Thursday, May 24, 2007

Guilt and Grumpy Neighbors

This is my guilt post. First, I feel guilty because I've had a draft sitting in my box for weeks and haven't posted to my blog because I've been too busy working and traveling and doing other things. So here I am posting a couple at once. C'est la vie.

Something has been eating away at me for a few days now and I really debated whether I should even write about it because just the act of writing commits thoughts to memory (both mine and the Internet's), and it's not something I really want to remember. On the other hand, perhaps it's something I could stand to get off my chest...

I'm angry at my neighbor. And I know at least some of my anger springs from the fact that I feel a wee bit guilty.

This is a relatively new neighbor, a couple of blocks down the street, whom I had never met. I was walking Baxter and Kirby past his house and I was walking in the street because I didn't want the dogs to go up on anyone's lawn.

Sidenote: I try to make sure the dogs do #1 in our yard or along a stretch of shoulder on the road, not on peoples' front yards. It's that "do unto others..." thing and I don't particularly appreciate yellow spots on our lawn either. And I always carry bags with me to pick-up #2, no matter where it is. When I walk through the neighborhood I do sometimes allow the dogs to walk and sniff in the parking strip, next to the street. After all, the parking strip is technically city property. And sometimes #2 happens. Out comes the bag.

Well, as noted previously, on this fine day we were walking in the street past this fellow's house when Baxter decided he had to do #2 on the parking strip about 4" from the street. I got out my bag and was in the process of picking it up as the neighbor man came running out of his house to tell me that I should NOT under any circumstances allow my dog on HIS grass. I was dumbfounded. There I stood with two dogs (now standing in the street), a poop bag dangling from my hand and, I'm sure, a look of shock, anger and guilt on my face. I had left no trace of Baxter on the grass (I'm sure a dog would beg to differ, but no human would know).

My second reaction was to blush profusely (something that happens when I'm embarassed or angry, in this case both). All I could think of to say was "Well, the dog had to go. It just happens. I'm sorry, I won't walk my dogs by your house again. And by the way, at least I pick up after my dogs, unlike a lot of people around here!" (OK, I had to add that to make myself feel slightly better.) He replied that I had the right to walk in the street, but just not to allow the dogs on his grass.

I wanted to yell at him. I wanted to accuse him of being a dog-hater. I wanted to say "don't you know this parking strip belongs to the city and I can walk my dogs there if I want to?" I wanted to ask him if he had ever lived in a subdivision before or if he just had some sense that it was his job to enforce his idea of a perverse American Dream where dogs stay in the back yard and are never seen or heard. I wanted to ask him if he always greets his new neighbors this way. Or even suggest that "hello, I'm your new neighbor" might have been a better ice-breaker.

But I didn't say any of those things. I just apologized, excused myself and walked away fuming on the inside. All the rest of the way home, and for the next couple of hours, I kept going over what I should have said. I wanted to tell someone what happened. I wanted someone to tell me that I was right and he was wrong. But somewhere in my mind there was guilt. I had that little voice saying "well, your dog did poop on that guy's grass, and even if it does belong to the city, he's the guy taking care of the grass."

I think that niggling guilt made me feel even angrier. Both at myself and at the grumpy neighbor.

Is it wrong to allow a dog to do his business on someone's property (or the property they tend), even if you pick up all traces? I want to believe it's perfectly ok, but at some level is that an infringement on their space? If someone doesn't have a dog, should they have to deal with the repercussions of my dog having been there (even if microscopic) and then the next dog and the dog after that stopping to smell the invisible evidence and probably depositing their own (which may not be picked up knowing some of our neighbors...) Perhaps it was the less careful dog-walking neighbors who made the guy grumpy and ruined it for the rest of us...

I don't know. But I want to believe that we make certain exceptions in our society for companion animals. Heaven knows we do for cats, who are allowed to roam freely and use our flower beds for litter boxes. For those of us who obey the leash laws or don't live next to a dog park, we pretty much have to walk our dogs to give them exercise. So don't dogs have some rights as companion citizens as well? I like to think that, in a civilized society, we would welcome the presence of dogs, and that as long as owners are responsible and pick up after them, they should be allowed to do what dogs do when out on a walk.

If anyone reading this has thoughts on the subject, I'd love to hear them. Was I wrong to let Baxter make a deposit (with my immediate withdrawal) on grumpy neighbor's parking strip? Should I have kept him off the parking strip altogether or dragged him away mid-effort? Where does my right to have a dog infringe upon grumpy neighbor's right to have pristine turf? And what kind of person could look at Baxter doing what comes naturally and get mad?

All thoughts and ideas welcome...


Rhonda said...

It was a "common area". Whether he maintains it or not isn't the issue. It's for the use of ALL the division.

Don't let him get to you. Easier said than done, I know, but try not to let it bother you.


Anonymous said...

You are totally right, as long as you pick up after your dog you can take him anywhere that is publicly allowed. The neighbor sounds like a miserable person, how could he not look a Baxter and see that he is a sweetie.

ScruffyDog said...

I think I saw his kids the other day. They were walking down the sidewalk and gave the dogs a very wide berth, wouldn't even acknowledge them. Perhaps they were afraid. Great, now he's raising another generation of anti-dog people...