dogs neighbors questions



Until recently, we had an extremely yappy dog living next door.

She didn’t live alone, of course. She had handlers.

Interestingly, this family of hers was, in every area outside of pet ownership, an uptight, buttoned-down group of people. Their home and yard were tidy, pristine. Their voices were never raised; indeed, they were emblematic Midwesterners when it came to tightness of emotional expression. They rarely interacted with us or each other. Mostly, they drove up, marched sullenly into the house carrying their bags from the mall, and sat inside, in front of the flickering glow of the television. They were nothing remarkable.

Except that damn dog. Remarkable understates her ability to yap loudly, continually, and relentlessly at 7 a.m. She was equally gifted at 11:00 p.m.

Dog had pipes.

And as she sat in the yard, tethered to the swingset all day, her sharp barks were like leeetle needles pelting into my skin. For the most part, I could ignore her during the colder months, when our house was shut up. However, during the warmer months, there was no shutting up–of our windows, of Zoe the Dog, or of my complaints about her blood-pressure-raising ruckus. On the rare occasion that I’d forget about Zoe, I would invariably also be pushing my children in a stroller down the sidewalk next to her house. Zoe, leashed, would rush us, unleashing a cacophony of aggressive snarls and yips and snertles and choler and froth. Startled out of my gourd, I’d leap three feet into the air and scream loudly; the formerly-blissed-out children would wail with fear.

Dog was a bitch.

On the really bad days, when my muttered complaints turned into out-and-out anger, I pondered how best to deal with this interpersonal issue. Sure, I could have tried addressing it directly with the owners. But I expected, at best, a reaction of agitated and defensive marching into the house, bags from the mall in tow. Even further, the benign nothingness between us could have hardened and frozen into a new Cold War. Or, if they really wanted to push my buttons, they could have started putting Zoe out at 6 a.m. and keeping her there until midnight.

I saw no easy solution, outside of taking back the power: I entertained a Kramer-like plan to ‘nap the pooch and drive it, with my good pal Newman, over a state border, ditching her there.

But I didn’t have a delivery van, or a pal named Newman, and the nearest state border runs across a big bridge, which would mean, for purposes of high drama, I’d have to dump Zoe out of the vehicle from a fifty-foot bridge and let her free fall into Lake Superior.

On some level, that didn’t seem fair retribution for a vastly-annoying dog who had unfortunately fallen into the care of owners who were indifferent about her effect on the neighborhood.

So I fretted. I complained. I tutted. I plotted. No matter what tack my brain took, the whole dilemma always degenerated into an unsolvable moral issue.

Ultimately, I peered into my heart and realized I needed to turn this question over to a Higher Power.

Thus, I found myself, cranky and too-wide-awake one summer morning at 6:45 a.m., cursing the beast that woke me, ruminating:

What would Scooby do?

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