I try to be a mellow, zen cat. I really do. I fail miserably, but I try. It’s always the dogs that get me.
When I think back about the times I have completely lost my mind, at least as an adult, 4 of the 5 times have been over a dog. Not a woman. Not money. A dog. The other time was when some dude threw a beer bottle at me in a roadside honky tonk between Vancouver and Kamloops. Even then, I was on my way to Jasper to look for wolves, so it was somewhat dog-related.
The first time was when I lived in Nashville, back in the eighties. Some lady two houses down left her dog in the backyard. Every weekday. This dog would bark from the minute she left until the minute she let him back in that night. I was at home a lot, either studying or writing songs or goofing off or trying to sleep. I tried for weeks to mentally filter that dog out. I thought about killing it for a while, but poison is for sissies and I didn’t have my shotgun with me at the time. I thought about killing her, but she was a girl. Eventually I waited until a Saturday when I knew she was home and knocked on her door, planning to have a calm, neighborly conversation. She gave me attitude, I started screaming, she concluded I was both a psycho and a danger to her pet, and the dog problem was solved.
About 10 years ago, in my old neighborhood, the guy two houses down (yes, this is a pattern that will continue) took his family on vacation for two weeks. He didn’t take his dog. No, the dog got left in the backyard. Presumably someone fed the dog, because he was nourished enough to bark, non-stop, from dusk till dawn. Every. Single. Night. This time I had my shotgun, but he was a black lab. If it had been one of those little yappy dogs…
So for 14 nights I sat in bed listening to that dog bark. Our bedroom was upstairs in the back of the house, so it sounded like that dog was right outside our window. On the 14th day, when I stumbled home from work, read-eyed and bleary from lack of sleep, I saw that he was back. I stomped over there, with absolutely no intention of having a calm, neighborly conversation. He gave me attitude, and things quickly degenerated into me telling him, in no uncertain terms, what I would do to his dog and then to him, if I didn’t get peace and quiet. We stared each other down a few times after that, but I never heard the dog again. Problem solved.
Fast forward to my current neighborhood. A couple of years ago, some young guys moved into the rent house, two doors down. By all accounts, they seem like good kids. Certainly much better behaved, in general, than I was at their age. But, they have a dog. I’ve never actually seen the dog, but for months I heard him. Again, our bedroom is upstairs, at the back of the house. That dog may be two yards over, but when he barks it sounds like he’s in bed with me. For months, I was woken several nights a week by barking.
I tried to persevere. But I was worn out and down. During a particularly active week, barking-wise, I found myself sitting in bed at 3:00 a.m. listening to that dog bark. Loud and incessantly.
Since I had never (and still haven’t) actually seen the dog, I wasn’t positive which house it lived in. I marched outside, and walked up and down the street trying to figure out where that dog lived. It’s harder than it seems, because the lots are big and everyone has high, solid fences. I narrowed it down to two houses, either two or three doors down. Unsure where to knock (and wanting to avoid scaring an innocent, possibly armed, party), I just started yelling “Will someone shut that f#*king dog up!” Two neighbors stuck their heads out the door, told me they were also sleep-deprived thanks to that dog and, by process of elimination, helped me identify the right house.
And lo and behold, at that very moment, at around 3:30 a.m., one of the guys walks out his front door. I assumed he had heard me raving, but it turns out he was just getting something out of his car. When I stormed up and started bitching at him, it startled the crap out of him. I think he jumped 3 feet when I started yelling from the middle of his yard. At that point, things became more funny than rage-inducing. So I told him his dog was killing me, and the other neighbors. He said he’d take care of it, and he did. I hear that dog every now and then, but not a lot. Problem solved.
Then comes last night. My next door neighbors, who unlike the other dog-owners I actually know (and like), have a dog. Now I like this dog a lot. He comes over to visit whenever he can. Hell, he’s been in my house, which is more than most of my human friends can say. But he will bark.
For some reason, he ended up in the backyard at 2:00 a.m. He started barking wildly. The dog two doors down sounds like he’s in our room. This one sounds like he’s in our room with a megaphone. To make matters worse, Delaney had a triathlon training session at 7:00 a.m. this morning (yes, she is a Jedi). I waited 20 minutes or so, thinking that someone would let him in and he’d shut the hell up. No such luck.
Once again I wasn’t 100% sure which barking dog was the culprit, so I went out back and started yelling wildly. You know, mediation, hillbilly style. It worked, and my neighbor and I spoke. Him apologizing for his dog, and me apologizing for being a raving maniac. Intermittent sleep deprivation over an extended period makes it really hard to be mellow and zen.
Interestingly, I was once on the other side of this equation. When I was a kid, I had a German shepherd who was a barker. His pen was down the hill, past some trees and away from the house, so I don’t remember him keeping me awake. But the neighbor on that side complained one day. This was before dogs rode the coattails of kids to the no-punishment, new age, “he’s my baby” place. So I borrowed a bark collar for a week. Problem solved.
They still make them.