We’ve all had that neighbor, the neighbor that makes us want to immediately put our house on the market and move. I’ve lived next door to this neighbor for the past seven years. They let their weeds grow, they do stupid, weird things like instead of fixing the fence, they nail brand new boards to the broken down posts, adding more weight to something that already could not support the weight it had—even after we offered to go in with them, paying for half of it ourselves. They park rusted RVs that don’t run in their driveway for 6 months at a time. In the summer, they have parties in their backyard that start at 3 AM and go until about 7 AM—loud parties. But I can live with all of that without complaining. What bothers me is how they treat their dogs—and the fact, that I can never get a good night’s sleep in my own bed because of them.
They have several big dogs. At times there are up to five of them, but usually I only see two or three. I think the owner shares custody with her ex-husband, so they come and go. They have a large fenced backyard, but the dogs have to stay in about one quarter of the yard in a dog run. Within the dog run, there is a smaller caged area. I’m not sure what that is for, and thankfully, I’ve never seen any of the dogs in it. The dogs can run back and forth, but it looks really boring and not of adequate size for big dogs. In the dog run, there is a big plastic shed that takes up a lot of the space, and they do have a dog house for shelter. The ground is dirt, and there is no grass to roll in or trees for shade. In the summer, the people take them on a walk about once a week. I think the dogs are pretty bored and neglected, so I’m not blaming them, but at least one of them barks continuously all night.
My bedroom window is right next to their backyard—the side with the dog run. These dogs are out even on the coldest nights. Sub zero temperatures? They are out and bark even more, probably trying to stay warm.
At first, I politely went to their door to talk to them during the day. They did not answer, after clearly peaking through the window at me. Then I would ring the doorbell in the middle of the night in my bathrobe while the dogs were ferociously barking in the backyard. No answer, but the dogs would mysteriously disappear inside for about an hour. Then I escalated to ringing their doorbell over and over, ringing it perhaps twenty times in a row in the middle of the night. No answer. Next, I called the police, standing in my backyard, making the dispatcher listen to a chorus of five barking dogs at 4 AM. The police arrived, rang the door bell, the dogs mysteriously disappeared into the house. No answer—even for the cops. The police told me that since the barking had stopped, they couldn’t do anything about it. The dogs were released back into the yard twenty minutes after the police left and continued to bark all night. Next, I called the Humane Society when the dogs were barking all night in sub zero temperatures. They said if the dogs had a dog house, there was nothing they could do. I took to going over to their house as soon as my alarm went off in the morning at 4:45 AM to ring their doorbell twenty times whether their dogs were barking or not. This is what bad neighbors reduce you to—pathetic and childish retaliators, obsessed with revenge for lost sleep and neglected dogs. I didn’t like what I had become. Helpless anger has always been my most despised emotion.
I’ve had many suggestions; one that sounds great—shaming them publicly, which I guess I’m trying to do right now. The only problem is that I won’t reveal who they are or their address because I worry that if they end up getting harassed, then there may be legal ramifications for me—oh, the injustice! Also, giving out their address makes mine public by extrapolation. Despite my filling the internet with my personal business, I do appreciate some privacy. What to do, what to do?
My only weapon has ever been words, specifically the written word. I am going to write them a letter, detailing their crimes, and how these have affected my life. Specifically sleep! The lack of, by the way, my doctor has blamed for a recent stress angina I suffered. I should sue them! But, I will just make my case in written form, appealing to their common decency and educating them on the need for warm shelter for the other victims of their crimes—the poor dogs, who obviously are not content suffering through the winter in their stark, freezing, and boring dog pen. I wonder if they will care. Will they even read it? Perhaps, if I leave it on their doorstep on Christmas Eve with a plate of cookies, after ringing the doorbell thirty or forty times, of course.—Christina Knowles
Cartoon by Carpenter, Dave