'the tenants from hell'



It is a fact of life that landlords have no rights. If you are a landlord, read this story well and learn from my mistakes.  I have been one for many years, and have had many different experiences, but never ever have I met anyone like Donna!!

It was November 7, when I first met Neal and Donna.  They appeared to be a very nice couple. They were engaged to be married, he was a private care nurse, she was looking for a new job since the company she was working for presently was going broke.  I would later discover that the talents of this young woman if applied to constructive use could put her in line to be the first woman President.....

There was an urgency on my part to have the position of Night Caretaker filled as soon as possible.  Working all day and night had started to show by the major bags under my eyes.  I was ready to hire this very convincing young lady as a Kennel Assistant by day and Night Caretaker by night.  Both Neal and Donna were elated, they wanted to start that day.  I was impressed by their enthusiasm.

I called her two previous landlords, and received excellent references.  I was swamped at the time, so did not check work references, and after the excellent landlord reports, I was convinced.  Little did I realize that I was actually calling two friends of Donna's not actual property owners! 

Within a week of Donna working as a Kennel Assistant it was evident that she had a different calling.  She had however, convinced herself that she was the perfect employee and could not understand why I did not see her great potential!  She was constantly missing in action, I guess she had to check on poor Neal, who suddenly had changed occupations from private care nurse, to couch potato.  Was he ever actually employed!

They had moved in paying $300 as part of the security deposit, with a promise of $350 by the 15th.  This is when the lies started, or should I say I became aware of them.  Donna would get verbally abusive to me, and told such incredible stories and lies.  I finally called her parents, whom she had told me were holding a check that would be cashed the next day.  Her parents were totally shocked to find out that she was living with Neal.  He had a reputation of beating her, and she had supported him for the last year.  The stepfather came to see Donna that day to try to straighten out the problem -- he called me from the police department as he had wanted them to escort him out here due to the volatile nature of Neal.  He came into my home and talked to me about the grim situation.  In no time Donna burst in, with no regard for my company [two friends had stopped by] started screaming.  It was during this conversation that so many of her lies became evident.   Both her father and I caught her in her tangled web with one story to him and another to me.

It was time to release them from their employment with Shepherd's of Leybourne, and hope that they would immediately vacate the premises.  I had in writing, signed by them, that they would leave the property within 3 days upon termination of employment.  Why did I really think they would leave!?!  I'm an optimist?

Within one month to the day, all amicable communications with Donna and Neal were history.  My quest now was to get them out as quickly as possible in order to find a new night caretaker so that my life could resume some form of normalcy.  Little did I realize that my problems had just begun...

It became evident that she was not going to leave, that in fact she was a homeless person who had found refuge -- It was then I decided she was a professional squatter.  I offered them $500 cash and all moneys owed forgotten, if she would leave within three days.  She said, "It is not enough money"!!!  I reminded her that she had promised to leave in three days, it was then she started telling me exactly what her tenant rights were -- this was an educated professional squatter.

It was time for me to get reinforcements.  I had sold two dogs to Gary Colegove, an attorney located in Goleta.  Gary had always been a Quarterly Report reader, and he was now sending out his own legal newsletters.  I found them very interesting, and I also felt maybe this was an attorney who cared.  I called Gary who at first offered to help me with the paperwork.  However, in no time, I felt the need to be able to tell Donna to talk to my lawyer.  When we lived in such close proximity, it was the only way. 

God works in strange ways, their life did not appear to be a bed of roses.  They suddenly were without a vehicle, and borrowed a moped for Donna to travel to and from work.  Neal never seemed to leave the house.  They were night creatures,  Sleeping by day and living by night.  Neal would have his two year old son stay some weekends, and they would all blatantly frolic in the garden, with such an air about them, as if they owned the property. 

There was also the employee Wendy, who became their bosom buddy.  Wendy had taken time off at Christmas supposedly to go north to visit relatives.  Seems she did not take the trip.  She would visit the tenants and would not even speak to me.  She was a somewhat sleazy type and would wait for Donna to leave and visit Neal, whom she professed not to like.  We all wondered.  When they were finally evicted she came to me and said "Now they are leaving, I can come back to work."  WRONG WENDY!

They had obviously never had any money, since they had never had any propane gas put into the tank.  Therefore, they had no cooking facilities, no use of the gas wall heater, and no hot water for showers!  They used the wood burning stove that they had been told was unsafe, and when they moved in were told not to use it as it was for decoration only!!  They used it constantly, they refused to allow me entry to remove it, quoting civil codes [which were the correct numbers] that they must have heat!  I called the fire department who promised to investigate for arson after the house had burned down.  Thanks.

I received a great flash light for Christmas from Mike one of my ex-employees -- one who actually liked me!  It is the type that the police carry and use as a flash light and night stick.  This was to become my best friend at night while doing the kennel check in the dark.  I was never sure if someone was suddenly going to jump out at me -- they were bizarre people. 

Then the legal notices started, first it was the 3 day, followed by the unlawful detainer, to which they both responded.  However, Neal was found to be in default and his eviction procedure was under way.  Donna on the other hand was given a court date of January 21, 1994, at which time the case would be heard.

Then the bizarre behavior started.  On January 6, I was awoken by a midnight phone call from Neal's, ex who wanted me to open the gate. It seems she was delivering the two year old to him and they had promised to meet her at the gate.  I refused to get out of bed so she put her high beams on and left her hand on the horn!  Can you imagine how many dogs that woke up.  Then on January 10th the phone company came to install a phone!  Then on the 12th of January the propane company came to give them gas.  Both my lawyer and I wondered what they knew that we did not!

Finally, it was our day in the sun.  It was the only case to be heard.  I cannot tell you how happy I am that I had legal representation.  Donna left no stone unturned.  She started off by accusing the professional process server of failing to do his job correctly.  Of course he was not present to defend himself.  We got over that obstacle, with the skill of my lawyer.  By getting the process server's ad out of the Yellow Pages, it contained his official license numbers.  However, the court bailiff was a little unhappy with the piece of the yellow pages he had ripped out and after court loaned him some tape to stick the page back in the book!!  It was funny at the time.  Donna sat in front of the judge reading and quoting from her civil code manual.  Certainly, it made everyone sure that all procedures were exactly to the letter of the law.  The final result was that Donna was evicted. 

When we came out of court Neal used many four letter words which were all directed toward me.  He also said "You f---ing bitch, you better get home."  The implication being that he was going to do something...  My lawyer told me to call the police and report the incident.  It was not a pleasant time -- I was so afraid for the welfare of my animals.  Bear Kitty Hodges was no longer allowed out of the house at night.

Neal was evicted before Donna.  When the Marshall came to check that he had left the property, Donna told him at the door that Neal was gone.  The Marshall told her that he would like to check for himself.  Neal was found hiding in the bathroom in his underwear.  He was escorted off the property, after being allowed to dress, and told if he ever came back he would go straight to jail.  The Marshall did not like him and really wanted to take him away.  My lawyer told me that it was the talk of the Sheriff's Office how Neal was found hiding in the bathroom in his underwear.

The ordeal was finally over on February 9th at 4.30 a.m. I had however not come through the experience unscathed, within a three month period I had been stricken with the flu 4 times.  The law required them to be off the property by 6.01 a.m.  They squeezed every last second of stress out of the situation.  Needless to say with the truck going in and out all night, I got next to no sleep.    My lawyer had to share that if they filed bankruptcy that day they could stay another 2 months.  Yes, I was still sweating it, and still in high stress mode!  As I write this story, it is February 10th and a new calm is returning to my life.  On the 15th Justine moves in next door, and we will then be one big happy family.  Or, does the adventure continue..... 


 "YOU CAN TRUST ME I'M A DOCTOR"!  I don't think so...  This is a realistic look at  TRUST -- do we really understand the depth of the meaning of this simple five letter word!!

 Trust is the main ingredient for a successful marriage, friendship, working relationship, in fact, life.  I can recall how the idea of writing this article arose.  Steve, my now former, still very dear Ranch Manager, was my inspiration for this commentary.  Steve has the charm of twelve rattlesnakes -- no make that 24 who are hungry for human flesh [do you get the message].  The name of this type style is SHOCK and I picked it for the purpose of grabbing your attention!!

 How many times have I heard that famous line "You can trust me!" -- NOT!  It sounds so very believable, when the ingredients include the gentle soft smile, perhaps a touch on the arm, the sincere voice, and the angelic expression.  The average person always WANTS to trust, but  after years of experiences, I always tell everyone TRUST is earned not accepted.

 Let's explore the real meaning of the word.  The Dictionary tells us -- to place confidence, hope, entrust, to permit to stay or go without fear or misgiving, to rely on, believe, to extend credit to.

 So many stories flood my memory.  There was Bob, a Ranch Manager approximately 3 years ago.  I loved [not literally] Bob.  We had a great working relationship.  He always told me that he would leave me one day, but he would definitely give me two weeks notice.  He worked Saturday, left totally happy, then 8.45 a.m. Monday morning called to say he would not be back.  He was leaving for Arizona at the end of the week.  I was devastated.  He was the only person working that day.  I begged for help -- nothing, nada.  The only thing that I ever found out was that his move involved a woman.  She wanted to go to Arizona, she had four children, when they got to their destination, she left him cold and went back to her husband.  Poor Bob -- Still I have always believed what goes around comes around...

 Just Yesterday, Colleen, who I felt was a young lady with good ethics, came to work.  She waited until 2.00 p.m. to tell me that this was to be her last day.  Bare in mind, Steve, the Ranch Manager, left last Sunday,  Tara, the Kennel Supervisor, leaves this coming Sunday.  They both gave me plenty of time to find suitable replacements.  Colleen did not even have the decency to tell me as soon as she knew.  Then on top of that she had the audacity to come in at 3.30 p.m. and tell me she was leaving.  I said, "I don't think so, your final paycheck is made up to 4.00 p.m. and that is your scheduled time of departure, and that is when you will leave."  She stayed until 4.00 p.m.!  Just wait until she needs a reference.

 Over the years there are numerous stories that have led me to the belief, "In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash."  I would love to employ people who felt the way I do about trust.  I used to feel it was something that I was doing wrong.  However, after talking with several other small business owners, they all share the same problems.  It is a universal problem.  Perhaps it is time for the construction of another "Tower of Babel!".


Once upon a time, no, this is not a fairy tale, many years ago, a small girl stood on a fire barred gate at the bottom of her garden.  She watched and yearned to be involved with the ponies on the adjoining property.  She was not quite 2 years old, and I might add that she was encouraged by her father, but her mother, although kind to animals, was not at all enthusiastic. 

Eventually, the child was asked by the owner of the ponies if she would like to ride one.  She immediately accepted.  This was the beginning of a full time life with horses, which included entering many shows, winning many awards and even a few bad tumbles.

 The lady who owned the ponies also had two Alsatians, with which the child became fast friends.  She would take the Alsatians for all day walks on Sunday through Stanmore Common and Bentley Priory.

  After a time, her father bought her a pony of her own, but the love for animals did not rest here.  A cat was added, then Bantams, which appeared to have chicks ever day.  The pond was filled with fish who all had names, and then two rabbits.  It was not, however, until she was 19 years of age that her father allowed her to own her first German Shepherd, or as they are known in England, Alsatians.  His name was Shaun of Leybourne.  Shaun was the child’s constant companion.  They competed and won many obedience and working trials.  He was a very talented dog.

At 21, the child had the opportunity to immigrate to the United States, where she is now breeding and raising German Shepherds and Arabian Horses. 

When I visited Mary recently I was very impressed at what she had achieved.  After 19 years we still miss Mary very much, but know that she is happy with her animals and wish her continued success.   We are really looking forward to visiting Mary and all her animals at Thanksgiving and Christmas. 

Perhaps you have guessed by this time – we are her parents and we love her dearly.


It seems so long ago that I first met Ralph Boothe.  He was, actually still is a handsome man who has great eyes!  He also shared my great love of Tennis and we became fast friends  who could talk on the telephone for hours discussing the tennis greats. In those days John McEnroe was hot, and I was a dedicated fan of John.  I was so pro John that if someone came to purchase a puppy and told me that they hated him, they would have a very hard time buying a dog from me until they had decided to reconsider their opinion.  Of course, I would help them by sharing the real John McEnroe with them.  They probably changed their opinion just to appease me. 

As usual I am drifting.  Ralph had come to see me because he had heard that I had the best black German Shepherds in the United States.    I had recently bred Leybourne's Doc Med to an outside bitch, Leybourne's Dark Star, and  in lieu of a stud fee I was to get first and third pick puppy.  The pick of the litter was a gorgeous, big boned male puppy with a magnificent head.  For Ralph, it was love at first sight.  He called his new 'son' Leybourne's Magic Jackson. His call name was 'Magic.'

Approximately 2 years later, Ralph's situation changed, and he found it necessary to move from his house into an apartment.  With heavy heart he brought Magic to me in order that I could find him a new home.  At the age of two Magic had grown into a very well trained, guard dog.  He was incredibly devoted to his owner.   The first week that Magic was here, he pined for Ralph and would not eat.  I spent a lot of time with him, and slowly I became that very special person in his life.  I felt very privileged.  It took Magic time but he warmed to the various people involved in his care.  Magic was definitely a protection trained dog.  

Magic Jackson

I had to find the right home for him.  However, we never really know anyone until we live with them.  A rich elderly gentleman visited the kennel looking for a guard dog and best friend for his wife, who was so deeply grieving over the loss of her German Shepherd who recently passed away.  They seemed like the solution.

They purchased Magic and after a lot of careful instruction, they took him home.  I am always very very thorough about 'do's and don'ts'  when taking home a new, older, trained dog.

First thing the next morning I received a call from the gentleman telling me he was returning Magic.  Magic had bitten his wife in the face!  You cannot image the shock I felt. I asked for a full explanation.  Evidently, she ignored  my advice of letting him come to her, and she started crawling toward him on all fours.  He lay quietly at the feet of the husband with whom he had instantly bonded.  As she got close to Magic he growled at her, the husband said "no Magic," he ceased growling.  However, the woman just kept on coming.  He did what he was trained to do.  He attacked.  The first and only thing approaching him was her face! !

Both the gentlemen and his wife did not blame Magic-- he was doing exactly what he had been trained to do.  Which was the reason they had purchased him.

However, this was a bite above the neck.  It was just time before the man from Animal Regulation would arrive with his 'arrest' papers.  I recall it as if it were yesterday.  It was Sunday morning, at approximately 9.15 a.m., my training class was underway.  Up the driveway, slowly approaching , came the formidable 'federals' from Animal Regulation.

Fortunately, I knew the officer, and he was a fan of Shepherd's of Leybourne.  He wanted to take Magic to Animal Regulation for his 10 days quarantine.  It was the law, that a dog that bites over the neck must either go to the shelter or to Animal Regulation.  I knew that this very sensitive dog would never be the same after the kind of treatment he would get from people who were afraid of dealing with a dog that bites.  I begged, I pleaded, I called the "chief", I even made a complete fool of myself by crying in front of my whole training class.  Incidentally, I had abandoned them and to fight for the life of Magic.  I finally told them, after carefully explaining the kind of dog Magic was, that if he had to be moved away from me, it would ruin this great dog forever.  I would take him myself on Monday to have him put down.  The tears flowed down my checks, I would have most certainly got a part on my favorite soap opera with such an acting job that included tears!!

I am not sure whether they really believed in my sincerity, or they were just tired of listening to my begging and pleading.  After inspection they agreed to let me keep him alone in Dog Heaven Hotel.  They would be back in 10 days to check and release him.  As soon as they left I brought him back down by the house close to me in a run with which he was familiar.  He was safe, but yet close to me.

The time passed quickly, Magic, a very sensitive dog, was disturbed by these recent events.  However, with a lot of work he got back to being that very special dog -- with the kind of attributes that make a "great one."  It was time to start looking again for a new home for him, I would be more careful this time who his special person would be.

One evening, quite late came the arrival of Christina Charm Woods.  Christy driving her Bronco, was on the way up to her home in Yuba City with two of her school buddies.  She had experienced some trouble and was looking for a protection dog. 

The pieces fit.  She lived out of the San Luis Obispo County Area that contained Magic's 'police record.'  She was a happy bubbly sort of girl, looking for exactly  a Magic type dog.  It was totally love at first sight.  I was confident when she left that this was a match made in Heaven, however I suggested that she not get out of the Bronco on the way home, as he may not let me back in!!

That was two years ago.  Just last month I got a call from Christy.  She was raving about the best thing that had ever happened to her in her entire life -- "MAGIC JACKSON."

It was now time to find Magic a woman.  She drove down from San Francisco with two of her employees, did not arrive until after 5.00 p.m.  However, as tired as I was it was fun visiting with her.  After looking at every dog on the place, [she wanted to be sure], she selected "Bones" sister, Leybourne's Carla Cheers.

Ralph, recently got a new puppy -- he could not stand life without a dog and found a house where he could again have a best friend.  I told him about Magic's new home.  He was happy but so sad that he had given up such a super dog.


You know what happened "the night lights went out in Georgia", well how about the day Dog Heaven Hotel became hell!!   It was the weekend of the C.C. I. Benefit, under normal circumstances I would have refused to take the dogs.  However, when a special friend asks you to take her two German Shepherd dogs because, even though she lives in Bakersfield, it was worth the trip, what can you do.  Who else could she trust to take proper care for her dogs?  They arrived on Friday July 19th, 1991.  Morgan, a 1 year old female was in season, and Tyson, a 6 month old male. They were settled into their run.

Tyson, a son of Phantom, had been bred and raised by a man who, I now know, did not have the dogs' best interests at heart.  He had a super bitch that he had bought from me, which he subsequently bred to Phantom. She had eight gorgeous pups.  He was not able to sell them all, and when they were almost six months old, he came, and literally dumped them on me.  The mother, a bitch worth $5,000 and male and female pup.  He told me that he and his wife were going through a very nasty divorce - some major police involved violence!  The bitch was fine but both pups were severely traumatized and seriously abused. either by total neglect or by cruelty.  The female was called Robin Givens and the male Tyson; they both hated everyone, I mean hated.  Within three days Robin was doing great and had decided that perhaps these things called 'people' should be trusted.  Being extremely beautiful, she found a new owner very easily.  Tyson on the other hand was very different, he would have nothing to do with anyone. and getting close to him was a major problem. 

Shirley Gilbert and family had purchased a pick of the litter female out of Mikie and Annie Oakley. and because she had a tooth missing, I felt the need to compensate them in some way. 

Shirley was special, she had tried local trainers, but decided to drive all the way from Bakersfield every Sunday in order to participate in my training classes.  Many times she would be accompanied by her very pretty daughter, Shelle.  Shelle went into Tyson's run, and it was like magic, most certainly love at first sight, it was amazing.  With her mother's permission, and Shelle's promise to be a responsible owner, Tyson was given to the Gilbert's.  After a week, the reports of his progress with the whole family were very encouraging, the whole family loved him.  He certainly was drop dead gorgeous.

It was the morning of July 20th, my new Kennel Manager Trainee, Mark, was to be at work at 7:00 a.m.  All new employees in the kennel are taught right from the start that 7:00 a.m. is on time, 7:01 is LATE!  It was Mark's 4th day of work, the time 7:10 a.m.  I called his house, he was called to the telephone, he was asked if he planned to work, he said yes. why?  It is 7:15 a.m.!  He said he would be right here...  He arrived at 8:05 a.m.  At 8:45 a.m. Tyson had escaped from his run, and got free from the property and headed to the hills.  The property is fenced on 3 sides, and only by going out the back could he get off the property.  By the time I was informed of the events, Tyson was long gone.  Michelle, Robert and Mark, were all sent to try to find Tyson and bring him back.  Their search was totally fruitless, after two hours of searching, the hunt was halted.   Now, bear in mind, this is the day before the BIG day. and the only reason so many people were working was because there was so much to do.  I made up over two dozen flyers and Michelle drove around town putting them on all telephone poles.  I notified the Animal Regulation, who informed me that they had an officer in the area and if the dog was picked up he would be returned immediately to me and not impounded.  I called neighbors and just about anyone who might be able to help in finding the dog.  The nightmare had begun!! 

Shirley, Millard and Shelle had gone to a family reunion in Colorado.  I knew I was dealing with a frightened pup that even if we could get close to he would probably not allow us near enough to catch him.  I believed that the only person who would be able to get to him was Shelle, but she was in Colorado.  I knew that Shelle's brother had stayed home, so I kept calling the house in the hope of reaching him.  My diligence was rewarded,  At 1:47 p.m. Casey answered, I told him everything. I then asked him to decide if we should call Colorado.  I left him to think it over.

At approximately 2:00 p.m. I received a call from a neighbor [he lives about 3 miles away as the crow flies].  He told me that he had had Tyson in his front yard. He had tried to catch him, but he was too traumatized, and he had taken flight headed toward Lake Lopez.

Soon after that call, I received a call from Colorado, it was Shelle.  She was in tears, I mean major tears; she told me that she would die without Tyson!!  I think I was hurting just about as badly as she was, we were both in tears.  I felt her pain.

Casey had called them at the reunion, and they had returned immediately to the motel to contact me.  Shirley told me that major prayers were said; Millard, a Fire Captain even called his Pastor in Bakersfield to asked him to pray for Tyson's safe return.

My neighbor and friend Joan called me just before dark to tell me that she had spotted Tyson crossing her property.  I immediately rushed over to see if I could find him. He was long gone.  However, at 8:47 p.m. I called to report to Shelle that he had come back to the general area looking to find his true love, Morgan.  Being in season was certainly a point in our favor.  The Gilbert's were suffering as if Tyson was one of their children, and I felt their pain even more than they will ever understand.

When Shirley had left Tyson and Morgan I had told her to leave his choke chain and tags on.  [It is usual procedure to remove them while in a chain link kennel for safety reasons.]  Therefore, when Tyson walked his tags made quite a loud jingle.

I went to bed, sleep was impossible, Morgan barked and howled.  I really did not want to quiet her, because I hoped that she was calling to Tyson; yet I had to concern myself with the discomfort of my neighbors, and the importance of have a Commercial Kennel License in such a good area.  Too many complaints could very easily change this situation.

At approximately 12:20 a.m. I decided Morgan was too stressed and needed to get a sleeping pill.  Being this upset could be very harmful to her.  As I was about to enter her run, I heard that familiar jingle....

On a black night spotting a black dog is next to impossible. especially when you have poor night vision.  I put the garage light on, which through the large windows shed light on the back grooming table area.  Also the "Tomato Suite" which is adjacent to the run where Morgan was in residence.  I then spotted Tyson, my heart was filled with joy.  However, this was to be handled very carefully.  I sat on the grass, and encouraged Tyson to come to me on his own.  He would get within arms reach, then he would immediately pull back.  After an hour of cat and mouse, I decided to take Morgan into the garage, walk around my Porsche, hope Tyson would follow then close the garage door.  At least then I would have him in containment.  I took a leash, opened Morgan's run, and just as I was about to lead her out, Tyson ran in.  Can you possibly imagine how I felt - I doubt it!  Tears poured down my face, I looked up and said with great reverence, "Thank you. God".  I locked the gate. clipped the gate, tied it with a dog leash, and put a sign on the door that said "DO NOT OPEN GATE".

I immediately came in the house and called Colorado, it was 2:27 a.m. Sunday morning I woke up the whole Gilbert family to tell them the good news.  They were ecstatic.  They told me that they had planned to leave first thing in the morning in the hope of joining the search parties looking for Tyson.

By the time I fell asleep it was time to be up and get started preparing for he day ahead - our 2nd Annual Playday with a picnic prepared by me and my helpers!.  All of my workers were to be at work at 6.00 a.m.  I was tired, but the joy of having Tyson back seemed to compensate for my loss of sleep.

Sad to say the person who had caused the problem was truly not impressed by the return of Tyson.  When Shelle arrived her first words to me were, "I hope you are going to fire him".  I explained to Shelle that I was the person at fault since I hired him, and I was totally responsible for my employees.  In my own defense, which really is no excuse, the pace of life with new employees, and the preparation for the 2nd Annual Playday, was more than most people could have handled!   As we all know, God works in strange ways, he was fired.  I am sure his handling of this nightmare had great bearing on the matter, but he had grossly failed in other areas.  He had lied about giving medications, he had been seen kicking a puppy, and I strongly believe that he stole a new pair of sweat pants which had been donated to the fund raiser by Stunts Unlimited, the Hollywood Stuntman's Association.  

Shelle is working very hard with Tyson to make him accept society, and to build his confidence that people. at least some, are really OK.


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