Please take your barking dogs inside
By SAMANTHA PUCKETT
Published April 3, 2005
I like dogs. I have one. My dog likes to bark.
It's pretty typical dog behavior. That's why, if it's the middle of the afternoon, I'll let him belt out a few good yaps before admonishing him to come inside.
But there are times prolonged barking is unacceptable. Like midnight. Or for hours on end.
How come so many people don't know that?
We recently sold our beloved 1925 bungalow, in large part because of two vocal shepherd mixes that lived next door.
For two years we quietly stewed about it, reluctant to confront their owners, who left them out all day, every day, in the heat and the cold. They barked early in the morning. They barked when we took out the trash or when someone drove through the alley. They barked through dinner hour.
On those precious days when it was no longer too cold and not yet too hot, we had to keep our windows closed to muffle their incessant yelping. We didn't complain.
But when our daughter was born, it was time to speak up.
My husband approached our neighbors, mentioned our newborn's - and our - need for sleep, and asked if they might consider leaving the dogs inside when they went to work. They couldn't, they said, because the dogs "would tear up the house." But they were amiable, and said they'd try to work something out to accommodate us.
Nothing changed. So a few months later, we asked again. Their suggestion was for us to tell the dogs to be quiet whenever they bothered us. (We suspect they had already heard us doing this.) It didn't work.
We noticed some weeks later that the dogs weren't just being left out all day, but all night, too. One night, they woke our daughter at 12:30 a.m. We knocked on their door. The lights flickered, but no one answered.
When we approached our neighbor a third time, his response was to wish something so horrible for my family that I won't repeat it here.
"That's it," I told my husband. "We're moving."
The problem wasn't just next door. We had nicknamed our neighborhood "Kennelwood," because there seemed to be unfettered barking on every street. And once one dog got going, the rest would join in until the whole block was ringing with canine cacophony.
And it isn't just our old neighborhood, of course. Our new one has its share of barkers as well.
Sometimes the owners aren't home - which means it's possible they don't know what their doggies are doing in their absence. But too often the owners are sitting comfortably inside while their dogs bark away in the sweltering back yard.
Don't they hear it? Doesn't it bother them? Don't they know it disturbs other people?
Barking is even worse than the sound of a leaf blower - loud but somewhat steady, even lulling from a distance. It's jarring, nerve-rattling, like an alarm clock that won't stop ringing no matter how hard you pound the snooze button.
We spoke to animal services and our community police officer about our former neighbor. Their answers were to either (a) keep calling, and eventually they'd write a citation or (b) get another neighbor to corroborate our story and file a complaint.
We shouldn't have go to such measures to have a little peace in our own home. It seems to me that common decency would dictate that dog owners not allow their animals to diminish their neighbors' quality of life.
And what about the dogs? Could they possibly enjoy their outdoor exile when August rolls around?
Our old neighbor said it would be "cruel" to keep his large dogs in the house all day. But dogs are pack animals. They need to feel like part of the family. When they're left alone outside for long stretches, they feel lonely and neglected. They become nuisance barkers. Wouldn't you?
People who are more concerned with their furniture than the well-being of a living, breathing creature should not be pet owners. Anyway, sharing your home with animals doesn't have to mean letting them destroy the couch.
So in the name of neighborliness, and your dogs' mental health, let them spend the day inside.
Samantha Puckett is the Times' editorial copy editor.
[Last modified April 3, 2005, 00:09:18]
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