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Old 09-30-2008, 08:36 AM   #1
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Silver Springs , Nevada
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To AS or not to AS.....?

06:00 PST
Hello to the Forum!

I don't want to sound rude or ungrateful after several hours of reading everything I could find about living in an AS during cold winter months here in the forum, BUT...

I've read about the "conductive ribs," water regulators, "infernal eternal condensation," venting so you don't "wake up dead," frozen doors, skirting, and heat escaping through the roof. Now, I'm kinda wondering why anyone wants an AS as opposed to any other type of trailer, aside from the resale value, and the warm air circulation. The warm air, I must admit, is a very compelling reason.

Here's the deal: Like most folks, I find myself unemployed with dwindling resources. I've decided to downsize from the drafty old house I'm renting to owning a trailer, and I'd prefer one that I can tow easily, not one I'd have to hire someone to move for me. I have a 3/4T, '86 Ford F-250, so towing is not my issue.

My issue and main concern is how to survive the cold winter months. I'm at about 4200 ft, in the high desert area of Northern Nevada. It snows here, the air is very dry, and the wind never stops. The wind frequently gusts to 30 or 40 mph.

I've only been here 3 yrs and missed the really bad, really cold, lots-of-snow winter that happened the year before I got here. If this winter is another bad one.... It's me, a 4 1/2 lb dog that chills easily, in spite of her many hand made sweaters, and a cat. So, that's 'the family' and my situation.

At the moment, I have a choice between an older (70's??) AS and another, also older, travel trailer. (I'll get a better look and more info about the AS later today -- then I may have even more questions.) Both trailers are about the same size. The AS is priced at $5k, the travel trailer is priced at $2500. I'm trying to find out if the AS is really worth 2x as much as another, similar trailer.

In addition to that fundamental issue, I have a couple questions about the construction of the AS. The ribs... from the inside of the trailer, are they wood? I'm concerned about being able to hang pictures and create new shelving to create more storage. If the inside skin is alum., do I have to use metal screws and a rubber or silicon gasket to seal the hole and make it hold?

As for the heat that escapes through the roof, doesn't that happen with all trailers? Is there anything that can be glued or otherwise attached to the inside roof to help prevent heat loss there? Like carpet tiles or dense, not spongy, foam insulation?

Water regulator -- where is this located and what does it look like? Or, how else would I know if the AS has one or not? Should any trailer that is parked (in a trailer park) have a regulator? That's where I'll be living. I will not be traveling with either trailer.

I have this sinking feeling that no matter which trailer I decide on, I'm gonna be cold this winter. So if anyone has some real life experiences that compare other trailers to AS for full time winter use/living, please share your stories and advice so I can make a more informed decision.

One last thing, if AS are so great, why aren't they insulated better?? I don't mean to offend anyone, I know you all love your AS's, but this seems like a very obvious and glaring oversight in the basic construction of any travel trailer. Maybe the new ones have either adequate insulaton for any climate, or a choice of insulation factors, but I certaily can't afford a new AS.

Sorry this has gotten so long. I learned a lot reading all the info here. THANK YOU!! I will be careful to keep myself and the critters well ventilated. I sure don't want any of us to "wake up dead."

Thank you for any input. I'm qute sure I've not thought of everything even after reading the entire Winter Living section of the forum. Other concerns and advice greatly welcome.

As for my fellow winter-time trailer dwellers: Let's think warm and stay dry. Hey, the pioneers did it!

The Zoo Keeper

Side note to Ruby Slippers -- My itty bitty poodle sort of shares your screen name. Her registered name is: "MsSlippersbutyoumaycallherRuby". She answers to Ruby, Ms Slippers, Little Girl, Miss Thing, and pretty much anything else spoken in a cutsie voice. Not that that matters to anyone. Just thought I'd share it.

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Old 09-30-2008, 09:27 AM   #2
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2004 25' Safari
. , Illinois
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The only wood in the structural part of an Airstream is the floor. Everything else including the ribs are alum.

I think the questions you ask could be asked of any RV. I will say that the Airstream is just a wicked retro trailer. In terms of structure, it really is a fantastic trailer....however, new or vintage, you will need to make some minor modifications so that it behaves as you need it to. My 2004, mostly due to the terrible HEHR windows had drafts everywhere, in the cold, the furnace would run nearly all the time. I installed new gasketing and in one or two areas, actually installed gasketing (that was not installed) and most of the drafts stopped and the furnace ran less.

I think that in high winds, a box trailer might shake more than a curved Airstream, but I may be slightly biased.

In the end, your task as most unless you plan to gut and restore from the ground up, would be to find a unit with the fewest problems and enjoy.

Computers manufactured by companies such as IBM, Compaq and millions of others are by far the most popular with about 70 million machines in use worldwide. Macintosh fans note that cockroaches are far more numerous than humans and that numbers alone do not denote a higher life form. -NY Times 11/91
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Old 09-30-2008, 09:56 AM   #3
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I've been in mine for a few days in Hell's Canyon at about 15 degrees. The winds were calm. Everyone has a different definition of adequate so I can't say what you might think about being in cold and windy weather. I will say that my trailer has two propane furnaces as well as heat strips in both air conditioners so we fared well. I knew before I left home that it would be cold so I winterized the trailer before leaving. Hell's Canyon has some of the best camp grounds I've used anywhere so I had close access to the restrooms and showers. We just took a three gallon water can for cooking and drinking. I would be a little hesitant about hooking up to city/campground water in extreme cold, especially with strong winds. Those winds will drive the cold into every crack and crevass and you'll face constant problems with frozen pipes.
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Old 09-30-2008, 09:59 AM   #4
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I don't think any trailer is suitable for winter living.

If I were setting up a homestead, I would get a trailer, a shed with a wood stove, an outhouse, a porta potti, a generator, a portable shade shelter, solar system, and a wind turbine.
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Old 09-30-2008, 12:19 PM   #5
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hi 'keeper...

i see no offensive questions or commentary in your post.

and many have asked exactly these same questions, so the answers are all here in multiple threads.

these trailers were not designed for full time parked living, that doesn't mean folks don't manage to do that...

with the necessary modifications and concessions and costs.

there is only 3 inches between inner/outer skin so insulation is limited.

no structural wood except the subfloor, which may be rotted in a 35+ year old trailer.

hanging extra shelves is NOT a great idea for many reasons.

expect to DOUBLE the purchase price on appliances and maintenance during the first year.

then if planning to make it ROAD WORTHY (axles, tires, brakes...) toss in 2-4k$ more...

Originally Posted by TheZooKeeper View Post
...I find myself unemployed with dwindling resources.
I've decided to downsize from the drafty old house I'm renting to owning a trailer...
not a lot of financial details here, but BUYING any trailer to live in may not be LESS expensive.

-tying up the cash may not be wise...

-ya still gotta park it somewhere (rent space)

-and pay utilities (especially lpgas) AND hope the furnace survives the season.

-you will need to spend 'other money' on setup for a cold winter in any trailer...

and so on.

while resale may be better for 'streams, FINDING a buyer for a specific unit isn't always quick or easy...

so my suggestion for downsizing is find a shared/co-op'd house or smaller apartment or 2 rooms 4 rent.

something where YOU are not responsible for appliances and structural costs...

come spring your economic climate may improve, but the cost of 'owning' a stream will keep on taking...

all of the true things that i am about to tell you are shameless lies. l.b.j.

we are here on earth to fart around. don't let anybody tell you any different. k.v.
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Old 09-30-2008, 02:57 PM   #6
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Centralia , Washington
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My experiences, for what they are worth. I have lived full time through winter in both an SOB MoHo, and in an Airstream. The SOB was new, and a well known brand. The Airstream is old.

I've done this with both the MoHo, and the Airstream in RV parks, so was around others doing the same. The MoHo in a 'regular' RV park, the Airstream at the Washington Unit WBCCI.

These experiences were just south of Seattle, in the Olympia area.

The short answer, based upon my experience is that I thought I just might freeze myself in the MoHO. I was nice and toasty warm in the Airstream.

When reflecting on this experience, two things stick out in my memory. While in the MoHo, I never turned off the furnace, and I also ran a liquid filled space heater 24/7. Despite those things I had to go buy aditional bedding so that I could sleep in relative comfort. The second thing I always remember is that the Airstream has a furnace, plus a propane space heater, and heat strips in the AC. I ran the furnace only in the evening and morning, I turned it off at night and while I was away. I did supliment with a small space heater, but I never needed to turn on the propane heater, nor use the AC heat strips. I was never cold.

Some aditional things I should point out:

My Overlander has the good traditional Airstream windows. I don't know if I would have had the same experience if it was equiped with the less costly ones that some newer models have.

My Overlander has heat from the furnace going to the water pipes to prevent them freezing. I do not know if all Airstreams have this.

I did leave a trickle of water running whenever it was below freezing to prevent both my hose, and the connection on the trailer from freezing.

All that said, living in the AS through winter was a good experience, and I will be doing the same thing this upcoming winter, and have no concerns about it.
Cameron Bailey
1973 Overlander
Washington Unit, VAC
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Old 09-30-2008, 03:32 PM   #7
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I full time in my 68. Winter sucks. The camper is closed in, crowded, and expensive to heat. However, because winter is reasonably short here in south west Oklahoma (mid Dec- late Feb) and I will be spending 3 weeks of that on the beach in south Texas, and because I travel with my unit all summer- I will be gutting out another winter in the camper. If it were not for the fact that I am mobile and use my travel trailer, for well.. travel, I wouldn't even think of using one as a winter home.

I suspect that you would be better off looking at other options.

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Old 09-30-2008, 04:22 PM   #8
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In thinking about my previous comment, I've decided that there is another huge advantage to Airstream that I neglected to mention.

That advantage is community.

Whether it be here on AirForums, the WBCCI, or wherever, there are it seems to me countless people willing to help with whatever the problem may be, and equally important, experienced enough to help.

This site is a simply amazing resource. Questions on topics I've never even thought about are answered quickly and accurately each and every day. I don't know for certain, but I have to doubt if any other brand has such an incredible base of diffuse knowledge available.

For all it's problems, in my opinion, WBCCI is much the same. I understand that not everyone has the luxury of being able to spend extended periods in a WBCCI Unit park, but for those of us who do, I think it is a tremendous asset offering great peace of mind.

When in the Unit facility I can know that I can leave my Airstream and it will be protected by my neighbors. I can know that if something serious happens to it, I will be able to get the problem taken care of because my neighbors have likely dealt with a similar problem, and there is such a feeling of community that people will, if needed, help as they are able.

I guess what I'm saying is that the shared interest in the Airstream product creates community, and that is a powerful advantage to the product.
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Old 09-30-2008, 05:04 PM   #9
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... unemployed with dwindling resources...

First I applaud your willingness to face the fact that you have to do something drastic to keep afloat. I also understand that getting rid of your pets is NOT going to happen, so an RV seems like a great possibility. Having the right truck makes that even more doable. You do have the beginning of a good plan.

I'd carefully consider everything 2 Air said - about lot rent, utilities, etc. and get that research done before you even consider buying/renting anything. I fulltime by choice - and had the luxury of buying new so I don't have the maintenance nightmares that can happen with a dingy old RV that's falling apart at the seams.

Another alternative might be a "room and board" situation where you have a garage apartment or mother-in-law suite in exchange for watching out for an elderly/retarded person. You could probably even maintain a fulltime job with the right situation there.

So. Serious advice?

If you don't correct the "unemployed" part, an RV is just a temporary stay on the start of the downward spiral. So first, accept a J-O-B.

By that I mean go WAY outside of your comfort zone and widen your search.... and take even an "unthinkable" job such as working in a fast food restaurant... driving a garbage truck, or working for a janitorial service. It really does NOT matter what your career has been for the last 10 years. It might be the time to take a big sideways step or even a step back so that you can start over.

My business partner and I own an answering service and we regularly see 40 year old women who have been unemployed for six months turn down jobs with us. Why? Because we operate 24/7 and don't have traditional 9 to 5 Monday through Friday positions. One woman I spoke to Friday admitted she would be homeless in another month... but was offended that we wouldn't make an exception for her and let her have weekends off... or start her in a supervisory position with her background in mortgage lending. (d'oh)

BRUTAL HONESTY - employers who interview you are trying to ELIMINATE 99 out of 100 candidates for the job, not help the applicants find a new career. We have to be very careful investing in new employees right now. We are trying to eliminate anyone who thinks they should have better hours or more pay than someone who has already given us 5 years of loyal service. We're going to insist every applicant demonstrate his/her willingness to WORK and show up SOBER for $14 per hour before we promote that person to a $60K position. We did just promote one operator to IT Tech - and gave him a nice raise.

MORE BRUTAL HONESTY - look at yourself carefully - If you've been turned down for a job you wanted and thought you had locked up - go back and say "please tell me how I blew it so that I can do better in the future". Also seek professional advice from a temp-to-perm agency, your state employment office or even a career counselor at a local community college for advice. I've had applicants come in wearing clothing that fit them before they gained 50 lbs., with green teeth, with a quart of shaving lotion or perfume on... and they can't figure out why we can't use them?

BTW - if you have a decent internet connection, a nice voice, and can type, many answering services will hire you to work from HOME which saves the wardrobe and travel costs for you. Get your Las Vegas phone directory out and go looking. Working at the local 911 center is also a possibility. Hospitals/nursing homes always have openings. Yucky work? Yes. But it's a JOB with security.

Seriously - Your local area may have 15% unemployment, but there are SOME jobs out there if you are willing to take them. Your biggest barrier is usually mental, and if you do have years of experience - a good employer will appreciate your talents, your teamwork and your good work habits SOON after hiring you. Good luck and God bless.

Today is a gift, that's why they call it the present.
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Old 09-30-2008, 06:12 PM   #10
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Hey ZooKeeper: I looked at an older A/S in the MarkTwain area last year, that one was not worth any $5000, hope that's not the same one you're looking at. And yeah, full timing in Nevada winter could get to be tough in the winter. Get it in the sun but out of the wind, skirt the bottom, heat tape and insulate your incoming water lines. The experts here will give you the best advice on not freezing up.
I thought of making a circulating water line system to help keep the lines from freezing, but was told never circulate through the water heater.
Are you close enough to Lahontan to throw a line in the water?
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Old 09-30-2008, 08:40 PM   #11
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Winter living

I spent 2 weeks in my trailer in March in western Kansas last spring. Lesson learned: get out of the wind. I burned a lot of propane, mainly because the wind blew almost constantly.

If you are tied to the area maybe the advice above is on target (don't live in an RV). If you are not tied to the area hook up and get out, at least for the winter.

Fulltiming is an option. I say this because if you do "work-camping", you will have a lot of free lot rent and generally low overhead
( It is a unique way of life. Some folks love it. I have read that about a million people are doing this currently. Flexibility in work and lifestyle will be an asset.

Good luck and keep us posted!

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Old 10-01-2008, 12:07 AM   #12
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Welcome to the've found the best Airstream information base and moral support group on the planet. I was just wondering...if you're unemployed, is there a reason you have to stay in Nevada in the winter? Could you live somewhere else during that time and go back during the summers? The idea of work-camping is a good one. Just a thought. Good luck and keep us posted on what you are up to!
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Old 10-01-2008, 05:45 AM   #13
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Sioux Falls , South Dakota
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You might want to go with the $2500 unit and keep the other $2500 for any surprises.

You can always upgrade later.

Once you purchase the trailer your home will be paid for. Coming up with just lot rent, utility

and groceries when $$ is limited can be a real blessing.

Also , your home can go with you if you must leave the area for a job.

We lived in a well used SOB for 2 years in NE Oklahoma. A less expensive way to find out if FTing was right for

us.We just did as others have said and skirted, wrapped the water line with heat tape and insulation, etc. Moved

up to our current AS in '06

FWIW, 'shaker
2006 34' Classic LTD
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Old 10-02-2008, 07:07 AM   #14
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TheZooKeeper Thanks you!

This post is in reply to all those nice folks who so quickly responded to The Zoo Keeper's initial post and inquiry.


Wow! Look at all this advice and help! Talk about a community that responds! You folks are really great. Thank you so much, everyone! I tend to be long winded and was trying to keep my initial query brief. Clearly I was not able to keep it very brief. But then, some of you folks are not strangers to the keyboard either! Whatta deal.

I want to respond to each of you, but will first give you an update on the AS I was looking at. There were numerous issues and problems with it. Foremost: The gentleman who previously owned it recently passed and the AS is currently in probate. The family is WA, not local. Neither the park owner nor the manager could tell me more about it than that. It is fixed, complete with a standard toilet already hooked to the septic, in the trailer park, has a nice little deck and a decent shed to go with it. BUT, it does not belong to the park -- yet. (Didn't stop them from trying to sell it to me!)

I only found out how old it (probably?) is by looking at Fred's Airstream Archives. It appears to be a 1968 Ambassador, International (#15833). If AS's are designed to last 40 yrs, it's at it's best-if-used-by-date unless someone wants to completely gut it and start over. I'm not that person. If someone else is, the outside appears to be in perfect condition and the remaining parts of the original just need cleaned, for the most part.

I did not test the oven, but everything else seems to work inside. The fridge looked original and is much too small for me. The dinette and whatever else had originally been in the front had been removed to build a make-shift double bed and large table.

In Fred's pics there is a control console with several dials and switches for the A/C and heat, among other things. Well, somewhere during the life of the AS, some nitwit swapped out the control panel for a wall-mounted propane heater and attached it directly to that wood cabinet door without any heat shield material between the two. That can't be good. I was surprised not to see any evidence of burning or overheating on the wood door, though.

I am greatly concerned about old wiring and plumbing without also worrying about additional fire hazards. As far as I could tell, that was the only heater in the AS, too. No wonder the bed was right in front of it! The single pane "windows" have their own story. The rear, bathroom, window had been replaced with a white, plastic frame/plexi-glass window; Only two other windows were glass; The others were all plexi-glass and most were attached in some weird way -- all but the two glass windows (the originals?) just sort of sat there in the pane slot of the window frame and had no gasket or other sealant around them at all. If you touched them lightly with a finger tip, the whole pane would move in its little slot. It's a wonder the guy who lived there didn't become a man-cicle during the winter.

The other trailer I was considering is a Traveleze, probably a 1970 something model. It is in good shape and I was assured everything works, but there is some sort of leak somewhere under the trailer. Maybe it's minor, but I'm just not looking for trouble before I am even in it. One top vent needs replaced and inside one cabinet there is evidence of a roof leak. It has no A/C, but I have a window model that would probably be adequate. I'd rather have a water cooler in this climate anyway.

The Traveleze has much more storage and even more storage potential. It also has lots of nice, big windows. (*I know -- more cold in the winter, but I like the windows and am fine with bubble wrap.) I had the same primary problem with both trailers, though: The only place I could fit a double bed would be the living/dining room area. I really don't want to do that, and don't sleep well on a twin-size bed.

Of course, there's more to the story. Both trailers are in the same park. I currently rent the only standard (double walled and double paned) wood house in the same park. The AS is 'fixed' in a space, but the Traveleze is not currently hooked up and is sitting in the tiny, overnight, RV slot. They would like me to buy it and leave it in that tiny slot, but it has no privacy at all, and I'd have to park my truck along the fence and practically in the roadway near it.

There's a possibility that a couple residents are going to play 'musical slots' during the next month, but unless, and until, that actually happens, there's no guarantee that I'd be able to play, too. If it does happen, I would get a different, very large, much more private slot with some trees for shade and lots of room to park my truck, build a shed, have a garden, etc. If the Traveleze had the floor plan I'm looking for, it would be worth it, but it really doesn't.

The other big attraction to either trailer is the fact that the park offered to let me make low monthly payments. Right now, that's all I can do. But, then, they wanted to tack on interest and some sort of cockamamie "document processing fee" to the tune of $500!!! Not to mention that they could not readily produce the titles for either trailer. Homey don't play that. I'll have to keep looking for work, and for another solution to what is already becoming a nationwide problem: Housing.

Last spring I was facing a similar situation in terms of housing. I somehow managed to make it through, but my primary plan at that time was to sell everything, saddle up and ride my horse to Washington, D.C. The plan was to let my horse crap all over the White House lawn until some SOB found me a job. Then I realized that by the time I got there, I might well have missed the entire next president's term and the point would be lost. Of course, I would have a great adventure to write about -- if we lived through it! It may yet come to that.

I can hear your eyebrows rising. A horse?! Please, don't bother to scold to me about it. I've never been without a horse during my entire life. They are family members in my world. Relax, I only have one, not a herd of them. My 17.2H, TB gelding, Jake, is almost 19 and I've had him for 17 years. (A hand = four inches. He's big.)

Seriously, you'd be wasting your time to suggest I "find him a good home." Everyone is broke. There are no "good homes." What might be a "good home" today, could easily be in foreclosure or divorce tomorrow. I refuse to subject him to that degree of uncertainty and possible neglect or abuse. Jake is getting older, has a few physical issues, and is not for beginners. He would not be easy to place, or sell.

I am already doing everything I can to minimize the expense of his care. He's been enjoying natural hoof care (barefoot) for nearly three years, I buy the feed myself, give my own shots, and found a great one-acre place with a solid three-sided shed for him only a mile from the house. I can check on him with binoculars.

Until the US economy collapsed last week, I would not ever have considered parting with him even if I had to live in a camper shell in my truck with him tied to the truck. But things have changed. Really changed. And the recovery is at least two to three years off. It's no longer just a matter of making it through a season, or two, until things pick up again. This recession (soon to be a Depression) isn't going anywhere any time soon.

I moved to Nevada in June of '05 in search of open spaces to ride. Mission accomplished. I have struggled to find steady work since then, but somehow, always managed to scrape by. It's been hard to keep my chin up, and I haven't always succeeded in that. The economy has been slowing for at least the last four years and work has been sporadic, but this new development is different and much, much worse. Even though it's practically the only news on TV, I really believe that most folks have no real concept of just how bad it truly is -- or how much worse it's going to get.

In view of that, I'm now very conflicted about what to do with Jake. I've come to the conclusion that the only responsible and humane thing to do is to put him down. My cousin, who lives about a mile away, has agreed to let me bury Jake on his property. Their backhoe-equipped neighbor will dig the hole for only $75. One small dog, a cat, and I can stay with relatives if need be, but not Jake. It's true: Reality does bite.

BTW, anyone who's read this far may be game to read more about my trials and tribulations on my blog at: Otherwise, I'm sure this is already too long for the AS forum -- and I still want to reply to the individual responders who were kind enough to reply so quickly to my AS questions. I'm not sure if the forum has a limit and will accept this lengthy post, but here goes.

*It was too long, so I've divided it in two. This is the end of Part 1.

The Zoo Keeper
( )

Thank you everyone.
Think warm, stay dry and vote responsibly!

This is The Zoo Keeper, signing off.

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