My neighbor loses her keys and her glasses and her paperwork. She stops mid-step, wondering where she’s going. Thoughts pop into her head, then fly right out. She’s distracted because her dog barks all the time, day and night. She cannot think about anything else. The dog is right there at the gate in front of her house, barking at everything that passes. The neighbor across the street has threatened to call the police. One evening a man stood outside her gate, yelling at the dog to SHUT UP! QUIT BARKING!—causing the dog’s vocalizations to grow more frantic, more strident. Shouting at a barking dog. How stupid.
“What, oh what can I do?” my neighbor asks me, anxiety causing her to droop. She knows the barking is obnoxious. She talks to everyone about it. She’s recently draped plastic sheeting across the gate so he can’t see out; she hopes this will put a stop to the barking. It’s an ineffective and unattractive solution.
“That taped-up tarp isn’t serving any purpose whatsoever,” I tell her. “Maybe you should replace that iron gate with a heavy door.”
“Oh, I don’t want to do that.”
“It’d be costly,” I say, understanding why she wouldn’t want to spend the money.
“I just wish people weren’t so mean.”
Yes, an annoying pet tends to make people mean. He’s a nice dog, friendly and sleek, with long brown hair and golden eyes. I’ve heard of grinning dogs, and this is one of them. When I go near, his lips slide up over his teeth and he pushes his head beneath my hand. His whole backside swings from side to side. He’s a charmer, albeit, an earsplitting one.
“An electronic collar?” I hope not. I hate those things.
“That’s what the lady around the corner uses on her little dogs. When they try to bark it sounds like they’re dying.”
Our houses are close. We share a connected wall. The place where her dog keeps watch is no more than twenty feet from our bedroom window. Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!
“I’m so worried that I can’t sleep at night,” she says.
Is the dog neglected? In the strictest sense, no. He’s given food and water. He has a place to relieve himself. She lets him in at night. But he’s alone, outside, all day, every day, even on weekends—and during that time he barks. And sometimes she works long hours, so his raucous solitude often stretches into the evening.
“I want to be a good neighbor,” she says. “I don’t know what to do.”
On Tuesday afternoon a man comes to fix the refrigerator's water dispenser. Before ringing my bell, he pops next door to exchange pleasantries with the barking dog. When he arrives at my house, he says, “That dog’s not happy in that tiny yard. He’s lonely and bored.”
“You want him?” I stole a dog once—Gretta, an elegant red Doberman. I’ve got no problem with someone stealing a dog, especially if they’re offering the dog a better life.
“Really? I’ll take him off her hands, yeah.”
“Okay,” I say.
After he’s through with the refrigerator, we go next door. I open the gate and the dog springs out. He’s so happy! He dances around our legs for a few minutes, grinning and bumping our calves with his swinging backside. The repairman bends down to the dog’s level, frames the dog’s face with his hands, and gazes into his new pet’s eyes. The dog calms.
“Come on, big fella!” He leads the dog to his truck and opens the passenger door. The dog leaps into the seat, settles in, and views the street regally from his elevated perch. The guy tells me thanks, then gets in his truck and drives away.
My neighbor whined and whined, but did nothing.
Jen Waldo, accessory to dog theft.