“Excuse me. Excuse me,” the strident voice yelled out into the night.
I’d been trying to get my dog to come inside. She had been obsessed for days by a gopher hole and was furiously barking.
The voice was that of our neighbor who lives behind us. Although they moved in over two years ago, I have never officially met her. Up until that night, our sole encounter had been on one of the hottest days of the year, when I had watched her Golden Retriever signaling to get inside their house. With no one coming and my worrying about the dog’s condition, I tried to give him a drink of water. The woman came out, saying she had been about to bring the dog in. I explained what I was doing, remarked that the dog hadn’t drunk any of the water, and left.
Now fifteen months later, we were meeting again due to a dog.
“Your dog’s barking is ridiculous,” she bellowed. “I’m going to call the cops every time your dog starts barking.”
I tried to say something sarcastic but only came out with a lame comment. When I’m accosted, I cannot come up with the appropriate retort. I lose the words, only thinking of a great comeback hours later.
Was her frustration justified? Yes. It was late in the evening, her young children probably were asleep, her husband has a stressful job, and, on occasion, she teaches an early morning exercise class.
But to threaten to call the police the first time she addresses me on this issue was rude, ridiculous, and not conducive to maintaining good relations in the neighborhood. Did I call Animal Control when her dogs waited to be brought inside during a heat wave or bitter cold? No. Have I complained to them about their basement door security light that blinds me in the evening? No. While tempting, I won’t escalate any feud with her. My mouth is firmly shut.
Because someone who threatens to call the law will probably threaten using means outside the law. Watch the true crime seriesFear Thy Neighbor. Minor incidents morph into major ones and soon all Hell breaks loose. Even Mr. Rogers would need to run as far as his navy Keds could take him. Not me.
Before their house was built, we had put up a fence. Like Robert Frost wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” But we need more to keep the peace. At night, I’m taking my pooch out through the dog run on the other side of the house. Our next major purchase will be privacy shrubbery that grow up to six feet high, and nearly that wide. It will block out that security light’s glow and should help muffle any noise as well. Perhaps, you’d say, she’s won. But I have a feeling that keeping well away from these neighbors is a victory for us.