Archive for the ‘Before Hound’ Category

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.

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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.

sundance_sacrificial_pitbull.jpg

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

llew-1stblogpic.jpg

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.

A Little Help From My Friends…For Life

November 9, 2007

 

“I got you your Greyhound.” My friend, S. was calling.

 

Just minutes earlier I had spoken to her. She happened to be at the dog park with her very sweet and decrepit pit bull Sundance, when I told her about my failed arranged marriage. Halfway through the story she had to hang up and call me back later as she spotted some dude with three Greyhounds.

Coincidence or was the universe babbling again?  

Turns out this dude and his wife were volunteers with Greyhound Friends For Life (www.greyhoundfriendsforlife.org)  These guys would let me choose a dog, even have a few dates if I wanted. And if things didn’t work out, they would take him back—not gladly necessarily but they would take him back.  Alpha Boy, the pack leader from the other group, basically said he’d take the dog back but would wring my neck in the process.

I called his wife that weekend to chat about Greyhounds–to get more insight. Two phone batteries later, I put in my application with the new place. I waited 15 seconds, got the call and there I was. Again. On the phone being interviewed.

But this time we actually got as far as setting up a home visit. Not unlike adopting a child, these people want to make sure their dogs get placed in homes that will work for them.  The person doing the home visit was available any time, day or night. Availability, like a Best Western you’d find in some small town in Montana, was open wide. If I’d have asked, “Does five minutes from now work for you?” the answer would have been, “I can make it in four.”

How Many Of These Doggies In The Window Would You Like?

November 9, 2007

 

When you apply to a Greyhound rescue organization plan on being next to your phone. Because unless you’ve really screwed up your application, unless you tell them that the reason you want to adopt a Greyhound is because the other inmates thought it would be a good idea, you should get a call within 15 to 20 seconds after pressing the send button.  There are hundreds of dogs that these organizations have access to. They could get you five dogs by next weekend if you’d like. There’s no shortage. And they need you. They need adopters to save lives.

When they call—and they will call–be prepared to listen. And listen. And listen. And have a second phone available because the battery on your first will die. 

They actually do ask some questions.  Mostly they ask about fences. Do you have a fence and how high is it? How big is your yard?  And what about that fence? Are there any holes in it, any places the dog could get out?  What’s the fence made out of?  Are you willing to put up a higher fence?  Fence, fence, fence, fence, fence. Enough already!

But Greyhounds can run like the wind and if you don’t have a fence, fence, fence, fence, fence that’s properly secured they can get out, run 10 miles in a few minutes and when they finally look up they’re as lost as a four year old who’s wandered off in Macy’s alone.

The other issue is cats. They will ask about cats. “You said here you have a cat.”

Yes. Llewis. He’s a five year old grey tabby.

This is the other huge issue. I needed to get a Greyhound that had passed the cat test. This means that your Greyhound did not kill any cats that were presented to it while it was in a foster home or wherever it came from before you received him. Unlike any other breed of dog, the Greyhound is the only one that can actually out run your cat. These guys are the second fastest accelerating land mammal on the planet next to the cheetah so if it’s furry and moves, it could be very dead very quickly. I was assured that the dog I get would be 100% cat safe.

I asked if I could meet the dog I was getting. The short answer: no. This rescue organization, this one specific person running the group, knew best and he would choose.

Given my lack of experience and my nervousness around getting a dog to begin with, the fact that I could not meet the dog that I would spend the next 10 years living with gave me the hee bee jeebies. I wanted at least one date with the dog I was going to marry.

“No. You will get the dog we choose for you—that I choose for you. I know best.”

Already I was beginning to understand the concept of “alpha dog.”

Although no less obsessed than before the phone conversation, I drew the line: I could not agree to an arranged marriage. So I rescinded my application and said thanks but no thanks. 

Soon after I hung up I crawled into my bed and wondered: is this a message from the universe? Should I just let it go?  If I really wanted a dog should I just take what I am given? Aren’t four (very long) legs, a pointy nose and a guarantee the dog wouldn’t kill LLewis the instant he met him enough assurance?  Does wanting to meet my future dog husband make me a weaker candidate for marriage myself?

For a few brief moments, I wondered if my journey had ended before it had ever begun.

I Heart Skinny Dogs

November 8, 2007

Some Supermodels On Break

 

Somewhere along the line I read an article about rescuing retired Greyhounds. This stuck with me for the longest time. Or at least longer than any other dog related thing I’d come across. For starters, I liked how Greyhounds resembled cats in so many ways: they’re clean, they don’t smell and after one quick sprint or less they curl up in little balls on the couch and sleep quietly the rest of the day.  And, with the number being put down each year from the racetracks, I could save a life. I wanted me a big old 45 mile per hour couch potato with tattoos in his ears.

I Googled “Greyhound rescue” and came up with the requisite number of results one always gets from Google whether it be Greyhound or alien rescue: 1,765,456.

In the end, I found a local group that was having a meet-and-greet the following weekend. Bingo.

I brought my boyfriend, P., to the meet-and-greet. Note: I *brought* him. I did not drag, coerce, beg or force him to go with me. He was supportive in the best way. He wanted to be there for me but didn’t want to take over. He’d served his two decades with two different rescue German Shepherds and he was more than willing to let me take the reins.

We approached a group of about ten hounds and their owners, all sitting beneath a large canopy that provided everyone with enough shade from the sun. I’ll state the obvious: these dogs are skinny. They’re the supermodels of the dog world sans the cigarettes and  crack habit. They’re all tall, lanky and gorgeous—at least to me. Some people think Greyhounds, like supermodels, need to eat a cheeseburger and put on some lbs. But they are naturally thin and built for speed.

Given their lack of fat and their thin skin, they were mostly happy to huddle in the shade where temperatures were moderate.  

It was hard to imagine any of these dogs running anywhere at any time. They hardly moved except to adjust their sleeping position. I was told that when they do sprint, it might last a minute or two and then they remember they are retired and go lay down.

Perfect. I wanted a relaxed, retired dog—pretty much the opposite of my own temperament and situation.   I was still nervous but I completed my application online and hit send.