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Since I work from home most days, I can hear any commotion going on outside: the schoolbus rumbling down my street, people on their way to work rocketing over our speed bumps, Waste Management picking up everybody’s recycling bins and dumping a thousand splendid beer cans and booze bottles in a raucous clatter into the back of their truck. This is my ‘hood, these are my peeps.
And then, there are the dogs. Many people on my street have dogs, which is fine, but when Arizona temps finally fall from one jillion degrees to a measly 90 or so, some people get the bright idea to leave their dogs outside all day while they are at work. This lasts until late spring, when it becomes so scorchingly hot again that only morons and criminals leave their dogs outside.
Dogs left outside all day, all alone, tend to bark. I would bark too if I was left outside with no one to talk to or play with. I would bark especially if I saw a stray cat. In fact, I have.
A few days ago, I heard a dog start barking around 7 a.m. I knew which dog it was and which neighbors he belonged to, though I had never met these people. Their dog had been barking every day all day for about a week. I had grown weary of listening to him, so I crossed the street in my pajamas and knocked on the front door. I read the “NO SOLICITORS”, “NO TRESPASSERS”, and “BEWARE OF DOG!” signs while I waited. Nobody came out, but of course this made the dog bark more. I walked over to the wood-slat gate and looked through the cracks: there he was, a beautiful large mixed-breed dog, nicely groomed with a collar and tags, barking his face off. “You’re a good dog,” I said. Bark bark bark. “Can you be quiet?” I said. Bark bark bark.
I turned around to walk back to my house, but I couldn’t help but notice an odd and off-putting odor. I looked down to see mothballs strewn all over my neighbors’ yard. Evidently moths were not welcome here either.
I walked back to my house and wrote the owners a note along the lines of, “Hi, my name is so and so, I live across the street, I’ve noticed your dog barking a lot lately and was wondering if you could quiet him down a bit. Thanks!” I thought it was a nice note. I walked back and stuck it on the front door next to all the signs. I tried not to gag as I crossed back over the lawn towards my house, crunching mothballs.
Every time I passed the house that day—driving to the store, out for a run—I would look to see if the note was still there. I went out to get my mail later in the day and saw that the note was gone. Hm, I thought. Wonder what’ll happen.
It didn’t take long to find out. Around dinner time, a man appeared at my front door and rang the bell. I saw through the window that he was about 60 years old and normal-looking in all ways. He wasn’t carrying a clipboard wanting me to sign something, apparently he had nothing to sell, and he was not carrying a bible. I opened the door. “Can I help you?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said gruffly. “My name is so and so and you left a note on my front door this morning about my dog.”
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The man seemed safe enough, so I stepped out. I mentally thanked my higher power that I still had my bra on. I quickly morphed from an assertive, mature woman into a demure and innocent housewife. “Oh, that’s your dog!” I exclaimed, sticking my hand out. When the man shook my hand, I stepped closer to invade his personal space and touched his shoulder with my other hand. I hoped he could smell my perfume. “I hope my note didn’t offend you,” I purred.
“As a matter of fact, it did!” he said. “Dallas only barks when he’s provoked or protecting our house!”
“Sometimes dogs bark when they’re in distress?” I suggested, my inflection rising as I batted my eyelashes.
“Dallas is not in distress! You know what Dallas is? Dallas is being taunted by the stray cats that jump up on the wall. You know what they do? They sit there and hiss at him.”
“Oh, I know…we definitely have a stray cat problem in this neighborhood,” I said, nodding my entire body in full and complete agreement. “They use my yard for a litter box.”
“My wife threw mothballs all over the place outside, which they’re supposed to hate, and still they come,” the man said, obviously exasperated. I knew how he felt; my scary fake owl works that way too.
“And it’s not only that!” the man continued. “Drug deals go down in the alley behind my house all the time—cars pull up, kids stand on lookout on every corner, then they do the deal and peel out. I’ve called the cops many times.” The man seemed to be getting agitated, so I invaded some more of his personal space, touching elbows this time. He seemed to soften a little before adding, “And there is a whore who lives down the street whose ‘boyfriends’ sneak down the alley and jump over fence. Dallas doesn’t like that either.”
I would bark too if I heard kids dealing drugs behind my house and if there was a whore living down the street. Poor Dallas.
“Well,” I said, glad that I was not the whore in reference, “one thing that we could both do is report all these stray cats to the city. I’ll call tomorrow! We need to do something!” I looked the man in the eyes before embracing him. “Let’s work together.”
“That’s a start,” the man sighed, allowing me to rub his back while I rested my head on his shoulder. “But let’s not blame Dallas. Dallas has been a part of our family for ten years. I raised my kids here, they went to the schools in this neighborhood, and you know what? We used to get over 200 trick-or-treaters on Halloween, and this past one we only got 20! This place is just going downhill.”
Luckily I had a Kleenex in my pocket, so I pulled it out and handed it to the man to wipe his tears. “Let’s do our best to make things better,” I said. “For us and Dallas.”
The man nodded, then turned and walked back across the street to his house, his shoulders slumped, still wiping his eyes.
I have not heard from Dallas since.