Different Strokes


I’m slowly making friends with my neighbors over my back fence. They moved into that house about seven years ago . . .  but we got off to a bad start. They had two dogs, which they kept in the backyard 24/7. The dogs had a wooden dog house to sleep in, with absolutely no bedding whatsoever. When the people weren’t home, the dogs barked and barked and barked.

Worse: One of the dogs was a really old Rottweiler who had the funkiest-looking tumors literally hanging off her body. One of the tumors was about the size of an orange – and looked like an orange that someone stuffed into a stocking. It swung from side to side when she walked and, later, dragged on the ground. We had one conversation about the dogs over the back fence shortly after they moved in, but when I asked about the tumors, the people got kind of chilly and simply said that the dog had been seen by a vet and she was fine.

Not long after that conversation, the Rottie disappeared; I assume she had passed away or was euthanized. Things were much quieter – for about a month. Then they got a new, young dog, and the barking went right through the roof again. Every time I’m in my back yard and go near the fence, “Bark! Bark! Bark!”

For a while, I tried making friends with the dogs. When I was in my backyard, I’d toss treats over the fence to them. It sort of worked; it got to the point that when they were super barky, I could go out and say, “Hey guys! Shush now!” and they would settle down.

Then the neighbors started landscaping their yard and they erected a fence to keep the dogs out of the larger part of the back yard – on the far side of their yard. There is no way I can toss treats to the dogs anymore, and their association with my voice and treats has faded. On the other hand, they are getting older and not barking quite as much.

Recently, the neighbors asked me if I could feed and check on the dogs for a day; they were going out of town overnight. I said I’d be happy to.

They said the food was in a garbage can on the back porch, and it was – with no top on it, and in full sun. What? How could it not be rancid and full of flies and ants? Yikes!

They said the bowls would be in the pen, and they were – so filthy with crusted old spit and dirt, it was shocking to me. And it looked like no one had picked up any of the dogs’ poop for months. Old dried up poop was literally everywhere.

Given the dusty condition of the dogs’ section of the yard, and the lack of bedding in the dog house, it’s understandable that the dogs themselves are filthy and smelly. Which is probably why they are never welcomed into the house or the nice part of the yard; likely, no one wants to pet them.

And yet, the neighbors also asked if I would please put some giant cubes of ice in the dogs’ water bowl. They filled the bottom half of a two-liter soda bottle with water and froze it daily so they could put ice in the dogs’ water. So, there is some care and affection going on…

I’ve never understood this type of dog-keeping, and I likely never will. I don’t know why people would even have a dog if he or she is not allowed into their home and on their sofa. And yet, some of my friends think I’m a monster because I don’t allow my dogs to sleep on my bed with me, or feed a home-prepared diet. My friends on that end of the dog-owning spectrum would likely call the police over my neighbor’s dogs – and yet, the dogs do have food, water, shade, and shelter.

I have no point to make; I’m just puzzled. And sadder than ever for those dogs.