Chapter 12 of A Life Worth Living – Ask, and Ye Shall Receive

Chapter 12 of “A Life Worth Living – The Story of Sassy”

Click here to read the earlier chapters and learn more about this serial novel

Chapter 12 – Ask, And Ye Shall Receive

(February, 2004)

All dogs are prone to getting into some kind of mischief — digging holes in the back yard, tearing up the couch, and of course ‘eating homework.’ For our part, we foolishly assumed that Sassy was different. Like so many doting parents, we believed our baby was an angel who could do no wrong. After all, Sassy didn’t bark at lot (without a specific reason, usually one related to food), didn’t cause messes in the house, was good around other people, and didn’t try to fight other dogs, however we’d eventually learn that she had a devious side too.

Now back when Sassy first came into our lives, she lived with Anne and Rose in an apartment complex called The Marquis. To this day Anne always says that The Marquis was Sassy’s favorite place to live — it was a first floor apartment with plenty of panoramic windows overlooking a water fountain, it was quiet, Sassy had her own private courtyard to do her business in, and Rose spoiled her with soothing music, aromatherapy, and unlimited treats. Yes, Sassy loved The Marquis — but with that kind of treatment, who wouldn’t?

Even still, we discovered that Sassy could be sneaky when she wanted to — as it turned out, when we were cleaning the apartment as Rose and Anne were getting ready to move out, we discovered that there was a tiny corner of carpet in Rose’s bedroom which Sassy had dug through — to this day we don’t know why. We also don’t know when she did it because Rose never found any evidence of Sassy’s handiwork during the time they lived there — no shreds of carpet, debris, or strings. It was as if Sassy channeled her inner Andy Dufresne from The Shawshank Redemption and took away a single fiber of carpet with her each time she visited that secret corner until eventually she had nearly dug a tunnel that even Andy would have been proud of. Thankfully Sassy’s grand plans for escape caused so little damage that The Marquis didn’t even ding Rose or Anne on their security deposit.

However Anne and I would not be so lucky after Sassy’s next “remodel.”

Although we certainly didn’t intend for this to be the case, as it turned out, Sassy hated her next home — The Preserve — an apartment complex where Anne and I shared our first place together and where the full depths of Sassy’s fury would reveal itself! Now we chose The Preserve because it was a brand new facility with lots of nice amenities, and it was less than a mile from where we both worked at USAA. We never considered that Sassy would not like it, but looking back it’s easy to see why: our second story apartment didn’t have anywhere near the views which The Marquis had (unable to just lay on the couch and look out, Sassy had to exert the effort to go out on the balcony to see anything, and even then she only got a view of “conservation” [read: a swamp which the apartment complex charged us extra for]);  any tranquility Sassy might have found by looking at the conservation was usually spoiled by loud neighbors both above and below whose unexpected noises at all hours ruined Sassy’s peace; and it didn’t help that Sassy also had to share a small stretch of grass with countless other dogs when she wanted to relieve herself. As a result, for Sassy, life at The Preserve became quickly like solitary confinement in a prison and soon after moving in, we realized we might have made a mistake and hated to leaving her alone there. Suddenly our lease couldn’t expire fast enough and Anne and I kicked our search for our first house into high gear.

Yet Sassy got the last laugh on that awful apartment — although we never realized it until after we moved. Now most of the time when you move into an apartment you have to put down a security deposit to (among other things) cover damages you cause but don’t repair when you later move out.  With all my prior apartments I’d gotten most if not all of my security deposits back (oh sure, there was this one apartment at college during my senior year where we maybe left a few poorly repaired holes in the walls as a result of this new knife throwing game my roommates and I made up that year when we weren’t playing Techmo Bowl, but let’s overlook that one for now). The fact is that Anne and I expected to get a letter from the apartment complex with the full return of our security deposit — instead we got a letter from The Preserve’s lawyer not only making a claim on the entire value of our security deposit but demanding even more money from us! According the the lawyer, the entire carpet in or two-bedroom apartment (which was brand new when we moved in) had been destroyed by animal urine — her letter went on to say that the damage was so extensive (covering nearly every square inch of carpeted space) and so extreme (the urine was so laser focused it penetrated through the carpet pad and into the subflooring) that it appeared to have been done intentionally — in essence she accused of us knowingly vandalizing the apartment!

Anne and I were shocked and appalled. On the one hand it was rather embarrassing to have someone claim you encouraged your dog to urinate all over your apartment — which we certainly did not do. In addition, it’s obviously really gross to think that our visitors (and Anne and I) were walking around on such a carpet. And worst of all, Anne and I (OK probably mostly just me) were loath to pay out thousands in damages when we’d just exhausted much of our savings in buying a new house.

“I just can’t believe this is true.” I lamented to Anne as we discussed the letter. “I mean surely we would smelled it if it was really that bad?”

“You would think so.” Anne agreed, horrified at the prospect that her apartment had been anything but uber-clean as per the standards her mother had always instilled in her.

Just then Sassy strolled casually into the living room of our new house — having just come from sunning herself on her private lanai. Anne picked her up and looked into Sassy’s eyes, “Did you really do this, girl?” Yet it wasn’t long before she brought Sassy down to her lap and started chuckling in spite of the situation. “You know as well as I do, Michael, that Sassy hated that apartment. Although I can’t believe it’s as bad as they say, I wouldn’t put it past Sassy to have done it — after all, it would be the perfect way for her to get back at the place.”

I read the letter again, seeing key phrases like “systematic effort to cause harm” and “laser focus penetration,” and looked at Sassy — happy as a lark in Anne’s lap and totally loving our new home. “Sassy has always been an angel, there’s no way she could have done this! This is something that would take a big dog to do, right?”

Yet Anne appeared to already be coming to grips with the situation, “Or perhaps a little dog who was just very, very determined — and mad.” And she stroked Sassy behind the ears.

However I wasn’t so quick to accept things. “I’m going to fight this! There’s no way we’re paying for something like this without proof. I will demand to see their proof.”

In the end, we did fight it, and ultimately it was my demand to see proof that helped us reach a settlement. Sure we ended up losing half of our security deposit, but we avoided paying the thousands that were originally demanded of us because the apartment complex did the work without notifying us in advance or giving us a right to inspect the damages with them. I think their lawyer knew she had a tenuous position and she tried to strong arm us up front with legalese to scare us. When we fought back, she didn’t have much to stand on. Perhaps we could have gotten the entire deposit back, but since we never really knew if Sassy did cause the damage they claimed (and since we had to admit to ourselves that perhaps our little angel did have a devilish side too) we felt that we should pay something towards the carpet replacement, so we agreed to the settlement and moved on.

Final score: Sassy 1, The Preserve 0.

*****

As for our new house – Sassy truly loved it – perhaps even more than The Marquis. It was a lovely three bedroom, two bathroom home in Land O Lakes in a quiet, family-friendly neighborhood. Sassy once again had her own private yard to enjoy as well as a
covered lanai in which she could relax. She also had an area in the front foyer that had little windows by the door which came down all the way to the floor so that she could monitor what was happening on the street as well.

Now we bought that house in February, 2004, however we’d been looking for a home in that area for over a year. We’d actually found a new construction home about nine months prior in a golf course community called Plantation Palms that was just getting built across the street. It was the same builder (Ryland) and same floor plan (The Princeton model) as the house we’d eventually buy, except that we were going to build it in a new community. We’d even gone so far as to pick our lot (overlooking the green on hole #4) and had even started to sign the paperwork when the sales lady pointed out that we would have to pay a $3000 lot premium.

“A lot premium?” I queried. Never having heard of such a thing, I quickly displayed my anger (and my ignorance) that maybe this was some kind of scam. “Whoever heard of paying extra for a specific lot when I’m already paying you so much to build the new house?”

In the end, we did not do the deal – all because of that lot premium. For years afterward we always laughed about it (and still do to this day), because we’d later learn that a $3000 lot premium was actually not that expensive — especially as the market was soon to explode and that home which we could have bought for $130,000 would balloon up to over $300,000 in just a couple years! In the end, Anne and I bought the exact same house almost a year later except that it was across the street in the older, non-golf course community of Valencia Gardens. When it was all said and done, we paid about $30,000 more for an existing home that did not have a golf course view (curse you, lot premium!) — but by then the market was in overdrive and houses were being sold as soon as they hit the market. We actually found our home while driving by after viewing another home.

“Go slowly, Michael.” Anne commanded. “I wanna see what else is on this street.”

“So, I’m assuming you didn’t like the one we just saw?” I was disappointed that the house we just viewed was not apparently not up to snuff for Anne. “Sure it might need a little work but it has the floor plan you wanted.” After having viewed so many houses in the past few months I was exhausted and just ready to make a decision.

“It’s beat up, Michael. That family had too many people living it it and even though it was just built a few years ago it’s already in poor shape. Who’s gonna do the work – you?”

I didn’t reply at first – knowing my limitations and regretting that I’d never paid attention to all the practical life lessons my handyman father had tried to teach me over the years. Which gave me an idea. “Well, how about we buy that one and have my dad–”

“Stop the car!” Anne interrupted me as she saw a man putting up a For Sale By Owner sign in his front yard. “Michael, I think this is the same model. And just look at those neutral colors – I love it. Let’s go talk to that guy.”

I stopped the car and met a man named Casey who was all too happy to show us his house. Anne was correct — it was indeed the same floor plan (with a great room/kitchen combo that really opened up the house, an imagination room (aka office), and beautiful massive built in entertainment wall. On top of that it was smartly painted inside and out with the neutral colors that Anne liked. As a result, we made Casey take down the for sale sign down and signed a contract with him that day — such was the hysteria in the market at that time (although I still prided myself on negotiating Casey down a few thousand from his asking price).

Interestingly enough, that real estate transaction (one which I handled without the use of realtors but instead with a real estate attorney and in which I also negotiated the mortgage on my own) was the best real estate experience I have ever been a part of. Unfortunately, the thrill of that successful experience (and the quick riches which our friends were soon making by flipping houses) whet my appetite (read: greed) for more — but as the real estate market exploded in Florida in 2004-2007 it brought with it a cast of shady characters who were all too eager to prey people eager for a quick buck. As you’ll soon learn, we became caught up in that mess as well.

But all of that was in the future — for now, we had a new home to enjoy, Sassy was in heaven in her new digs, and everything was right with the world. At least for a little while…

 

Sassy’s Life Lesson #12: Ask, And Ye Shall Receive

In the Gospel of Matthew (7:7-12), Jesus tells us “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you…” Sassy wasn’t happy when we lived at The Preserve and her way of asking was apparently to pee on the carpet. Hopefully when you want something, you’ll think of a better way of asking! But the point is the same – if you want something, don’t just sit around and hope it will come to you. Ask for it!

Wanna make more sales in your career or want a promotion? Ask for it!

Wanna get the girl of your dreams to go out on a date with you? Ask her!

Need help with your schoolwork? Ask for it!

Wanna make your owners move to a new house? Pee on the carpet!

OK, maybe you don’t do that last one, but you get the idea. If you want something, you need to speak up. Life doesn’t reward people who sit around and hope, it rewards those who take action. After all, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, right?

 

Point to Ponder

What’s something you want that you need to ask for? How much better would your life be if you got what you wanted? What’s stopping you from asking? You’ll never get it unless you try so don’t delay, ask today!

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