HOOVER, Ala. (WBRC) - I did all the stuff you’re supposed to do before hiring someone to come into my home and take care of my pets.
Properly trained? Check.
Flexible schedule? Animal lover? Check. Check.
My dog sitter has worked for me about six years. She was kind, attentive, responsive and my dogs loved her. If I needed to be at work late, she was almost always available to run by the house and let my dogs out for a potty break and some play time. She lived nearby. Her prices were reasonable. She put clean sheets on the bed, washed the dishes, took the garbage to the curb before leaving from an overnight stay. She sent me pictures of the pups during each of her visits.
I tipped her well and included her on the Christmas gift list every year. I even paid her if I had to cancel at the last minute. I sent flowers to the funeral home when her mom died. I treated her well.
But my generosity and due diligence weren’t enough.
It started with a ring from my mom. I have an affinity for cocktail rings and all things orange. This ring was an orange show stopper. It was expensive and unique. When it went missing, life was chaotic. I’d just gotten married, become a mom and we were in the process of moving. I assumed I had misplaced it. I waited a year or so before I filed an insurance claim - hoping I would find it - I didn’t.
Instead, months later I discover an Alexandrite ring was missing. I didn’t wear it often. Usually only if an outfit called for a purple accessory. It was a one of a kind. A 1920′s piece. It was a large round stone, with gold and silver flowers around the mounting. It was a Christmas gift from my husband the year Prince died. We joked and called it my tribute ring. I looked for it in the obvious places with no luck.
Cue the dog sitter. Jordan Rodgers.
Jordan texted me after Easter saying she was working on her pet sitting website and wanted to photograph my dogs and parrot for the site. I gave her the O-K and asked her to let me know when she would be in the house.
On the predetermined day, Jordan showed up with a camera in tow. My mom, who lives in the apartment over our garage, went into the house to meet her. Almost immediately, my mom said it was obvious her presence was unwanted. It made her uneasy and suspicious, but she brushed off her concerns. She knew that Jordan had worked for me for years and my mom assumed Jordan wanted to eliminate distractions while shooting the photos. So, she took the hint and went back to her apartment. She was bothered enough by the encounter, that she mentioned it to me, though.
And that’s when my suspicions escalated. I couldn’t sleep after my mom told me about the weird exchange she had with Jordan. So, to ease my mind, I got up to inventory my jewelry.
My mind wasn’t put at ease. Just the opposite. Thousands of dollars of jewelry was missing: my grandpa’s Mason ring, my grandma’s wedding ring, an anniversary band with our daughter’s birthstone in it, three tennis bracelets, ear rings, a diamond wedding band I got at an estate sale, necklaces, a beautiful antique cameo ring. The list goes on.
Some of the pieces had great sentimental value to me. Most of them were gifts from my husband, parents and grandparents. A couple of them were purchases I made to celebrate a milestone like a promotion. So many of them are irreplaceable.
I didn’t want to believe it.
The investigator side of me kicked in. I did a public records check on Jordan and learned she had recently been evicted and owed a large sum of money pertaining to a car accident. Maybe that’s why she was stealing? It added to my suspicions, but certainly wasn’t proof.
I wanted to be sure. So, I confronted her twice via text. She adamantly denied stealing. Instead, she said she had done all she could to keep my home “safe and happy.”
I called the police and filed a report. Just two days later, a detective showed up at my house with a list of dozens of items Jordan had pawned or sold to a local jeweler that specializes in estate jewelry. Most of the items on the list were mine. She had been stealing from me for at least two years. Just a little at a time. Old stuff that held sentimental value. Some of it sold as scrap. She was smart about it at first and took things I didn’t wear. Then, she got greedy and bolder. And I finally noticed.
I felt like throwing up. I heard myself asking her an over-dramatic question—something out of a movie-of-the-week: “Who are you?”
However schmaltzy the line, I was asking a real question. Who was she, really? I was slapped with the realization not just that a trusted employee had suddenly become a stranger but that maybe she’d never been trustworthy. Did she also neglect my dogs and parrot? What else had she stolen?
Jordan comes from the proverbial nice home and family. Her dad lives up the street from me. She is college-educated, articulate, and seemingly sweet. She worked as a vet tech at one point. And was dating a vet student. And she took full advantage of my trust.
I recall another occasion when she texted me asking if she could study at my house while I was at work. She had family in town and was trying to prepare for finals without distractions, she said. I said okay. Now, I wonder if that was the day she stole my orange ring? Or was it the week of my wedding when she stayed at my house? Or when we went on a cruise for spring break? Or when my mother-in-law died, and she was supposedly taking care of my pets?
Some of my jewelry was returned to me by Hoover Police. They recovered it from the stores that bought it from her. Now, those stores are out thousands of dollars. Some of my items had already been sold by the stores. And some of it is just gone.
So, what have I learned? Lots of stuff:
1) Inventory your belongings. I didn’t know what I had. A lot of it was family heirlooms and I didn’t keep track of it. So, it’s been hard to list all the items that are missing. If I’d had a list, it would have been much easier to account for the stolen items. Pictures would have been helpful, too. Go a step further and get your items appraised.
2) Lock up the important stuff. We have a safe. But since she had worked for me for so long, I assumed she was trustworthy and didn’t use it for my jewelry. But, there’s no reason to tempt someone. You can also lock up your valuables in a bedroom or in the trunk of a car. Small safes don’t cost a lot. Or you can also get a lock box and bolt it to the floor. It’s not a bad idea to lock up any medications that might be worth stealing.
3) Keep a list of guns with serial numbers. She didn’t take any of our guns, but a couple were accessible. Now, I have a list of the few we own, along with serial numbers. I used Evernote to keep an inventory, but there are other apps that will work just fine.
4) Cameras. We have cameras inside and outside of our house. They weren’t always recording, though. I wasn’t worried about capturing her on video…I was worried about a break-in. And there wasn’t one in the bedroom where my jewelry was kept. There is now!
5) Show up unexpectedly. Your housekeeper or dog sitter don’t always need to know when to expect you. And check those cameras often.
6) Hire someone that is bonded and licensed and insured. Make sure the company you’re using does background checks. It would not have helped in my situation, as Jordan has no criminal record. But it is an extra step worth taking.
7) Find out if they belong to a professional organization. There are a couple. One of them is Petsitters International. Here’s a list of things they recommend you ask before hiring someone to sit for your pets.
8) Do you have enough insurance to cover a theft? I had insurance to cover jewelry theft, thankfully.
After weeks of insomnia—of masochistically replaying every interaction I had with Jordan in recent weeks and feeling hoodwinked and humiliated—I have stopped obsessing. She’s been arrested and the justice system will hopefully dole out what she deserves. She faces three felony charges. Those could come with prison time in Alabama. Considering the state of our prisons, that’s a scary ending for her. I hope she is ordered to pay restitution to me and the stores. And I hope she learns a lesson and gets her life together. And I hope someone else can learn from my experience.
Shannon Isbell is the News Director at WBRC FOX6.