Tuesday, August 24, 2010

An Attitude Gone to the Dogs

Yesterday, my attitude went to the dogs. I should have known it was going to happen. After all, I’d been feeling a little too cheery; happily bantering with sales clerks, customers, and co-workers and feeling quite unburdened. It all had to come to an end, and I guess the day after a good sermon on anger is as good a day as any.

You see, I have two dogs: Xena, an 85 pound bundle of love, and Leo, the 25 pound package of unbridled energy. Xena, is reasonably quiet and docile. Leo is the snappy, yappy little king of our backyard, and he likes to bark at everything and everyone that passes within earshot. I didn’t know how yappy he was until we’d had him too long to let go of him.

Well, yesterday, about an hour before I was scheduled to go participate in an elder’s meeting at our church, the lady who lives next door had had enough, so she decided that it was time that I knew exactly how she felt. Now, I had known that she and her husband were less than pleased with our little furry character. They had told me before that he was bothering them with his constant barking, and we had taken some steps to alleviate some of the nuisance. We have confined the dogs to the backyard. We bring them in at night so that they aren’t out there barking at all hours. I bought a little anti-bark device and placed it at the corner of our deck closest to their house. I even go out on a regular basis to scold the dog and quiet him down when he goes barkingly belligerent.

Leo has actually gotten better this year. He doesn’t bark at their dryer vent anymore. He doesn’t go crazy when they go into their backyard to grill some chicken or burgers or whatever it is that they grill over there. He is in fact a quieter dog. However, he is still not a completely reformed yapper.

I should also add that I’ve grown a little lazy in dealing with the grumpy little guy sometimes. I’ve slowed down my onslaught of reproofs when he starts to unload his fury at a passing cyclist, and I haven’t always been silencing his protests about the guys that walk their quiet little pooches down the street. I let the battery go unchanged in the anti-bark device. My bad.

So, we are back to yesterday. My oldest daughter was running on our treadmill in our sunroom at the back of the house, while I was fiddling around with some email stuff for work or checking Facebook or something. She was in clear sight of Leo, and he wanted her attention….and he wanted it BAD! He was running in circles, barking and yapping at my daughter through the window. I heard her tell him to be quiet, which is kind of unusual, so I got up to check on the situation. When I went to the door to tell him to “hush it!” there was my neighbor standing at her kitchen window staring at Leo…and at me scolding him.

I succeeded in shutting him up, so I went back to my computer. A few minutes later, someone came to the door. Yep. You guessed it. It was the lady next door who had decided it was time that I knew just how much Leo was getting under her skin. I should add here, that she didn’t scream at me, and she didn’t cuss at me. I think she was actually trying really hard to be as nice about it as she could. The problem is that it was a completely one-sided conversation. She couldn’t hear what I was trying to say. She couldn’t have a logical discussion of possible solutions. Pretty soon, neither could I.

I was now angry. How could she not recognize the steps I’d already taken? Could she not tell that he had improved? Why could she not trust that I meant it when I told them to call me if the dogs were bothering them and I’d bring them in? Why did I see disdain in her eyes when I told her that I really did want to be sensitive to the problem? She went away unsatisfied and upset; leaving me disturbed and angry.

Now, comes the part of how I dealt with that anger. There’s what I “thought about doing,” and then there’s what I am actually doing.

Ideas I thought of:
1. Throwing rotten tomatoes over her house so that they splattered on her driveway and her husband’s truck
2. Placing a whiteboard on the railing of our deck so that it faces her kitchen window in order to leave her some choice messages
3. Spray-painting their privacy fence

I probably thought of some others, but they are lost in the blur of my emotions. My family thought of some others too, but I’ll leave that alone. One woman angry at me is enough for one week.

The problem is…I really understand my neighbor’s problem. You see, I have this empathy streak…and, the truth is that Leo’s yappy bark gets under my skin too. It is kind of shrill and high-pitched when he really gets going, so I can understand how it could really bug someone who might be a little extra sensitive to it. The thing is that I love the little canine mosquito. So, rather than throwing tomatoes and putting up signs, we are going to work harder to deal with Leo. He’s coming in earlier in the evening. We’re looking at an anti-bark collar. I’ve recruited the rest of my household to assist me in squelching the yappiness.

We’ll keep looking for additional solutions. I do want to be a good neighbor. “Do unto others” can be hard to do, but I’m going to give it my best shot. After all, it is the dog days of summer, and I don’t want to stay in the doghouse with my neighbor any longer than I have to.


  1. I may be opening a can of worms. . .not my intention. Nor do I know if your state has any legislation on this subject. . .some vets are good at it and will do it. Others are very against it. My personal opinion supports it when the yapping is creating havoc, and it sounds like yours is. . .the answer. . .bark soften surgery (some call it a debark). It doesn't really debark. Done properly by a experienced veterinarian it can be a life saver for extreme yappers and neighborly relationships. No offense intended to those who may be opposed to this procedure. I respect your right to your opinions and choices and hope those who oppose will respect mine too. Hope this helps Mike

  2. Thanks Susan. I'll investigate it.

  3. We've had to deal with this recently. It's more of a situation where the yappy neighborhood dogs' tenants were evicted, so along went the dogs. And now we have the yappiest dog. She's 1/2 Jack Russel, and our vet told us there was nothing to be done. They bark nonstop, that's just "the breed". After weeks of yelling and squirt bottles (which do work in the house, just a hassle to keep up with outside) we got a bark collar. We have only had to use it three times (and only for ~5 min a time) in two weeks. Now it's to the point if we show her the collar she'll quiet down immediately. I feel bad because I'm sure it's because she doesn't want to be zapped, but it's solved the problem. She is a dog, so I let her bark at the occasional bird or moth (she loves chasing them). But the consistent barking was stopped with a bark collar.