed in my mind like a billboard. Like any great idea it was obvious only after you discovered it. Who else? Who better? Who sweeter and mellower and kinder than he? And who else had the coolest owner on the planet?

Sundance. Sundance, the sacrificial pit bull.

I called my friend, S., the one who helped get this whole ball rolling.

“Yes. This is perfect!” She loved the idea, loved his new title and shared further with me that Sundance not only likes cats but even more so if they abuse him. Her level of enthusiasm did cross my mind and for a brief moment I considered if we were headed for some sick Animal Planet version of Sid and Nancy. We talked about when we could connect. Turns out the best date for all parties would be the following Monday–which also happened to be, of all things, my birthday.

Honey, If This Is Home Then I’m Definitely Not Home

November 10, 2007

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For whatever reason I thought that vacuuming and spiffing up the house would somehow make me a better candidate for adopting a retired Greyhound. As if  the hound would magically roll in for a white glove inspection and, once pleased, joyously flop down and declare, “Honey, I’m home!” 

No surprise, the inspector woman showed up exactly on time. And she brought a dog, a beautiful girl named Chloe.  I was concerned about Llewis, my cat, but I was assured that Chloe was fine—she lived with cats and had close to zero prey drive.

I invited Chloe and the inspector to come in. Both were very tall, thin and polite. Llewis? Not so much. Llew took one look at Chloe and did what any self respecting feline would do: he hissed, he puffed up and he growled. Fair enough. This all falls into the realm of normal.

The inspector wisely guided Chloe into the other room. Chloe then sat, calm, serine, sweet and pointy nosed while Llewis followed. Wow, I thought. This could be me. This could my little family: a dog, a cat, a Greyhound inspection lady.  

I’m not exactly sure what happened next. But I do know that it didn’t happen in slow motion. People always seem to say that bad things happen in slow mo. But this bad thing happened in fast mo. Real fast mo. I mostly remember Llewis lunging for Chloe, Chloe barking and me pealing Llewis off Chloe’s chest.

To say the moments following were awkward would be like saying it feels awkward when you find out your first cousins just got married. Awkward just doesn’t begin to describe it.

 

I couldn’t help but think that this was the end of the line for me. The inspector loved this dog and spent years helping her to come out of her shell. Using all my keen powers of observation I was able to determine that despite the professional demeanor things were not stacking up in my favor. 

 

“He’s very territorial” is all the inspector could manage.

I offered up apologies but the apologies, like baseballs being tossed to a blind person, went uncaught, ignored and definitely unappreciated.

We did go through the motions. We looked at the fence. We talked about the kind of dog I’d like but I might as well have been talking about the kind if ice cream I like. I mean wasn’t this all a bit irrelevant at this point? But we talked anyway and we both silently agreed to ignore that pink elephant in the room that was, in fact, a grey tabby.

The time dragged on. I apologized once again. But it didn’t work again. And finally, just when the visit was nearly done, we all (my boyfriend had joined us at that point) noticed a trickle of blood trickling down Chloe’s chest. Llewis had lunged at, bitten and apparently broken the skin on Chloe’s chest. While the inspector was looking in her purse, possibly for a gun, P. turned to me and whispered, “Are these dogs made of crepe paper?” I hushed him. I couldn’t afford one more bad mark on my application.

“I’ll be in touch” the inspector said as she and Chloe made a beeline to the door. I could see the relief in both their eyes as they said their goodbyes. They were finally free of LLewis’ Greyhound Torture Chamber. I imagined her flipping her cell phone open the instant she was out of earshot. I could see the message boards online all light up. I could envision Llew’s picture being posted under Most Wanted at every Greyhound rescue group’s website, the story carefully being passed along to generation upon generation of Greyhound lovers.

I closed front the door behind them. The universe was no longer talking–it was screaming at me. But I was a little too dumbfounded to listen.

Besides, I needed to let Llewis out of the bathroom.