Category: Personal Rantings

H H Gregg Needs to Learn About Customer Service

I purchased a Danby Wine Cooler from the H H Gregg Montgomeryville, PA store in late 2011.  I did my research at the big box stores, and even visited a few.  They had the right model at the right price. I also bought the extended warranty. Normally I don’t, because they’re not a great deal.  In this case, it was priced right, too.  The salesman was fast and courteous, and self-installation went smoothly.

My cooler recently stopped working.  I visited the store personally to find out what I should do under the extended warranty.  I was a little worried that they’d tell me to bring it into the store.  Instead,  I was quickly and efficiently given an #800 to contact headquarters for warranty repair.  So far, so good.

On September 3, 2014, I placed my service call.  As soon as an automated attendant answered, I knew I was not going to get through the experience quickly.  I had to go through the menu prompts three full times, because “Silicon Sally” would not “recognize” my menu choice.  Finally, on the third attempt it did, and transferred me to . . . who knows.

Then I waited a very long time on hold.  And waited.  And waited.  With frequent and annoying reminders from Silicon Sally that the phone queue was unusually backed up.  Really?  I never would have figured that out.  Or was the annoying playback supposed to make me believe this was atypical?  Uh, not convinced, Sally.  Try some other rube who hasn’t been to the rodeo before.

After a very long time on hold, someone finally came on the line.  He quickly verified my purchase, verified my extended warranty coverage, and then told me I had to call their third-party warranty company, (Warrantech).  I immediately made that call, wondering why I had to have made the first call at all.

After virtually the same experience trying to get through the menu, and then waiting over 45 minutes, (this time I actually timed it), I was connected to someone who would best be described as “snotty.”  I expected that the warranty administrator would resolve the problem.  Nope.  She told me that they had to contact Gregg headquarters first, to find out whether they wanted to repair or replace the item. Excuse me, didn’t I just get off the phone with headquarters, who passed me to you?

I asked if there was any way to expedite the process.  I explained that I have a huge party coming up, and needed the cooler in working order.  No, I was told, there is no way to expedite this process.  It will take 2 – 3 days just for Warrentech to hear back from Gregg headquarters.  I was told that they would call me as soon as they heard back, and instructed to wait for that call.

Thirteen days passed.  During that time I heard nothing further about the repair.  So I called back today, 9/16/14.  And let me be clear, I was not a happy camper when placing the call.  I have a ton of work  on my desk, but instead I have to set it aside to make a call I know will be neither brief nor, I suspect, satisfying.

It came as no surprise that I experienced the same problems with menuing system, and a long wait once I finally got into the queue.  In fact, the wait was more than 25 minutes.  Finally, someone named Will from Warrantech got on the line. Yes, they had the “answer” from Gregg headquarters.  After verifying everything in the computer about me and my purchase — which I tried to respond to patiently and politely — Will informed me that as far as Warrentech is concerned, their file is closed, and the warranty has been satisfied.  Huh?  What’s the resolution?

Unbelievably, Will stated that he could not tell me what the actual resolution was.  He told me I had to write down a repair order number, and call Gregg headquarters once again.  Only Gregg could tell me what the repair order meant in terms of resolution.

At that point, I admit I lost it a little. Where was the apology for the delay, and for failing to call me back?  Why was I being sent in circles? His response was in no way apologetic.  In fact, he responded like he was speaking to someone mentally unbalanced. “Did I want the repair order or not?” was the most I was going to get from him, and I could tell he was about to disconnect if I didn’t write it down.  I did.

With repair order number in hand, and smoke coming out of my ears, I again dialed Gregg headquarters.  Again, there was a problem with menuing system.  Finally I got into the “unusually long delay” queue, and the recording says there’s a back-up of “at least” 10 minutes.

When the hold time hit the 30 minute mark, I sensed I was about to burst into flames from anger.  Seeking any possible release, I called the actual Montgomeryville store on my cell phone, with my other phone still in the hold queue with headquarters.

Guess what?  Everyone at the store is apparently busy, because I was placed in a hold queue at the actual store, too.  No way to speak to someone like customer service or, God forbid, a store manager.  I had already been in the store queue 15 minutes when headquarters finally connected me with a live person.  At that point I hung up on the store.  What if I had been calling to make a purchase?  Apparently they don’t care.

OK so what does my repair order number mean?  Rose at Gregg headquarters explains that I will get an in-store credit for the entire amount of my purchase, so I can buy a replacement.  No refund.  No chance to go elsewhere.  If they now only have something very expensive as an option, I can’t go elsewhere, I have to pay the difference.  If by some miracle what I find as a suitable replacement costs less, I will have the unused money remain as a store credit.  (Since I don’t intend on buying anything there ever again, that means it will be forfeit.)

Also, Rose has no clue why Will from Warrentech did not tell me what the repair order resolution was.  She says it was in front of him on the screen.  There’s no way for me to know, but I agree that it sounds like it should have been.  Wait, it gets better!  Rose says I have to write down a number to give to the store in order to get my in-store credit.  Ok, I ask, what’s the number called?  All I wanted was a label, so I could speak intelligently at the store.  Rose said there was no name for the number she was giving me, and I could call it anything I wanted.  I swear, this is true!!!  I know it sounds like I must be making it up, that’s how ridiculous it is.  “It isn’t called a credit number, but you can call it that if it makes you more comfortable”, Rose explained.

Is there anyone on the face of the planet that believes this is acceptable customer service?  Hey, all of you company executives out there, would you be happy to be associated with a company which treats its customers this way?   Rose suggested I write a letter to headquarters.  That was in response to my question as to whether I could find a place on their web site to post a review.  Thanks, Rose, but I had a more public review in mind.

Sadly, this experience is too common with “big box” stores.  We want their cheap prices, me included, but miss the service of the local business.  Unfortunately, most local businesses have been wiped out by the giant competitors.  Do we have to accept this as the new normal?  NO.  Reference this post on your social media accounts.  Give it a LIKE, ReTweet it, comment on it. Share your own experience with today’s customer service. Open the window and shout “I’m not going to take this anymore!”  Eventually, someone will hear.

In What World is a Trip to the ER Romantic?

More of my readers know me through printed word, rather than in person.  So I can understand how you might be puzzled by the title.  As Desi would say, “Lucy, you’ve got a lot of ‘splaining to do!”  This is certainly a departure from my usual postings, but has to be written.

My fifth wedding anniversary was September 12th.  On the previous day, my husband took me to the ER.  One of many such trips in our relatively short relationship.  As we were led into room #10, I realized that it was the same room where we had the misfortune to conclude our second date.  Trying to make lemonade, as I am prone to do, I said, “look honey, it’s ‘our room’!”

Yes, some couples have a song, a resort, a restaurant, or something which commemorates their special dates or moments.  We will always have the ER.

Hey, it’s not like he didn’t get proper warning long before the proposal.  That second date was just an opening round of many visits to the hospital over the years.  The only difference being that our second date, and the most recent visit, are the only trips to the ER not made in a snowstorm.

Here’s what I’ve found out over the years.  Hubby has a terrible aversion to hospitals, and especially blood and gore.  But he chokes back his fears when the need arises.  I remember watching him look at everything in Room #10 except the surgeon stitching up my hand.  He never let go of my other hand, though.  Even when he thought he might slump over or become ill.  Gotta give him credit.

He has always been attentive, concerned, and done everything within his power to assist me when I have been unable to care for myself.  More frequently, I have stubbornly been incapable of ignoring work obligations when I could not fulfill them on my own.  He’s rescheduled his patients many times in order to drive me to presentations throughout PA on the many occasions when I have reinjured an eye and been unable to drive.

From what I see in most relationships, I know a hubby like this is not the norm.  Thank you, hubby, for taking such good care of me. Repeatedly.  Because in my accident-prone life, a trip to the ER is another romantic memory.  Help me thank him by adding a like or comment to this post.

A Guide for the Surviving Spouse

Lancaster, PA attorney Patti S. Spencer is a nationally recognized Trusts, Estates and Taxation Lawyer, Writer and Expert Witness. Her areas of concentration include trusts: estate administration, settlement, and planning; inheritance tax: fiduciary liability,  and tax planning.  A recent issue of her e-Newsletter “Taxing Matters” has a very practical Guide providing advice for a surviving spouse.  For example, item #5 of a total of 17 tips is:

Don’t start giving things away.  Until you know what your legal rights and responsibilities are and what your spouse’s will and other estate planning documents require, don’t give away or destroy any personal possessions or any other belongings of your deceased spouse.

Read the rest on your own here.  You may want to print it to PDF and save it for future reference.

If you’re currently grieving, you may also want to read my article “Stranger at the Door.”  You’ll be glad you did.  Have a hanky ready!

How One Keystroke Can Undo Your Deal — Confidentiality:

What does a teenager have in common with confidentiality?  Absolutely nothing.  Today’s youth live out their lives on social media without a thought of consequences from sharing every thought and action.  Following is a guest blog by Wayne, PA employment lawyer Robin Bond.  Read about how a college-age daughter’s Facebook post cost her father $80,000. These are your
employees and clients, folks.  Make sure they understand the meaning of the term “confidential.”


When a company and an employee sign off on a deal or settlement agreement, “confidentiality” about the terms of that agreement is often a key condition for payment. That means “keeping quiet” — and keeping your social media fingers, and those of your children, off the keys!

In Gulliver Schools, Inc. v. Snay, Patrick Snay’s lawyers negotiated a settlement of his age discrimination and retaliation claims; however, confidentiality was a key term for payment of $80,000.  Snay told his college-age daughter that the case “was settled” and that he was “happy with the result.” Snay’s daughter did what many of her age would do: she immediately went to her Facebook page and posted the following message: “Mama and Papa Snay won their case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.”

Snay’s daughter — a Gulliver alum — had approximately 1200 Facebook friends, and many of these were current or former Gulliver students as well – the exact population Gulliver did not want to know about the settlement. The school withheld the payment to Snay and the Court sided with the school, on the basis that the daughter’s social media posting violated her father’s duty of confidentiality under the settlement agreement.

It’s Dog Gone Time!

It’s about time a judge recognized that one’s beloved pet is worth a lot more than original price paid.  A pound pup claims just as much space in our heart.  Regardless of whether the dog comes free, or with a hefty pedigree and price tag, we will love it.  It will endear itself to us through its innocent pure love and joy for live, it’s antics that amuse, and even the rare illness which causes a sleepless night.

Our pet is part of the family.  Sometimes the dearest part, because it’s rare that a pet will disappoint us with neglect, anger, or indifference.  And people, well, no one of us is perfect.  Not in the eyes of another.  But in the eyes of a pet, we are about as perfect as a human gets.

Those of you who visit my site frequently know I’m an animal lover.  I devoted a post in tribute to my recently departed black Labrador Retriever.  Three other dogs, two cats, and a large number of fish remain.  Yet I still feel a strong sense of loss.

A number of years ago I took my first cat to a local groomer.  She used chemicals which were specifically marked to never use on cats.  She didn’t even wash it off when my cat started to foam at the mouth.  When I picked my cat up, the groomer said, “I think I nuked your cat.  If she doesn’t stop foaming at the mouth shortly, take her to your vet.”  Snowball was soaking wet; stinking from the chemicals.  I called the vet and took her immediately, but ultimately she suffered a horrible death which took several days and over two thousand dollars to play out.  The groomer tried to deny culpability.  Finally, my vet spoke up to let me know that the chemicals used on my cat was used contrary to clear warnings.

Ultimately, the groomer paid the vet bills.  But  even though I was devastated by the loss, which haunts me still, I was not entitled to recover anything for that.  The groomer remained unapologetic regarding my loss.

So you can understand why I’ve always felt it unjust that pets are deemed to have no more sentimental value than a coffee table, when they are killed as a result of someone’s thoughtless negligence.  Now, perhaps, the scales of justice are tipping toward the beating heart.

I just read a post in Animal Law Blog about a precedent-setting case: a Colorado judge awarded a Denver woman $65,000 for
the death of her 18-month old dog Ruthie, who was struck by a car after a
cleaning service accidentally let her out.   What was particularly egregious was that the cleaning service left the whimpering dying dog under the dining room table, without trying to contact the owner or seek emergency veterinary care.

That’s about as horrifying as it gets.  At least from a pet owner’s viewpoint.  It’s been over 15 years since Snowball was “nuked” and I still get a tightness in my chest and a tear in my eye when I remember her.  Especially when I remember how awful her death was.  Ruthie’s owner will probably never erase this memory.

My appreciation and tip of the hat for a significant step forward in justice and equity goes to Judge Eric Elliff.  On behalf of pet lovers everywhere, thank you.


Does Communication Overload Impact Civility in the Profession?

I have  theory, but I’m not sure I have any answers.    I’m hoping you do, and will take the time to express your thoughts.

My theory starts with a base assumption that most people in the legal environment are suffering from information-overload anxiety.  Some refer to the new forms of communication known as social media as a “sea change” in communications.  I don’t think it’s a change; meaning that these forms of communication have not replaced traditional forms of communication.  Rather, it’s more like a Tsunami.  New forms of communication have been added in addition to traditional forms.

Yes, for the most part, email attachments have replaced faxes.  And in that one respect, we’re dealing with change.  But we now must process additional forms of communication.  Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, eNewsletters, Tweets, Blog posts, Alerts, Listservs, Discussion Groups, and text messaging.  This on top of traditional business-related email, voicemail, and for some, video mail.

If I’m out of the office just one day, I come back to a backlog of 350 – 450 emails, mostly excluding spam.  That means on the day I’m back in the office I will have to go through 700 – 900 emails to stay current.  On top of all the other work waiting for me.  Yeah, right!

Even though I teach lawyers and law firm staff how to use Rules and Folders to allow the cream to rise to the top of the inbox, and follow those suggestions myself, it’s just not enough anymore.  What’s that old saying?  The faster I go the farther behind I get!

Over the span of several decades serving the legal industry, I have observed a myriad of changes.  Some have been for the good, some not.  A matured marketplace presents profitability and competitive challenges.  The pendulum has swung from flat fee to hourly billing, and back toward flat fee in many practice areas.

From my perspective, one of the most undesirable consequences of industry changes has been a considerable decrease in the civility which had been an outstanding characteristic of this profession.

Have you noticed it?  Simple courtesy seems all but lost.  One-upmanship prevails.  Competitors act more like enemies than colleagues.

I am writing an article for an upcoming issue of  The Pennsylvania Lawyer.  It’s the annual technology issue.  However, even though I am a “techie” from the perspective of most, and am always promoting working smarter instead of harder through effective use of technology, I firmly believe that the entire legal industry is being crushed under the daily onslaught of communications.  I believe each and every lawyer is trying to keep their head above water in this area.  And I conclude that this constant barrage is making a lot of you cranky . . . really, really cranky.

Tell me what you think. Are you suffering from information overload? Are your colleagues? What techniques have worked, and which have failed, to help you stay on top? Does the pressure get to you? Are you crankier than you used to be?  Or are you just cranky for a whole set of other reasons?

Please share!

Children Responsible for Parental Debt

I never heard of the “filial responsibility” laws.  Until I read about a PA resident who must pay for Mom’s $93,000 Nursing Home bill.  Now that I’ve read about it, I’m sure glad my sister has the “deep pocket” in our family.

I thought my first post when I returned from TechShow would be about one of the many wonderful lessons learned.  I was in fact going to post diligently from there.  But the Chicago Hilton has about the worst Wi-Fi access I’ve encountered.  It was tough just getting a cell phone signal.  It was fairly humorous to see so many lawyers with cell phones to their ears and bodies literally plastered to the windows like some sort of human antennae.  At night, when I got back to the room after the myriad of social events, I was just too tired to think, let alone write.

Now that I’m back I’m anxious to share, but an article in the Anderson Elder Law Newsletter entitled “Son Liable for Mom’s $93,000 Nursing Home Bill Under ‘Filial Responsibility’ Law” really caught my attention.  How could that be?  Well, it be!  And I am so shocked by this, I feel compelled to share it right now.  The article explains:

Some 29 states currently have laws making adult children responsible for their parents if their parents can’t afford to take care of themselves. These “filial responsibility” laws have rarely been enforced, but six years ago when federal rules made it more difficult to qualify for Medicaid long-term care coverage, some elder law attorneys predicted that nursing homes would start using the laws as a way to get care paid for.

And it was precisely the application of this law which caused the son to be forced to take financial responsibility.  Unbelievably, the law does not require it to consider other sources of income or to wait until a parent’s Medicaid claim is resolved.  Even more pernicious is that the law permits the nursing home to choose which family members to pursue for the money owed.  In this particular case, they ignored a spouse and other siblings, and went after the apparent “deep pocket.”

Linda Anderson notes that after Pennsylvania re-enacted its filial support law in the mid-2000s, Williamsport attorney Jeffrey A. Marshall forecast that the new Medicaid law would trigger a wave of lawsuits involving adult children.  Obviously, he was correct, and this is just the beginning of what may become a tidal wave of lawsuits.  In Marshall’s blog post about this court decision he writes:

Children are often surprised to learn that they can be held responsible for their parent’s unpaid medical and care related expenses. It just doesn’t seem fair. But, whether fair or not, the Pittas case shows that the child’s support obligation to the parent is the law in Pennsylvania.  Children: be warned. If your parent needs long term care and may someday be unable to pay for it, you should find out about your potential financial liability and what to do about it.

So what is the son supposed to do, now that he has lost his appeal?  Is he to sue his father and siblings for their “fair share” of the debt?  Declare bankruptcy?  I’m just thinking out loud on this, while I shake my head in disbelief.  Our lives are already so stressful . . . raising children in a two-income household, trying to care for aging parents, trying to save for retirement in an ever-increasing financially hostile future environment, and to have some quality of life and semblance of balance in the current moment.  Is this the straw which breaks the back of American families?

I am so grateful I “strongly encouraged” my mom to purchase optional Long Term Care Insurance through her employer’s Cafeteria Plan some 30 years ago, so that it’s there if she needs it.   We found out from personal experience about 2 years ago how quickly the bills can mount after my mother suffered a fall at home.  The nursing home costs, followed by rehab at home, and then extended personal care until she was recovered enough to be completely on her own again, added up to a huge amount of money which her Medicare and additional excess policy didn’t cover.   They paid plenty, don’t get me wrong.  But there was a lot of uncovered additional expense, especially the personal in-home care, which cost a fortune.  At least the Long Term Care contributed toward some of that once the elimination period was passed.  (Although I admit I had to really duke it out with them to get her benefit paid, despite her making premium payments like clockwork for 30 years.  But hey, don’t even get me started on the topic of insurance companies!  :-(  )

If you have living parents, this is not something you can afford to ignore.  Make sure they have adequate insurance coverage, and talk to an Elder Care attorney just to see what risks you face, and how you might avoid them.  The investment to protect yourself now is a pittance compared to the potential exposure later.


Law Firm Layoffs Continue — Quietly — to the Detriment of Service Partners

At a recent presentation to students at a local law school, I emphasized that law firms are still downsizing, in order to deal with continuing underutilization.  The layoffs are not as spectacular as they were in the past few years, and therefore rarely make headlines like this recent one anymore.  But they continue nonetheless.

I was making this point in order to emphasize the perils of becoming a service partner.  In “olden days” this was often called a “worker bee” partner.  In the Finders, Minders, Grinders scenario, this would be a Minder as a partner, or perhaps Grinder as a partner or associate.  In short, if you are not familiar with these terms, we are referring to an attorney whose career involves servicing clients of some other partner(s).

How does one become a service partner?  Early in one’s career, one is convinced by one or more partners with heavy books of business, that they do not have to do any rainmaking on their own in order to do well, and even to become a partner; just service the partner(s) clients and that will be sufficient.

Many a capable attorney has been drawn by the siren’s call of no marketing necessity, and the ability to do nothing but practice law to their greatest capacity.  Many have made the ranks of partner, although for the majority who worked at firms with non-equity partners, that is the level of partner they achieved.  Still, even without a share of profits, and perhaps no say in management, having the title and a nice compensation package was more than adequate when coupled with the ability to ignore rainmaking responsibilities.

Here’s the problem.  It’s a lie.  Maybe a good-intentioned lie, but a self-serving lie nonetheless.  Because when a lawyer depends on someone else to fill his or her plate with work, in all likelihood that lawyer will eventually have an empty plate, and no justification for continued employment.  In some small percentage of such cases, the service partner may eventually “inherit” the desirable clients when the rainmaking attorney dies or retires.  But that assumes that the rainmaking attorney makes it a point to actively work on succession such that the relationships that matter are passed on to the service partner.  In my experience, that’s not going to happen often.  So eventually, at the point in one’s career when the attorney expects to start working less hard, he or she becomes a liability due to a lack of work, and has to start all over again somewhere else, or as a solo with no business and lots of experience.

Some firms have called me in to deliver the bad news, because no one within the firm had the ability to look the 70+ year old attorney in the face and tell him/her that the firm could no longer economically justify their existence at the firm.  The feelings of betrayal are incalculable.  The attorney feels that the “deal” with the firm required them to continue to fill his/her plate.  Why aren’t other partners, younger partners, feeding them work to make up for the partner who retired or died?  Simple:  they are going to push the work downward, so as to maximize their profit, as well as their control.  They are not comfortable pushing the work up.  They can not critique performance comfortably, and many times, the older partner doesn’t treat their clients with the same significance as clients from the more senior partner(s) who used to feed them work.

Law firms today can’t afford to elevate attorneys to true equity partnership positions unless they are also rainmakers.  So don’t be drawn by the siren’s call of alleviation of rainmaking necessity, to rocky waters where your ship will eventually crash and sink.  Stay the course.  Even if it means asserting your rights to keep some time to work on your own meager clients, as you build your book of business.  Your very existence will some day depend on it.

Goodbye Mr. Lucky Boy – Dealing with Inevitable Loss

This is an intensely personal post.  Some of you may want to skip it.  It’s not the normal type of discourse for this blog.  It’s about loss and bereavement.  But this once I am breaking my rule and thinking about the writer instead of the audience.  I need to write this.

Mr. Lucky Boy — an old dog still willing to learn new tricks!

This is Mr. Lucky Boy.  He’s a sweet old black Lab who has been a resident of “Camp Freedman” for over 14 years.  He has distinguished himself in two ways that a Lab has never done before.

1)  Lucky had his picture displayed on the front cover of the December 3, 2012 issue of The Pennsylvania Bar News.  He accomplished this because of the accompanying article I authored in that issue entitled “Meet Mr. Lucky Boy.”  I’m quite sure no other dog has ever graced the front cover of this publication.

2)  Lucky’s father appeared on the back cover of a book entitled “Legends in Labradors” which was written by Nancy Martin in 1980.  Nancy Martin was a highly regarded breeder of champion Labrador retrievers.  She produced many champions over the years, including Lucky’s father, who was one of the most noteworthy.  Not many Labs have a father who has graced the back cover of a book about Labs.

Nancy Martin was a judge for decades at many prestigious dog shows in the U.S. and abroad.  She was a gentle and loving person.  And to my great fortune, lived right in my neighborhood.  She interviewed me for about an hour on the telephone, and then in person for another two hours, before she would allow me to meet the puppies.

What a wonderful selection of yellow, black, and brown fuzzy faces, bright eyes, kissable noses, and stumpy wagging tails.   I paid attention to every single pup before selecting Lucky.  Truth be told, the selection process was mutual.   A few weeks later I picked Lucky up to bring him home.  As I left, Nancy bestowed a complimentary copy of her book, inscribed with “To Ellen and Lucky, Lots of happy days together.”   And we have indeed had more than our share of happy days.

The Superstar in Puppy Kindergarden

Lucky excelled at everything.  He was housebroken almost immediately.  He was the darling of puppy kindergarten, much to the resentment of the other owners.  The trainer always picked Lucky to demonstrate every command, because he always got it right the first time.

On his first day home, I had some perennials which had to be planted.  As soon as I started to dig the first hole, Lucky used his paws to assist, sending dirt flying everywhere.  When I took the perennial out of the pot and tossed the pot aside, Lucky stuck his head into the pot.  When he stood up with the pot on his head he could see nothing.  He starting running wildly around the yard, tail wagging, and barking, until he ran into a huge tree and fell back on his haunches.  Apparently he really liked that, because he put his head back into the pot and did it a few more times.  Every year of his life he has enjoyed carrying around and playing with empty pots as I transfer new plants to my garden beds.

He has always had a joy for life and all types of adventures.  It took him just a couple of months to learn how to leap into the air to catch a Frisbee or ball, and he always brought it back and placed it into my hand.  He had an insatiable appetite for play.  He especially loved playing tug of war with the neighbor’s golden retriever.  They were great friends.


A loving and indulging “father”

Bagel the Boxer was born exactly one year to the day after Lucky.  She didn’t have much of a pedigree, but was sweet as sugar.  When I brought her home, she was a mere 4.5 lbs., and Lucky was a muscular 99 lbs.  He was so gentle with her.  He indulged her by allowing her to sleep on him for warmth and security.  He constantly groomed her.  He taught her to play tug of war.  And he caused her to think she was a Lab, because to this day she always greets people with a toy in her mouth, just like him.

He was no less indulgent when Checkers the Cat was rescued from certain death at 4 weeks of age; abandoned by her mother.  About 4 years ago we added Pepper the Pug.  Shortly thereafter we made room unexpectedly for Pixel the Pug, who was in desperate need of adoption.  Both puppies were welcomed to Camp Freedman with loving licks and a warm body to cuddle.  The addition of the pugs gave both Lucky and Bagel, who were getting on in years, a newborn zest for life.  Scampering feet and tugs of war abounded.  Pixel the Pug greets everyone with a toy in his mouth, thanks to Lucky.  And he has learned to fetch and return the ball by watching Lucky.

Pepper and Pixel the Pugs cuddling Lucky

Of course, everyone loves their pets.  Everyone thinks their pets are exceptional.  But I have to say that while Lucky never got the chance to distinguish himself publicly as a champion like his father, he has been the perfect example of the characteristics prize Labradors should have.  Nancy Martin — may she rest in peace — would be so proud of the last puppy in the line of champions she bred since the 1960’s.

There is great sadness tonight at Camp Freedman.  Me and my husband are openly weeping together.  Tomorrow, Lucky will take his final trip to the vet, and he will not be coming home.  It’s his time, and I will not allow him to suffer.  As he fades into sleep he will be in my arms.  I will be stoking his head, kissing his wonderful nose, and whispering in his ear words of appreciation for all the joy and love he has brought into my life, and into the lives of the other residents of Camp Freedman, for all these years.  With his final breath he will hear “good dog” and “I love you.”   He deserves no less.

I worry about Bagel.  She is so attached to him, that I am fearful she will prematurely follow him from a broken heart.  And I worry about my husband the most.  He never had a pet before I came into his life.  He wasn’t prepared for the way pets can completely capture the heart in ways people cannot.  He has never experienced this loss.  I have had pets my whole life.  I am prepared for the inevitable loss.  I know that dying is the natural conclusion to living.  It doesn’t hurt less.  But at least I have the comfort of knowing the hurt subsides to a sweet ache over time, tempered by wonderful memories.

For those of you who have read to this point, I want to thank you.  Writing this last tribute to Lucky is the smallest first step in my grieving process.  Knowing that even one person reads this, gives me comfort.  If you would just think a loving thought tomorrow (Friday) at 11:00 am for Lucky, somehow it will be felt by him, I’m sure.  Thinking that at least one person out there will pause and acknowledge the passing of such a magnificent and loving creature gives me comfort.

Years ago, when my father passed away after a long illness, I wrote an article entitled “Stranger At the Door” which appears on my web site.  I wrote it for the same reason I write this.  Catharsis.  The article talks about the process of grieving and dealing with loss.  If you ever find you need it, it’s there for you as well.  Thank you for allowing me to share this experience with you.



Is It Time to Change Jobs?

A terrific, short article on a FindLaw Blog lists “5 Signs You Need to Leave Your Law Firm Job.”  I’ve added five more reasons to change jobs, based on experience:

6.  Banging your head against a wall.  You feel like you’re fighting the same battles repeatedlyEach time, you’ve run into the same wall, and you don’t see any change coming in the foreseeable future.  It’s probably time to throw in the towel.

7.  Kicking the dog.  Your frustration and stress level is so high you take it out on the loving creatures and people in your life.  Attorneys don’t handle stress well as it is.  If yours rises to a consistently intolerable level, move on before your family tells you it’s time to move out.

8.  Rampant paranoia.  You are convinced that hushed conversations are about you, and that you’re the punch line of a joke when you hear people in the office laughing.  Remember, just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t really out to get you.

9.  Extreme eating.  There is no happy in-between.  You either have no appetite whatsoever, or can’t get enough Chunky Monkey to reach a level of satisfaction.  When you need safety pins to keep your skirt from falling off, or to help close the waistline gap in your pants, it’s time to make a move for the sake of your health.

10.  Hair bristling on the back of your neck.  When the mere sound of a voice — that of a partner, staff member, colleague, or client — makes the hair on your neck stand up, it’s time to pack it up and leave before you do or say something really stupid.

Care to add more based on your own experience?



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