Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reaction to Skruffy Being a Service Dog

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Some people think that dogs, all dogs, are like a Cerberus….(Kerberos in Greek)….. the mythical three headed dog from Hades.   Hmmm….wonder what Skruffy would look like with three heads…
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She doesn’t even look scary with three heads….a bit freaky, but nothing to be scared about.

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Now a Condo Association, yep, that can be scary…. especially when it is run by uneducated people.  And when I say uneducated, I mean they are not very educated in the business sense as to how to run an association, and what harm they can do with their silly rules.  On one hand, some of their rules have kept this place looking good.  It can be such a two sided sword.  For example:  Last week the Secretary of the Association came by and wanted us to sign a form seeing if we were in favor of not allowing any of the condos to be “rented out” any more once the current renters are no longer living here.  The rules already limit it to only 8 units for rentals…out of just over 80, that is only 10%.  Monday the leader of the Association came by asking us for our support…but we signed it as a no.  Marcia says, “Why would we want to limit the number of people who might be interested in buying condos?”  He says, “This will enhance a sale, not limit it.”  Hmmm…. so cutting out a number of potential buyers who might want a condo as an investment enhances the chances for a sale?  See, it does not make sense.  His reasoning is, that if the people who live here have a stake in the place, they will keep it clean and neat.  Now remember, it is a 55+ place to begin with…at least one spouse must be 55 or older, no kids under 55.  Only 10% can be rented and they want to lower that to zero because they feel the place will look better.  Can’t see the logic in this...renters have to follow the rules too.

So, what did they think about us having a Service Dog?

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(This is her Service Badge ID Photo)

Oh no, we don’t allow pets.”  This is a common comeback by these places that have a no pet policy.  But what does the Fair Housing Amendments Act (1988) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990) say about this?  Simple….a Service Dog is not a Pet and does not fall under “pet rules” put in place by any entity, except for limiting their admittance into like lets say, a “surgery room” of a hospital, but NOT from a patients room at a hospital.

So, why did you not tell us this when you had your interview before you moved in?”   Well, never expected this question, but yes, it was asked.  Told them that it did not matter if we told them then (back in April of last year) or now…the law does not allow them to discriminate.  Frankly, I was offended that we had to be interviewed...Marcia has owned the condo for six years, now going on seven.

You aren’t going to allow your dog to do their business on our lawn are you?“  Yes, this was actually asked.  Again, the two above mentioned “Acts”, as passed by Congress and signed by the President of the United States say that they cannot prevent the dog from using the premises, however, the owner/caretaker must clean up after them.  I assured them that we are use to cleaning up after our dogs at RV parks and other areas…it is no big deal.  However, by the look of shock on his face, it is a big deal to him.

This is where Dave took charge....  “Look, just give me the name and number of the Associations Attorney, and our Attorney will call your Attorney and this will all get worked out...there is nothing you can do about it, it is the law”.  "Oh, we will follow the law, but I just don't see how this can be...."  Guess what, the law is what it is, and that is that.

Our letter, which was approved by our lawyer before we gave it to them on Monday, states that we want / expect approval no later than Friday.  Below is a picture our letter with names/addresses marked out.

AssociationLetter
(Click on it if you wish to read)

So now you can see the attitude and knowledge of the folks we are dealing with.  On Monday our attorney called their attorney, did not get a call back until Wednesday morning.  Thursday Marcia is seeing her MS doctor, already a scheduled visit, and we are going to get a letter stating that she is disabled and has a need for a service dog.  At that point we will provide a copy to our attorney who will send it to their attorney, case closed…we should have Skruffy here Thursday night.

One thing to understand here…. we “could” have already moved her in.  Once notice is given, the ADA and Fair Housing Amendments Act would be totally on our side.  Second, we don’t “have” to provide a letter from a doctor…we have a ADA Placard for the car so the State of Florida already recognizes her as being Disabled.  In fact, the ADA mentions that a person who even "perceives to have a disability" can fall under the rule even without medical verification.  Now I am not sure what that perception would need to be....I do know it cannot be "..but the dog just makes me so happy...."  Third, the letter we provided stated the need for a Service Dog and what the Service Dog will be doing.  Due to her obvious condition (walks with a cane and it is obvious that she is not a strong walker), this need should not even be questioned.

However, by following the advice of the attorney, we prevent the Association from doing something stupid such as harassing us, attempting to fine us, and asking for a hearing with HUD.  Of course, we would prevail through all of those, but the tension it would cause would do much harm to Marcia…a person with MS does not need stress.  On Friday we are delivering our attorney his payment, a freshly baked "Marcia Kugel".  If you don't know... a Kugel is a traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dish often served on Shabbat and Yom Tov.  Marcia makes it with cream cheese instead of cottage cheese, uses wide noodles, and adds corn flakes to make it crispy instead of like a pudding.  My sister-in-law, who is Jewish, raves about it.  A lady from church who is a Messianic Jew, raves about it.  I can go on and on...let's just say it is very good.  Personally, I don't recall hearing about a Kugel before I married Marcia, definitely had not tried it to my knowledge.  And in the three years we have been married (yesterday was third year anniversary by the way), I have only had a few pieces because she typically makes them to give away.

So, what do the pups think of all of this?

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Come on guys, stardom is over…take off the glasses, and Skruffy, people are going to want a picture of you with your service pack on…

Monday, February 24, 2014

Skruffy is Going to do WHAT???

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Service Dogs come in all shapes and sizes…..there are the medium sized Service Dogs

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….the small Service Dogs, some of whom will grow up into another level

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and of course, there are the BIG Service Dogs.

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The thing about Service Dogs is that they can perform a wide range of functions.  

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I think we have all been exposed to dog which assist those who are blind, and unfortunately the need to assist our War Veterans/Heroes who came home missing limbs is becoming to familiar these days.

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Many of you know that I am a retired Public Library Director.  Although this service was not found in the area around the city I was located in, many Public Libraries do have  Reading Therapy Dog programs.  Friends of mine in other cities found this to be a very positive program to get kids to read by reading to the dogs.

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And of course, we are familiar with the Poker Playing Dogs….but they are just a joke.  What is not a joke is that our little Skruffy is now going to be considered a Service Dog.  Skruffy the Rescue Dog, turned Library Dog (she really went to work in the Library with me every day from when I got her until I retired), will now turn into a Service Dog.  Obviously this will allow Skruffy to live in the Condo.  But there is a very valuable need that Skruffy is going to fulfill for Marcia, who if you did not know by now, has MS.  For the past ten days or so we have done much research on this subject.  We have also consulted our Attorney, who just happens to specialize in Real Estate Law….and is the owner of a Title Company.

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I found this very neat document put out by the DOJ.  Here are some excerpts….
    Service animals are working animals, not pets. The work or task a dog has been trained
    to provide must be directly related to the person’s disability.

    When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform.

    Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
So, the fair question is, what is it that Skruffy is trained to do?
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Marcia’s biggest fear is falling, injuring her hip replacement of two years ago, and not having anyone around to help her.  When I leave Marcia in the Condo, Skruffy will be there with her wearing this “Hot Pink” Mesh Harness.

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In the pocket will be a cell phone.  Skruffy comes to Marcia whenever she calls for her.  So in this case, she is already trained for the service she will be providing.  We are going to purchase a secondary, emergency cell phone which will allow her to call me, or call 911, or even just to call her normal cell phone if she mislaid it somewhere.

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A secondary task she will be performing deals with our doorbell.  Marcia is very sensitive to unexpected loud noises…the sound of sudden loud bell or buzzer over stimulates her nerves and can bring on an exacerbation of MS (also known as a relapse, attack, or flare-up).  So the doorbell will be tailored way down….so low that if she is napping she would not be able to hear it.  But Skruffy will hear it, and those who know Skruffy know how she reacts to someone at the door. 
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As for the emergency cell phone, the best plan I have found so far is from PagePlus.  They seem to use the Verizon network, which for us is good.  A phone will cost $20, and for $10 we can have 100 minutes for 120 days.  So for a $20 investment, and then $30 per year, we have us an emergency phone.  Well worth it in our book.

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When we first told Bubba, he just started laughing and rolling on the ground.  “Skruffy is going to do what?”, he seemed to be saying.

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Then he turned his back on us, like he was thinking, “Why does that little girl get all the lucky jobs?”  Well Bubba, we do love you too.  But let’s face it…..who is the first one to bark when there is a knock at the door or the doorbell rings?  When we call Skruffy, she comes….when we call you, many times you start pretending that you’re a cat.  If we could have two service dogs, believe us…you would be one of them.  However, we can only have one service dog…and remember, we still plan on being together in the motorhome most of the time anyway.

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So, what does the Condo Association think of this???  Well, that juicy story will just have to wait for a couple of days as our lawyer talks to their lawyer.  Believe me, what I have to say about the initial comments from the Association representative we talked to will be something you won’t want to miss….

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Vixen Motorhomes

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Had a chance to meet our neighbors this morning before we left the park.  Last night three cars came in and parked right across the street from us, just to the “picture left” of that class A in the above picture.  They were, needless to say, very loud, rude and obnoxious.  They all pulled out very early this morning, made me wonder if they even paid or not.  Anyway, there are at least four of these Vixen Motorhomes in the park….I guess they are having a club meeting or something.  So as I introduced myself this morning I said, “Boy, I have heard about how rowdy you Vixen owners can be.”  He looked up with a startle, then realized I was being factious.  He said, “Oh, they were a bit loud…especially that motorcycle that went around and around the park so late.”  Ya, Marcia had told me about the motorcycle….but I was out…didn’t hear it at all.

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Here is another Vixen.  There were only 587 Vixen Motorhomes, three different styles, built between 1986 and 1989.  My “neighbor” had owned his for 24 years…not sure if he was original owner or not.  He told me how the Vixen Owners Association started, and how for the first five to ten years or so that when they gathered, various members would share their information about the engine upkeep, electrical systems, water systems, etc. since the Vixen Company no longer existed.  He said that they had driven their Vixen through nearly every state, up into Canada, and had never had a major problem with it.

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Above are two more of the Vixens which were in our general vicinity.  Brand new back in the late 80’s the Vixen cost around $45,000.  “IF” you can buy one today that was in pretty good condition, it would put you back by about $20,000.  If you want to read a good history about them I would suggest this Vixen Site, and Wikipedia

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We made it back to the condo around 1 pm.  It was an easy, fun trip, and we all enjoyed it.  Nice having the four of us together again….I think our next trip will start on March 2nd, probably going to try and get in over at E.G. Simmons Park for Monday through Friday.  They don’t take reservations, but I figure if we stay in the Rest Area along I-75 near there, we could have a good shot of being one of the first ones in line for a spot.  Speaking of Florida Rest Areas….the rest areas we have stayed at have not had signs that either of have seen prohibiting or limiting how long one can stay.  I have seen signs at a very small rest area along I-10 that have very limited numbers of parking places..  Technically, their website says you can stay for 3 hours.  The Feds have asked the State of Florida, and other states, to not have restrictions shorter than ten hours at Interstate rest areas.  I am told it just gives them the right to remove those who camping there every night.  As far as I am concerned, federal money was spent in building the Interstate System, including the rest areas….they are there to rest, and every once in awhile, that is what we will do as long as we feel it is safe.  And in Florida, if the rest area is open at night, there is an armed guard standing watch.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Look Here–Look There–Why I Should Not Hike Alone

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“Look at those birds over there”, she says.  “Where?”  “Log??”  “What color??? White!”

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“Oh, there…”  [look close, they are in the first picture too]

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“Over there…got to get that turtle for you sister Sandy.”  “Where?”  “Grass??”  “Sure it is a turtle???”

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“Oh, there…yep, she will like that picture.”

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Yep, Marcia was able to make the path today.  The GoGo did very well, got stuck once but it was an easy fix.  Starting at Parking Lot 3, it was not very long before we got to the bridge.  She reminded me that I needed to smell the air, to take it a little slower, and take time to look around.  We decided to leave the dogs in the motorhome…the temps were in the mid-70’s and we just left the vent fan on and a few windows open.  They did fine…but they would have enjoyed being along….but it was best that they stayed, and it ended up being a good decision.

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Same bridge as yesterday, from the different side.  Yes, there is a couple on the bridge.

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It took a bit of time, and I walked right by it, but we did find “the tree”.  This is from the ground looking up…and the limbs and leaves above right are from this tree.  It is like it something from one of those “living dead” creepy movies.

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And she wanted me to get a picture of this Spanish Moss covered tree.  She always tell me how the Spanish Moss is really a slow killer to the trees it lands on.  Yep, this one looks pretty dead to me.

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While we were admiring the “Tree from the Living Dead”,  a very nice couple from Wisconsin walked by and in our conversation they told us about an alligator on the other side of the river down pass the next boardwalk.  “You can’t see its head because of how it is positioned,” they said.

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Well, that’s the advantage of going instead of coming…since we knew it was there, we could keep looking back at it until the full view opened up.

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At the bend in the river I wanted to get a panoramic view of the bend.  Just then, while I had the camera down and off, Marcia says, “Look at this Heron flying along the river…”  By the time I got the camera on and in position I did get one shot….but not the quality that I wanted.  Lucky for you, it landed further down the river, and YES, Marcia saw it first, and I got these pictures below.

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Again….  “Look on that log”   “What log?”  “What kind of bird??”  “What side of the river???”

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“Oh, that log…..”   We walk on up the river towards the “Big Rapids”.

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As we sit there at an area where one can sit on a bench and enjoy the river, the Heron moves over near us….

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What’s that you say Mr. Heron?   Yep, you are right….I’m darn lucky to have Marcia along, just think what I would have missed….

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Oh, and she even saw the first flowers of the early Florida Spring too….   So we left from parking lot #3, and we came out at parking lot #2.  I have about a 4/10ths of a mile walk to the car parked in the next lot.  After yesterday’s hike, and now todays hike, my mind got to thinking.  Now I know you all wish I had a picture of this…but you are just going to have to use your own imagination.   As we got out onto the bike path, I asked her to turn her seat 180 degrees so that she faced the wrong way.  I adjusted the steering column a bit, and stood up leaning on the back of her seat and that little GoGo became the Little Train that Could.  Now you know why it turned out to be a good idea that we did not bring the dogs.  The GoGo carried us well over half way to the car…but when Marcia said, “There is a big Class A headed down the road…” I decided to stop and walk the rest of the way.  Besides, the ride was a pleasant break.  And no, the GoGo did not break….had it, I would probably be writing this from the HHR where I am sure I would have to sleep the night away…..

Monday, February 17, 2014

Hillsborough River State Park

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It is always nice to be back in the RV, especially when we have the dogs with us.  Hillsborough River State Park is one of the eight original Florida State Parks created in 1938.  The sites are very close together, and many of the sites are very small.  We are here for two nights, and then back to the condo.  Since it is only 45 miles from where we live, and just a couple miles south of the county boarder of Pasco in which we live, it seemed to be a good place to come for just a few nights.  With the Florida Senior savior price of $14.50 per night, heck, it is a good deal.

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When I registered I saw sites of varying lengths, from 20’ to 50’.  Well, if it says 20’, believe them…it is only 20’.  There are, as you can see, a wide range.  The 20’-25’ sights were full of tent campers and vans, and a small truck camper too.

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The person above was really struggling trying to get his trailer into his slot.  I waited patiently in the car for him to finish…after about six or seven tries, he finally got it in…but his truck was still blocking the street…..so I backed up until I could turn around.  He did not look like a very happy camper…what a way to start his camping trip off.  But he was not the only one we saw struggling…the 5th wheel right across from us took about six or seven tries too…with “him” yelling at “her” and “her” yelling back at “him”.  They are from Michigan…probably down for the winter.  One time he got out, went back to look and giver her more instructions, and it did not seem that his camping trip was starting off right either.  About an hour after they got set up, I saw him head over to the showers area….and thirty minutes he came back as happy as could be.  Hmmm….I wonder if he was told to “go take a shower and come back happy, or don’t come back at all.”

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Skruffy was with me as did our drive around the 115 camping spots, and then around the State Park itself.  There is about a 1 1/2 mile one way road that goes around the park, with many parking areas and the camping area road connected to it.  As you can see above, the right lane is for bikes, it is a real good park for taking bike rides, and many people have bicycles.

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In the center of this large circle road are Flatwood Ponds, which you can read for yourself in the picture below.


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Just past the entrance there is this Interpretive Center for the Fort Foster State Historic Site, which is part of the park.

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Even though I told Marcia that we (Skruffy and I) were going for a drive around the park, I just had to see how the trail was for possible walks tomorrow.  Marcia has her GoGo, and the ground has to be such for the weight of the GoGo to no sink into the ground.  At Crystal River I just did not think the trail that I saw was as good as the one you see Skruffy on below.  I think there is a good chance we will do a trail or two tomorrow, with or without the dogs is the biggest question.

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Skruffy was so happy to be on a walk that she was pulling on me and her collar was chocking her.  I had to settle her down, and ask her to walk next to me…eventually she calmed down and all went well.

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At first my eyes could not be taken off the trees above….

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Then I got a peek through the trees at the Hillsborough River and the reflection of the trees and the skies in the water.

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There were so many small views of the water and the reflection, many of the pictures turned out pretty, and pretty confusing due to all the “stuff” going on within the picture.  Where is it water, where is it not…what is up close, what is far away.  Bright area, dark areas, and that ever blue water reflecting the blue sky.

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But eventually there is this suspension bridge, and thank goodness no one else was on it because it swayed as you walked.  But it did provide for some better picture taking.

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Above is a picture to the left (west), and below is a picture to the right (east)

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As I headed back to the car, I took a route which hugged the river even longer than the shorter route I took on the way.  There is a large bend in the river, and I got this shot below.

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And a little further up river…

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…and the water is moving faster.

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…and there they were…the famous class 2, sometimes class 3, Florida rapids.  Skruffy did real good on this 1 1/2 mile hike.  Tomorrow I hope we can get Marcia to the bridge, there is a shorter route there from another parking lot.  And knowing Marcia, part of her reasons for going is because she loves to see trees that look like this….

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