air…give me air…although…

That seems to be my dog Mocha’s daily plea. Wish there was a spot of yard for her to roam unattended, like she does when visiting with our friends Sylvia and Jim and their dachschund, Gretchen. Living in a retirement community, they have a charming, enclosed backyard where the dogs can relax on the patio, luxuriating in the outdoors unchaperoned. When they’re indoors and want to “go potty,” all they need is a helping hand to open and close the door.

I must admit when I exited our yard a short while ago, heading out into the neighborhood, Mocha pulling ahead on her leash, it felt good to breathe in the great outdoors. Viewing the lush foliage everywhere as a result of our area’s penchant for rain, Mother Nature never fails to overwhelm me with wondrous awe. Towering evergreens, hence Washington’s other name, The Evergreen State, dwarf the homes that peak out from verdant landscapes, some neat and orderly, others wild and overgrown. Mine is somewhere in-between. I’ve been going for the English garden look, not always with success.

Mocha pays no heed to anything above ground level, maintaining her focus at what’s at the end of her nose or under her paw. None of which satsfies my aesthetics, except that whatever makes Mocha happy, makes me happy. Well…not everything.

I’m definitely against her desire to chase down dogs taller and heftier than her, or small ones with teeth as sharp as razors. I’ve had to pick Mocha up once or twice, transporting her, and me, away from the snarling grins of unleashed dogs who looked ready for their next meal. In such situations my heart is pounding looking to escape its confines, while my brain is willing me not to move a muscle for fear that I’ll become mincemeat in seconds. More often than not, a yell emanates from deep within, finally tumbling forth from my mouth with a venomous “Get away! Shoo! Get out of here!” As if our transgressor could care less, staring me down without so much as flinching a muscle.

Scared? Me, scared? You bet your life I’m petrified of untethered dogs wandering about. I can’t tell whether they’re friendly or not. Nor is it obvious whether or not they’ll start something with Mocha. Just as I don’t want her torn to shreds, I don’t want to get caught up in the milieu either. A year or so ago, when I was out running errands, a neighbor who regularly walks his dog, came under attack by 2 dogs living in the house above mine. His dog was badly injured, requiring surgery that cost $1,000. He had a commendable attitude, saying that “dogs will be dogs.” Of course the owner of the attacking dogs expressed great remorse and paid the vet bill.

A German Shepherd Dog.

Image via Wikipedia

There is a leash law in our city, but not everyone heeds it. The Center for The Preservation of Wildlife has also erected a sign in our neighborhood, and elsewhere, stating that dogs should be kept on leashes so that they don’t attack the wildlife. There are hiking trails at the end of our road. The warning sign stands at that juncture, and so do 3 houses whose owners allow their dogs to wander freely pretty regularly. One of them looks like those I’ve seen on the Discovery Channel, that live in the African wild. Its owners were present once when their dog confronted Mocha. I told them how I felt, which seemed to upset them. They didn’t smile back at me when I saw them later. I understand people don’t like criticism, but when it involves my safety, and my dog’s, well…so be it.

Port-a-Potty on My Land

Image by joanna8555 via Flickr

My next door neighbors have always allowed their labradors to run freely through the neighborhood, even when they use to walk them. I didn’t appreciate the dogs making my yard their personal “honey pot.” Still don’t. Fortunately, the fence we erected, and the hedge that grows between our side yards have kept their pets from trespassing. But recently when the owners were combing the neighborhood in their car in search of one of their dogs, I advised them that it had wandered through my yard and then scared Mocha and me as we went around a bend. Standing taller than my waistline, the labrador, growling,  circled Mocha, nudged my backside with its nose, pushing me forward, before it wandered off. That was a first for me. That was one nervy dog, I thought, before I collected my wits, and Mocha her’s, and moved on.

I love pets, cats and dogs, of which I have 3 felines, Sunkist, Sitka and Juneau, and my Mocha. But there’s no telling what will set an animal off, domesticated or not. They’re not human, and no amount of wishing will make them one of us. So when they act out of character, I have to hold the owners accountable when an innocent bystander, or a restrained pet, is injured. I don’t really put a lot of stock in the words “But he’s such a sweet dog. He wouldn’t hurt anyone.” My thought is, there’s always a first time. So why take a chance…

Dobermann Dog

Image via Wikipedia

I think my fear began when a Doberman Pinscher raced across its yard, as I walked by pushing my daughter’s stroller. Gnashing teeth within inches of us, it’s owner finally heard my yells and came to the front door to save my toddler and me from being mauled. That feeling of dread remains embedded in my subconscience. But I try my best to suppress it, when Mocha wants…  

…a breath of fresh air…hugmamma.  

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tenant must pay for bed bug treatment…???

Adult bed bug, Cimex lectularius

Image via Wikipedia

You read correctly. In the continuing struggle to rid her apartment of bed bugs my daughter was advised that of the $600 charged by All America Pest Control, she had to pay $400, the apartment management would pay $200. That was the proverbial “last straw” as far as we were concerned.

A cat at the Seattle Animal Shelter

Image via Wikipedia

Trying to carry on with her life as best she could, my daughter attended the final performances of her ballet company, cheering on her fellow dancers from the wings. In addition to that she partook of their annual choreographic project, WIP (Works in Progress), in which she choreographed a solo upon one of the trainees. My daughter also helped with administrative details like marketing the show, coordinating photo sessions with the dancers involved, distributing advertising fliers, and making contact with the animal shelter for whom donations were being requested as entrance fee for the show. All this while battling bedbugs and sleeping with one eye open, or not going home to sleep at all. Oh yes, she still had use of only one hand. Luckily, she’s left-handed so she could still drive, and write, and eat, and bathe and dress herself, however awkwardly. Within days of honoring her final commitments, my daughter came home for some much needed R and R.

Having seen to it that All America Pest Control treated her furnishings first, albeit minimally, my daughter approved our emailing the apartment complex‘s assistant manager detailing our disdain for how the bedbug situation had been handled. To be told by her that there was no plan in place to combat the critters once discovered, that our daughter’s case was the first, was unbelievable. The problem with bedbugs had been covered by local and national broadcasts beginning a year ago. That management didn’t take preliminary steps to deal with them since infestations were being reported to occur weekly, if not daily, in hotels and other public places seemed irresponsible. A worst case, best case scenario should’ve been worked out with Orkin, rather than subjecting my daughter to being the test case, the guinea pig. But matters went from bad to worse when my daughter was told that bed bugs weren’t covered by Orkin’s treatment plan, that they were lumped in with “general insects” for which there was no coverage. And so my daughter was being charged for treatment decided upon by management, which was less than satisfactory when compared with what Orkin’s rep said her company would’ve done. And never mind that my daughtered’d already spent almost $300 in following Orkin’s instructions.

As fate would have it, our family had already decided to move my daughter into a smaller, one-bedroom apartment. Of course we were prepared to honor her lease at the old one which didn’t expire until the end of July. But with the bedbug incident occurring the beginning of May, and my daughter not occupying the premises because of the bugs, we requested the lease be terminated the end of June. We felt the situation had been mishandled from the start: no formal treatment plan in place, allowing the Orkin rep to speak for the apartment complex, and then not following through with what she’d outlined to my daughter as the course of action, effectively telling her she shouldn’t have spent the several hundred dollars she did in compliance. We also asked that management pay for treatment because of their failure to point out that erradicating bedbugs would be my daughter’s responsibility, at the time she signed the lease.

What recourse did we have if the apartment’s management didn’t honor our requests? Social media, of course. While I explained in our email that we were just seeking recompense for the wrong done my daughter and no more, I went on to say that if she was not recused from her lease a month early and if she had to pay for treatment, we would have no choice but to broadcast the injustice to the world via the internet, and consumer advocates on TV. Thankfully the outcome was predictable, but only because the regional manager realized their mistake in not having a management rep present when the Orkin woman met with my daughter. It became a case of “she said – she said.” As it turns out, Orkin’s rep denied her entire conversation with my daughter, giving a signed affidavit that she lied about everything. Can you imagine?!? Why she would put herself through hell moving everything into storage, first having to find and rent a unit at the last minute, buy and load up huge plastic bins into her car with a broken hand in a cast, and sleep on her couch, and then on an air mattress is beyond comprehension, except for the fact that she was obviously complying with the advice of an expert in erradicating bedbugs, the Orkin rep! Did I want to nail that woman’s hide to the wall? You betcha! It’s a good thing I live 3,000 miles away.

In her email response the regional manager of the apartment complex apologized profusely for the distress my daughter experienced, but faulted her with not speaking up about it earlier. My email reply explained that my daughter handled the situation in a very grown up, rational manner. It wasn’t until the treatment went from happening 3 days after her conversation with Orkin’s rep, to 2 weeks later, that my daughter became anxious. Who wouldn’t in an apartment completely torn apart, with furnishings in and out of storage, having to board her cat at the vet’s in anticipation of the bedbug treatment (costing another $200 because of the delay), sleeping on the couch and then an air mattress and on friends’ couches, all with a broken hand?!?

Having put all our family’s frustrations into writing was very therapeutic. And it got us what we asked for as a result. The regional manager bore the complete burden of fault since management didn’t accompany Orkin’s rep in her visit with my daughter. In compensation, she bore no responsibility for payment for the bedbug treatment; her account was credited with $750; and she was allowed to exit her lease whenever she chose. In response to the regional manager’s generosity, I refrained from publicly denigrating their facility and its management.

My daughter was able to secure her new apartment on May 3rd, a month earlier than originally intended. And she was allowed out of her lease on the old apartment, without penalty, and compensated for her out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the treatment of the bedbugs. Lessons learned? Before signing on the dotted line, ask if bedbug treatment is included in lease. Make sure someone from management is present when advised how to proceed by a pest control rep. Ask questions, register complaints, and seek retribution if warranted. But always remember…you get more with honey, than you do with vinegar. But if you don’t succeed, get out your cannons…and blast away!!!

One foot shown en pointe.

Image via Wikipedia

the end? no way…the fun (ha!)only begins as the “saga of the bedbugs” continues…so stay tuned for the next episode…hugmamma.  😉