Monday, February 14, 2011

Something about neighbors and fences?

halfmooncreek 016

Now how does that old saw go?  “Fences make for feuding.”  No, that wasn’t it.  “Good neighbors are hard to come by.”  Nope, not that either.  “You can meet your neighbor on Facebook anyway, so go ahead and build a fence.”  Hmmm, maybe not.   

I recently moved from the garden formerly known as the Last Frontier Garden, to my current abode a couple of months ago.  I haven’t named the garden yet but I’m thinking along the lines of “Lady and the Pack of Tramps” or “The Shaggy Dog (across the Street)”, or even “All Dogs Go to Christine’s Yard”.  My gripe today is twofold, both folds having to do with neighbors and their animals.

A good neighbor is like smooth chocolate fudge.  A joy that I don’t encounter nearly as much as I would like.  So we’re all on the same page, my low bar for good neighbor includes the following:

1. does not operate a meth lab or brothel on the premises

2. does not have more than one (OK, this is Alaska, so I’ll say two) junk vehicle(s) in a permanent auto coma in the front yard

3. keeps track of their domestic beasts, including spouses and children, and doesn’t allow them to make public nuisances of themselves with regularity (politicians not excepted)

Is this a difficult thing, oh readers?  I am writing from the viewpoint of the perky, friendly neighbor here, the one that brings cookies to the new move-ins.  It’s not a natural behavior for me, I’m more independent and surly, but it builds character and I know I should do it, so I do.  My last neighborhood became so friendly, we had neighborhood BBQ’s in the summer, right smack in the middle of the cul-de-sac.  Out of a dozen houses, only one or two wouldn’t show.  Not bad, eh?

Of course, like any neighborhood, there were warts.  One dog, a beagle, would howl and bark and bay, occasionally for hours at a time.  I realize beagles are a noisy breed, but how on earth can you ignore that?  My plan of listening to AC/DC really loud only worked 'til the kids came home from school.  Then what?

Well, I thought I had escaped the beagle and the roaming cats (I’m saving that topic for another day after I’ve had my Valium) by moving.  I have an acre now.  Everyone else in the ‘hood has an acre or more, so I naively thought all my animal problems were solved.  Not so, said the little white yappy dog that appeared in my garage one day.  Some folks just aren’t thinking of others now, are they? 

I have to imagine the inner monologue here, as I just can’t believe I’d do this myself: “If I enjoy Fluffy then everyone will!  I’ll just turn him loose for a few hours and hopefully he won’t maim anyone with pet allergies, knock toddlers off their tricycles, or get into any fights with wolves, cats, dogs, Republicans, or animal control officers.  I hope he stays away from the street, he could be hurt there.  Also, it would be great if he didn’t get into the garbage with such zest on trash day.  I love my pet!  Go free, Fluffy, go free!!”

Yes, you guessed it.  We have dogs in the ‘hood.  Lots of dogs.  Big dogs, little dogs, fat dogs, old dogs, but most of all (gripe one) loud, (gripe two) roaming dogs.  I’ve lived in this city over thirty years and never seen another neighborhood like it.  If I didn’t know better, I’d think I moved into an off leash dog park. 

I wake up to dogs barking at 6:15 every morning.  For the past two months.  I am lulled to sleep every night, say 11:15ish by dogs.  (I think I am beginning to formulate a Dr. Seuss book about it all: “Dogs in the morning, dogs at night, every day a fright, fright, fright!”)  I know I haven’t moved into some Twilight Zone vector of selectively deaf and blind pet owners, because I see a couple of people walk their (non-barking) dogs on (hallelujah!) leashes, so their are a few Responsible Neighbors.  One of these jewel-of-a-neighbors observed, “Yeah, this neighborhood is weird about dogs.  I’ve never been in one like it before.”

My solution: bake bread/cookies/edible items, and walk over and meet the worst offenders.  I am tired of waiting for them to come meet the new neighbor (i.e. me), and it seems unkind to just introduce myself to gripe, so I will have a complaint free intro and get phone numbers.  I’m thinking something along the lines of “Oh, hi Marge, sorry to disturb you so late at night, but Fluffy seems so agitated.  She’s been barking for twenty minutes.  Is everything OK?”  (I won’t mention that I can hear the barking in every room in my house with the exception of the bathroom.  My bed won’t fit in there, anyway.)

I am losing my mind.

Had any neighbor problems?  Do you recommend a different approach?


  1. Definitely the right approach ... for now.

  2. I think you're right. Th friendly approach works best.
    If that doesn't work you could get your own dog - bigger, louder and more yappy than the all rest. Maybe not. Maybe that's what all your neighbours have done.

  3. A great first volley.

    Moving into an area without a leash law can be like that. My mother's neighborhood is like a doggie free-for-all, so I feel your pain.
    I have a neighbor who leaves for a week at a time and has a dog sitter feed them and leaves them outside. They howl all night in their dismay. We have tried several approaches, so far. Trying to be nice, we have not prevailed.

  4. Oh ... I can remember standing on the back verandah, a few months after we built this house ... and him saying we have to sell, we have to move, those dogs are driving me mad!!! The new collie dog spent the night barking at the old collie dog, with the Ungardener screaming at both of them, and then all the other dogs chimed in.

    Now ... don't hold your breath ... some, dogs, have moved, some have found new homes, some still bark, and wonder of wonders, some are quiet. If that yappy dog was in my garage, it might never have been seen again ...

    Someone once phoned a neighbour and chatted on and on, till the neighbour said, do you know it is 3 in the morning? Said our friend, no it can't be, I can hear your dog barking, you wouldn't let him bark at 3 in the morning! Problem was solved ;~)

  5. This was so hilarious and I can feel for you too. City living has the same issues with the animals, not as many roam free because they are toast if the venture into the street, but like fifty of them bark all night. I even think I have a house on your list of three above, if you include the pit bull dog fighting house. Not that is a sound you just can not get used too.

  6. It sounds like you haven't lost your sense of humor! I cannot imagine dealing with that!!

  7. I used to live in a neighborhood just like this. The neighbor adjacent to my property took to shooting "strays". That took care of the problem. Sad but true. Good luck. I think you are beginning the right way. If they come to your garden after being forewarned you could take them to the pound. After the owners have to retrieve them from the pound a few times maybe they would learn. I wouldn't shoot them.

  8. I'm glad I'm not the only irritated by roaming pets! I get about a dozen cats that regularly use my garden as a rest room. I tried talking to the neighbors, who either politely brushed me off or were outright rude about their choice to ignore leash laws in anchorage.

    My final solution was to borrow a cat trap from Anchorage Animal Control. I caught the worst offenders right away and had a peaceful and poop-free summer thereafter :-)

  9. Oh you are delightfully surly! I love you! I hear barking dogs EVERY MINUTE of the day. And since I'm either grading papers or writing or reading research at home, it's a problem. I have a neighbor who throws tennis balls against the fence for 20 minutes at a time do his dogs can run after them. The fence adjacent to my garden. Where I'm trying to let go of the murderous insanity from a day of teaching college kids.
    The nighbor also throws toys over the fence into my garden, deadheading flowers for me. Some of those toys look sadistically medeival. Let's not get started about lawnmower season, either, which in concert with the dogs makes me want to rent AC/DC and put them out on the driveway.

  10. Our problem is cats and a very very grumpy next door neighbour.

  11. Though I would never rejoice in the problems of others, it is good to hear I'm not alone in my animal plague here in the north.

    I've gone the cat trap route, even bought one. They are rather effective. It's animal control that enrages me. All the burden goes on the complainer, and they are slow to help. What do you do if your neighbor is gone all day and the dog is howling? According to animal control, cover your ears. Love bureaucracy, don't you?


  12. This is such a difficult thing. I've got neighbors who let their dogs go wherever they want and another neighbor who burns their yard debris right on the other side of the fence. I want to scream. What is wrong with people? Why are they so inconsiderate of their neighbors? I think we need to start a revolt.

  13. The dogs would drive me mad and I think I'd want to move. But I do agree that if you get on the good side of those neighbors somehow, you might be able to solve the problem. Or it might not even bother you as much. Somehow it's easier to tolerate bad behavior in someone you otherwise like. Oh and what about a fence?

  14. My garden attracts cats. Mostly.

    Easy until there is a cat fight 1-2 times/year in the middle of the night.

    Hope this is over soon.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  15. Christine, I feel your pain. We've moved, more than once, on account of neighbours. Selling drugs, blasting stereos, screaming kids, barking and aggressive loose dogs, noise of all kinds. We bought a house in the country to avoid some of these issues and discovered people think because they are in the country no laws apply. Run their snowmobile through your property, shoot guns at random, raging bonfires (and I mean they threw a couch and numerous other pieces of furniture on there) etc etc. We've gone the same route as you. Drop in, be friendly, try to start on a positive note before we start complaining. so far so good (although we did call the cops on the kids with the guns)

  16. I feel your pain. Some people just don't give a XXXX! Our neighbors's dogs and cats aren't too much of a problem - but their chickens and turkeys were. One day after seeing their grandkids running around barefoot in their yard, squishing their tootsies in all the chicken and turkey poop, I said "ewwwwww, I wouldn't want my grandkiddos doing that!" Soon after that, they made a fenced in area for their poultry livestock mini farmette!

  17. As a newbie in my neighborhood, I concur. This approach is best. And if the cookes and cakes don't work, drop off muzzles.

  18. I had to laugh yet offer sympathy on the dogs barking. Some people don't make theirs behave at all. I added myself to follow you to see if it works out well as I am hoping. Good luck.
    Goldenray Yorkies

  19. North, South, East or West -
    I've yet to find space free of pests. If dogs aren't howling and barking,
    then the cats are digging and marking BUT NEVER in their own backyard! I tried the subtle neighborly approach to no avail. My offending neighbors don't speak to me now, but that's fine - After delivering their pets bagged poop to their front door, they finally got the message. Books could be written on this subject but I don't think there's any one solution. Congrats on step one...

  20. @Sunray GardeningHi Sunray Gardening and thanks for tuning in. Responsible pet owners are appreciated by me even more after this new neighborhood experience. I had to try hard not to cry with joy when a fellow walker curbed his dog away from me (cue heavenly choir singing).

    If your expectations are fairly low, and you don't mind random, occasionally incoherent ravings, you will like this blog.



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