Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 - The Year of the Puppy

2012 was an eventful year for me. Rob and I celebrated our 20th wedding Anniversary. I traveled A LOT (unfortunately, not with my family and I hope to change that this year!), visiting many places like Austin and Chicago for the first time. I went back to my favorite place on earth - California, plus visited my sister and her family in the country a few times as well. My most recent visit to the country in October changed my life and made 2012 officially "The Year of the Puppy."

Anyone who knows me knows that I love dogs. I have a soft spot for Goldens and love my Makani with all my heart. This year, my family fostered only two dogs for Golden Rescue. The first, Sebastian, was our first failed foster (he snapped at Makani constantly) and Simona was a beautiful girl who just needed to learn some manners (specifically not to gnaw on hands). Makani was having a really hard time with the fostering experience, so we decided to take a break from it for a while. He needed his family back. But, fostering these dogs did put me in touch with an amazing dog trainer, Jeff Nelson of Mutts and Jeff, who taught my family so much about training dogs, and we would continue to implement his techniques later in the year when a new addition came along.

Meeting Cali for the first time! :)
Fast forward to August. I received an email one morning at work from my sister that made me laugh out loud. The subject line hinted at the fact that she may be a grandma again. Now, my sister has three beautiful granddaughters from her daughter (the youngest was just seven months old), and a precious 10-month-old grandson from her son. So, the thought of having another grandbaby so soon was really surprising. When I opened the email, I realized that she was referring to grandpuppies, not grandbabies! Seems that after months of trying (and failing), her Golden Retriever, Woody had finally figured out the whole mating thing with my nephew's black lab, Nola. She caught them in the act. And emailed me about it. And I was tickled. ;)

Cali and her daddy
If Nola was pregnant, my sister calculated that the puppies should arrive in early October. As the weeks went by, sure enough, Nola's belly got bigger and bigger. On the evening of October 2, she went into labor. I would have LOVED to have been there. I think that would have been an amazing experience! When my sister went to bed that night, Nola had given birth to four puppies. By morning, four more puppies had come into the world! Woody and Nola were parents to four black and four light-colored puppies - six girls and two boys. I couldn't wait to get up to Georgia to see them.

So, in mid-October, I drove up to visit and meet the puppies. Just like the time I went to look at Golden puppies for the very first time in 1994, I had NO intention of getting a new puppy. Makani was happy as an only dog. But, naturally, I fell in love. They were all cute (who wouldn't love a 2 1/2-week-old puppy?), but I was immediately drawn to the littlest of the Golden girls. She looked the most like her Daddy (who is a big sweetheart), so my sister called her "Woodwina." She just had the sweetest little face!

Cali meets her new family
My sister said she would love for me to take one of the puppies. They were not planning to sell them, but were just giving them away to family and friends and she wanted to know they were going to good homes. Though I would have loved to have taken her then, the puppy (who I named "Cali") was less than three weeks old - way too young to leave her mama. I told my sister that I'd have to discuss it with my family and it would really depend on how Makani took to the puppy. She told me that if it didn't work out, she had a lot of people who wanted the puppy, so I did have an "out."

After discussing the pros and cons, we decided we just may be ready for another dog. I have never owned more than one dog at a time, and I was really anxious to see how Makani would get along with the puppy. When we were fostering, he seemed to get along best with dogs who were female and non-threatening (like Sweet Pea). Cali was female and very small. Would Makani be threatened by a puppy? 

Cali & Makani
When Cali turned six weeks old, my brother-in-law drove her down from Georgia. The family fell in love with her. Even Makani, though a little timid at first, warmed up to her quickly. Let's face it, the early days of puppy parenthood are rough. Crying at night (most of which Alana had to endure), pee pee and poop on the carpet (which we still see from time-to-time, but less frequently), needle-sharp puppy teeth every time you go to pet her, missing items that are later found in less-than-perfect condition, and (in our case) TICKS. Thanks to a 20-minute phone call on the basics of puppy training with Jeff, Cali has done a really good job with her training and has learned quickly. Cali LOVES her big brother (who, no doubt, reminds her of her daddy). They play together all the time. Cali fits right in with our family and I can't wait to bring her back to Georgia for a reunion. :)
We crack each other up!

Cali will be 13 weeks old on the first day of 2013. Was this puppy meant for me or what? She is a wonderful addition to our family and sure to bring us smiles and love for years to come. 

Wishing you Love, Aloha, Laughter and Joy in the New Year ~ Nancy

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Broken Record

December 21, 2012 was not the date of the Apocalypse after all. But for about an hour that evening, I seriously questioned whether the Mayans might be onto something. For that night, at age 42, I learned a very valuable lesson that most people learn at a much younger age and while I was at it, I managed to break a 27+ year record. 

Click here to watch the clip!
It happened to Jerry Seinfeld. A Black & White cookie did him in. But Jerry's non-vomit streak was only 14 years in the making. I had nearly doubled his record. That's right. I managed to live through more than 27 YEARS of numerous illnesses, plus two pregnancies, without tossing my cookies. That's more than half my life! When I was extremely thin, several people suspected that I may have been bulimic. No. Not me. I will do absolutely ANYTHING to avoid throwing up, if at all possible. The closest I've come in 27 years was about 10 years ago. I was in the hospital and they had given me Tylenol with Codeine for pain. It made me sick to my stomach. I dragged my IV all the way to the bathroom, but the wave of nausea passed, and my record stayed intact. YES!

So, it's holiday party time. I attended my office Holiday party a couple of weeks ago, drank two glasses of wine and got a little tipsy. Typically, I just giggle a lot when I've had too much to drink. I've never drank to the point that I don't remember what I did (my husband has pretty much banned me from drinking tequila shots for that reason). Truly, up until a couple of years ago, I didn't drink much alcohol at all. Thanks to a tanking economy and stress at work, a glass of wine or a bottle of beer before dinner has become the norm for me. Not something that I was proud of, by the way. But it relaxed me. Having two drinks is a rarity. Three is my max, always followed by a LOT of water to avoid dehydration and all the fun stuff that goes along with it. But, something happened the other night. Maybe the planets were aligned just right and the shift in gravity caused my digestive system to implode (or explode, as the case may be). 

We were invited to a party at our friends' house. My husband and I are not super social, and we rarely go to parties, but we decided that we really wanted to go to this one. It was the holidays, after all, the start of a four-day weekend, and the world hadn't ended yet. I drank a Coors Light while getting ready for the party and I felt great as we headed out. When we arrived at the party, I had a glass of red wine and ate a few hors d'oeuvres (Who made up that word, by the way? It's ridiculous and I have to check the spelling every time I type it!). Mind you, that is all I had to eat that evening, except for a handful of almonds while I was getting ready. I asked the host what she was drinking and she told me it was a dirty martini. I'd never had one and decided to try one myself. I guess I was feeling a little wild. Little did I know that in the not-too-distant future, that drink would unleash a savage assault on my body. ;)
Recipe for disaster
As I sipped my martini, I could feel the buzz coming on. Although at first, it helped relax me, after about 20 minutes, I noticed that I needed to hold on to the counter just to stand up. That's a bad feeling. I remember my husband introducing me to somebody, and I vaguely recall saying, "Nice to meet you, but this probably isn't a really good time for you to meet me." Then, I whispered to Rob that I couldn't feel my legs. He said it was timet to go. Somehow, he managed to get me back home (fortunately, the party was in walking distance to our house). I remember him telling me to try to get myself together because he didn't want the kids to see me like that. The rational part of my brain (which seemed miles and miles away at the time) was saying, "OK. Yes. Get it together, woman!" The pickled part of my brain, which was far more dominant at that point, was saying, "Dude! My legs feel like noodles! Can I just lay down?"

My husband got me inside and laid me on the sofa while he went to get me some water. Before he could return, I had a bad feeling that my non-vomit streak was about to come to an end. I knew I couldn't walk, so I slithered off the sofa and tried crawling to the bathroom. Sadly, my teenage son found me on the floor halfway there (where I had stopped to rest), and called for his dad, who helped me the rest of the way. NOT my proudest moment, to be sure. 

Just like that. 27 years, 5 months, and 10 days or so went down the toilet. I was sick as a dog for a solid hour. During this time, numerous thoughts were going through my head (many of which I probably verbalized incoherently), including:
Me in July 1985
(time of the last incident)

  • "Wait! Did I just break my record? Nooooooooo!"
  • "Why are you trying to feed me peanut butter crackers?"
  • "My son is witnessing this. I'm so ashamed!"
  • "I'm sorry!"
  • "What the hell? I only had three drinks! I've never even had a hangover before!"
  • "I really hate throwing up!"
  • "I really need to scrub this toilet." That was the OCD talking.
  • "What the hell was in that olive?"
  • "I've never felt this sick."
  • "I wonder what my blood alcohol level is."
  • "How do people drink a lot?"
  • "Am I dying?" At this point, I started feeling a panic attack coming on. Fortunately, my husband calmed me down and helped prevent it.
  • "Do I need to go to the Emergency Room? That would be really embarrassing!"
  • "Please, God, make it STOP!"
  • "Maybe the Mayans were onto something!"
  • "Lord, I hope the world isn't ending and I'm hugging the toilet when you come for me, cause I fear you will leave me behind. I'm so sorry."
  • "I'm NEVER drinking again."

After about an hour, my stomach finally settled down, and I fell asleep (or maybe passed out?) only to wake up four hours later with my hair still up in a clip, my contact lenses in my eyes, and all my makeup on, plus a desperate urge to brush my teeth. It was not a great night, but one that I will never, ever forget. 
It seemed that even Facebook was mocking me the morning after...

When I woke up the next morning, I watched a beautiful sunrise, thanking God that I was still alive and well. The world did not end on December 21, 2012, but December 22nd felt like a new beginning for me. I vow to NEVER touch hard liquor (and possibly any other alcohol) again. That evening, I had zero desire for a glass of wine before dinner. When our waitress at Baja Cafe gave us Buy-One-Get-One-Free Margarita cards with our check, my stomach did a little flip-flop. Anybody want them? They're all yours! No más para mí, gracias.

I'm sad that I broke my record. 27 years was a good run. One thing's for sure, I'll never forget the date! ;) I'm very thankful for the lesson that my body (or perhaps God) taught me that night. It was a wake-up call that I think I desperately needed. That's what I get for being naughty! ;)

With Love, Aloha and lots of Christmas Cheer ~ Nancy

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tick Magnets

Who wouldn't love these puppies?
You all know that I think Golden Retrievers are adorable and oh-so-sweet. I have learned the hard way that I'm not the only one who feels this way...and I'm not talking about other  humans. I'm talking about one of the nastiest critters on the planet - ticks! Not deer ticks, mind you (though they are super nasty too), but brown dog ticks. Those little suckers will likely outlast cockroaches after the world ends in a few days. 

When I discovered a tiny brownish-red sesame seed crawling on my husband's white pillow IN OUR BED last week, I FREAKED out. I flew down the stairs in a flurry faster than a chick in a horror flick! My husband (the Calm One) was surprised, but not really bothered (it was HIS pillow, remember?!). We checked the dogs and didn't find any more. We just had DirecTV installed, so he reasoned that the tech might have brought the tick in from the bushes outside when he installed the equipment in our bedroom. Okaaaaay, but that means we have ticks in our YARD! "No worries," reassured The Calm One. Our 3-year-old Golden, Makani has been on K-9 Advantix and our 11-week-old Golden/Lab puppy, Cali just started on it a couple of weeks ago. In other words, "You're overreacting, woman. Chillllll." 

Unfortunately (or fortunately, since I know what it takes to get rid of them), this is not our first experience with brown dog ticks. Our first Golden, Baja never had fleas OR ticks. We didn't even have him on medication. When we adopted Makani as a puppy after Baja passed away, we didn't even consider putting him on flea/tick meds. MONUMENTAL MISTAKE! When Makani was about 4 months old, I was petting his head when I discovered a lump. On closer inspection, it looked like a fat gray mole. Grossed out, I showed it to Rob, who declared, "It's a tick." "A tick?! Really? I've never seen one before." He suggested we check Makani for more. Oh, there were more all right...DOZENS more. Then we started noticing them in the house. Once I started researching ticks, I discovered that one female can lay up to 5,000 eggs AT A TIME. They lay eggs after filling up on a dog's blood. Eeew. Eeew. EEEW! So, I called an exterminator and began what would end up being SIX WEEKS of eradication treatments. It was a flippin' NIGHTMARE. From that point forward, Makani never missed a dose of K-9 Advantix. 

We had a quiet tick-free few years, for which I was soooo thankful. I attributed it to the K-9 Advantix and the blessedly cool winters. This summer, I did find a tick crawling on me after being outside in my driveway. There is a stray cat who hangs out in our yard, harasses Makani through the window at night, and leaves poop around the yard for Makani to roll in before a 2 1/2 hour car trip with the family. I figured the cat may have brought the ticks back. We had the yard sprayed and Makani was on K-9 Advantix, so I wasn't overly worried. We didn't see any more ticks, so I thought that the scare was just that...until about a week ago.

We started finding ticks on the dogs and (even worse) a few in the house (always where the dogs had just been). Since both dogs were on K-9 Advantix we couldn't understand why they had ticks ON them, but figured we were safe because K-9 Advantix not only (SUPPOSEDLY) repels and kills ticks (not looking so good in that respect), it makes them infertile (oh, how I prayed that at least that claim is a fact), so at least if they feed, they can't lay eggs.

Ticks at various stages of "fullness". YUCK!
Rob called the exterminator and the soonest he could come to our house was Monday (four days later). His company was THAT busy! So, we carefully checked the dogs, picking ticks off of them as we found them, squishing them and dropping them into a cup of alcohol (apparently the only way to kill them aside from setting them on fire).

We spent the weekend checking the dogs and scouring the house, checking baseboards, behind pictures, between the wall and the ceiling - all places that ticks like to hide indicating an infestation. I held my breath as I lifted each picture. All was clean. Maybe they were coming from outside, but I was thankful that the inside was being treated anyway.

Sunday morning, we were doing a routine tick check on the dogs. Cali was clean. Makani had a couple small ticks on his head. All of a sudden, I noticed what looked like a gray jellybean next to him. I said, "ROB! What IS that?" Yup, it was a very fat, very happy tick. Now I know how the phrase, "full as a tick" originated. GROSS! We have no idea where it had been feeding, but we were VERY thankful we found it. 

Today, our house was treated thoroughly, both inside and out. The exterminator told Rob that it appears we don't have a bad problem at all (a far cry from our first experience), indicating that (hopefully) the ticks were coming from outside (thank you, Lord!). Still, I am VERY glad that everything has been treated and life can hopefully get back to normal. 

If you are a dog owner and you've never had a tick problem, count your blessings! Ticks suck (literally and figuratively). Protect your dogs, my friends! We will be switching to Revolution and hoping that it is more effective than K-9 Advantix. (The exterminator mentioned that ticks do become immune to some medications in time - NICE!) I don't blame the ticks for loving my dogs, though. I love my little tick magnets too!

With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy

Saturday, December 1, 2012

On the Defense Against the Offense of Fraud

In many ways, South Florida is a wonderful place to live. Beautiful beaches, a warm ocean, mild temperatures in the winter. But South Florida is also, I'm convinced, the fraud capital of the nation. It is truly amazing how rampant fraud is, and even more incredible is the fact that people seem to repeatedly get away with it. By fraud, I am referring to fraudulent lawsuits and there is one particular nationality, very common to South Florida, that is responsible for many of the fraudulent lawsuits. How do I know this? Because I have (or, more specifically, my family has) been the victim of (completely ridiculous) false claims by people who are blatantly attempting to take advantage of the American Judicial System, when, by all accounts, they are not even United States citizens! 

Around 2007, a gentleman who hailed from a island nation somewhere south of here repeatedly stopped by my husband's family business looking for a job. Due to his persistence and seeming willingness to work, they hired him to work in the yard, washing boats and doing odd jobs at the marine store.  He wasn't the greatest worker in the world - once he was seen attempting to clean a toilet using Round-Up weed killer and occasionally he would take naps and use the heads in the boats that he was supposed to be cleaning, but he showed up for work every day. His father passed away while he was working for the guys, and they loaned him $2,000 to fly back to his homeland and bury his father. 

Shortly after his trip home, this man (whose name ironically contains a syllable that sounds a lot like "fraud") accidentally kicked a metal ladder while boarding a boat, cutting a half-inch gash in his big toe. Learning that the man was injured, my brother-in-law immediately drove him to our family doctor, who stitched the wound and dressed it, recommending that he stay off of his feet for a week. He was given a week off of work, no questions asked. He returned to work the following week and seemed fine. The next day, he told the guys that his foot still hurt. They took him back to the doctor, who said that the wound had healed nicely and that if he was still having pain, he should see a specialist. After that, he stopped showing up for work. Months passed without a word. The phone number the guys had for him had been disconnected. There was no way to reach him.

A few months later, the store was served with papers stating that a Workman's Compensation Claim was being filed against them. The man was now claiming that he was seriously injured from the cut on his foot. That attorney ended up dropping the case after discovering that the marine store did not deal with boats exceeding 120 feet in length. Seems the motivation to represent the plantiff was based on the belief that the "Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act" (which only applies to businesses dealing with extremely large vessels) applied. Thank the good Lord above that it didn't, because that would have completely destroyed the business. In any case, the fact that the attorney dropped the case seems to speak volumes. A few months later, he hired another attorney to defend him, asking for compensation for medical bills. My husband explained that he had been asking the man for copies of his medical bills, which he had never been able to produce. That attorney was unable to obtain medical records and eventually dropped the case because the man showed up at his office shirtless one day and proceeded to scream at his receptionist.  After hiring attorney number three (some 3 1/2 years after the incident), the man was able to (miraculously) produce medical records from a doctor that nobody had ever heard of, each of which was signed differently, indicating that the injury was far more serious than initially thought. (To refresh your memory, the injury was a half-inch cut on his big toe.) 

Over the next few years, the man would find numerous other attorneys to take his case on  (I believe he is currently on number six), seeking damages as high as six figures...FOR A HALF-INCH cut on his big toe. His story has changed with each attorney hired, and eventually included a claim that after cutting his toe, he fell into a pool of acid (?) burning his back and causing a severe skin rash. (Because there are random pools of acid laying around boat yards at all times?) Oh, did I mention that he stated, before a judge, that this happened when he was asked to wash a boat while carrying an umbrella during a hurricane [because the business stays open during a hurricane?]. Uh-huh. Worst part about it is that the judge questioned the validity of his story, yet still ruled in favor of the plantiff, insisting that the defendants were responsible for his [falsified] medical bills plus three months of pay [for the time he didn't show up for work or get in touch with his employers].

Each lawsuit has resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees on my family's part during the worst time financially in the history of our business. Does that sound fair? I don't think so! Is he finished? I seriously doubt it. Why stop now, when he can continuously find a new attorney to represent him? Ironically, there was a lull in the lawsuits during a brief period when lawyers could not legally recoup the plaintiff's legal fees from the defendant.

As we await the next wave from that set of lawsuits, my 16-year-old daughter, who started driving in August, had her first accident in October. She was backing out of a parking space in her high school parking lot, turned the wheel too sharply and scraped the car parked next to her. As soon as the two cars met, she stopped and pulled forward. The school patrolman was there, so a police report was filed (thank God). The other kid didn't have his driver's license or insurance information with him. My daughter was at fault (no doubt about that), but the officer let the other driver off the hook, in spite of not producing identification. My daughter's car had paint scrapes on the corner of the bumper, but that's it. She said there was no significant damage to the other car, just paint scrapes. The following week, we started receiving calls from our insurance company about the accident. Not only had a damage claim been filed (which we expected), but the claimant had also hired an attorney to represent him, claiming bodily injury. As soon as I read the claimant's last name (which, ironically, means "beloved" en Français) [Beloved, mon cul!], I knew exactly what we were dealing with. Can a person be seriously injured when another car, moving from a stationary position, lightly scrapes the side of their car at perhaps 2-3 miles per hour? Seriously?!

Once again, we were on the defense. My husband called the insurance company and explained what had happened. The accident report stated that both drivers denied that any injuries had been sustained and that the damage was minimal. The agent explained that sometimes injuries can arise after the accident. My husband explained that this was not a violent collision between two cars - it was one car barely moving against the other vehicle, which was not moving at all. He asked if the insurance company happened to have a fraud department. He faxed the police report to them and hoped for the best. 

Yesterday, we received another letter from our insurance company stating that an attorney for the insurance company would be representing us, per the terms of our policy. How absurd is it that an attorney had to be retained in the first place?! How fundamentally wrong is it that an attorney would take this kid's case, considering the circumstances?

How are we, as American citizens, allowing this to happen? I truly don't understand it. We are certainly not the only victims of this type of fraud. It is rampant in South Florida. In my opinion, any non-U.S. citizen that commits fraud should be deported immediately and never allowed back on our shores. I am disgusted by the fact that circumstances have tainted my opinion of a group of people, but they truly have. I was in line at Lowe's one day when a gentleman in line behind me handed me his business card. He was a handyman who happened to have the same last name as my husband's former worker. Yeah, fat chance I'm going to let you onto my property with tools! When a person of this nationality offers to help me out with my groceries at Publix, I politely decline. I don't want to risk a lawsuit because my cardboard 12-pack of Coke Zero caused a paper cut that miraculously turned into necrotizing fasciitis. 

I have visited the nation from which these people emigrated. It is a beautiful place geographically (see photo below), but it is extremely corrupt politically. I can understand why people would want to leave, but I wish they would leave the corruption and dishonesty behind and make a fresh start.

How (and when?!) will the cases end? Only time will tell. Be wary and drive defensively, my fellow South Floridians. 

With Love and Aloha ~ Nancy