An Open Letter to My NeighborPublished April 9, 2008
Dear Neighbor, I have an important question for you: why do you leave your dog-aggressive dogs in your front yard? Sumner, Zeke and I were taking a Sunday stroll, enjoying the beautiful weather and the twittering birds. The three of us were zoning out … until we walked by your house. Our reverie ended abruptly when your two dogs came crashing through the shrubs and thrust their barking, snarling faces through the fence at us. We were caught off guard, and completely freaked out by the intensity of your dogs’ “greeting.” Now, your property line ends a mere foot and a half from the sidewalk, so in order to pass your yard without a fence-fighting battle royale (my dogs were startled and reacted to the affront with a similar intensity), we had to divert into the street just as a giant pick-up truck was passing. Dogs screeching, pick-up swerving, me simmering, all while you stood just a few feet away, calmly repeating, “Chloe. Max. Chloe. Max.” You didn’t try to reign in your dogs as we passed; you just chanted their names a few times. Yes, neighbor, you heard me mutter an expletive, and no, it wasn’t because I was angry at my dogs, who by this time had accidentally tripped me in the middle of the street. That fancy word was just for you. I don’t get it. You know that your dogs are going to react to passers-by. You probably have some idea that it’s frightening for the people and dogs on the other side of the fence. Yet you allow it. The neighbor in me is upset with you because that kind of behavior is just unmannerly, but the dog trainer in me is upset because your dogs are perfecting a very unhealthy behavior. Think about it: every time someone passes your house, your dogs charge the fence barking madly. The perceived interlopers keep moving, so your dogs start to realize, “Charging and barking makes the trespassers go away. This strategy works!” And there you have an ugly put perfected fence-fighting technique that will be very difficult to curb, should you decide that you no longer want to piss off your neighbors. Until that day comes (and please don’t call me to help untrain your dogs), Zeke, Sumner and I will be slightly grumpy and ready for the fracas every time we pass your house.
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