The picture to the left is a dog we had years ago. Gorgeous, wasn't she? She was a sweetheart and we all still miss her.
We have two dogs now, smaller ones. Both are half Shih Tzu, but the other halves are different. One of them has social anxiety disorder, caused in part by the myriad of therapists we have had in and out of the house, working with the two of our children who are officially autistic. He needs retraining that will take months, and because he bit someone--a stranger to him, Milo's always gentle with his family--he needs to be confined whenever we have company, until his retraining is finished and he can be trusted, and even then we'll still watch him very carefully.
Unfortunately, Milo doesn't like being confined. He has a secure yard within our back yard, and he doesn't like being in there when there is fun going on in the bigger yard. And so he barks. Milo's never been the quietest dog on earth. He has sensitive hearing and will sometimes bark for what appears to be no reason. Our usual joke is that he's barking at a squirrel in the next county. He'll bark at vehicles, people, stray sounds. Some of that is normal and some is due to the anxieties of his new situation. It will lessen in time as he gets used to the changes we've had to make.
Now, we're responsible dog owners. We don't let our dogs roam the neighborhood, we keep them well groomed and up to date with all veterinary visits and vaccines, and we try to limit Milo's barking as best we can. We don't want to inconvenience anyone else. It's harder in the summertime when the kids are in and out all the time and the dogs follow suit. Milo barks more when he's outside. But we've never had a complaint from anyone in the village...until today.
I was out in the big yard pulling my daughter and our neighbor's daughter in a wagon. Milo and our other dog were in their smaller yard and Milo wanted to come play, but we're not ready to trust him with other people's children yet. An older gentleman in a shiny black SUV from two streets over drove up on the road behind our yard and proceeded to shout at me (without leaving his vehicle) about my dog who barks "all day long" (not true) and he's sick of it and if we don't take care of it he'll have the Sheriff at our door. Then he drove off and I watched him go straight back to his garage. He made a special trip for this. With what he drives that probably cost him a full tank of gas, so he must mean business.
Being me, I called the Sheriff's department and asked about the penalties for barking dogs. Turns out that in our county, there are no noise ordinances. Granted we don't want trouble with neighbors, but legally there is nothing the Sheriff's department can do except to maybe suggest a bark collar, which we will not even consider without consulting our veterinarian. This being the year of rotten timing and vexing occurrences, the vet's clinic is closed for Labor Day.
This little village isn't a bad place to live, provided one stays out of politics. But between last year's visit from Human Services (unfounded report, most likely made by the guy who was yelling at my kids last summer about the way they were dressed), the river, the railroad (much more traffic since the sand mines went in), the state highway, and this little wrinkle, I'd love to move. My husband and I are country people and would prefer more space around us. That will have to wait though. And there is no chance of us giving away a dog that our 9 year old autistic son calls his "best friend." We'll find a way to deal with this as responsible neighbors and pet owners.
I'd just like to say, for those of you who have issues with a neighbor's barking dog, please do not approach the situation the way this man did. Dog owners are people too. Try going to their door and introducing yourself. Mention that you've noticed their dog is barking a lot and wondered if anything was wrong or there was something you could do to help (there probably isn't but it's a nice gesture). You may find out that the dog is undergoing retraining and that the barking will subside in time. Or you may find that the owner is irresponsible and the dog is barking for help, but at least you will have mentioned the problem without threatening anyone or shouting in front of children. A little common courtesy can go a long way.
This has been a difficult summer. We're still waiting to hear if my sister has more cancer than what was removed during her surgery. We've severed ties with the therapy company that was working with our boys and are researching other options. The dog bite incident. The irate neighbor incident. And all of this has occurred within the last five weeks. I'm looking forward to fall.
Oh well, school starts tomorrow and that will calm things down for everyone in the house. I hope your summer has been better than mine. I'll post again soon with a more cheerful topic. Now, I'm going to go spend some time with my dogs, because they never threaten me, talk down to me, short-change my kids, or otherwise act in a deceitful or mean way. Yep, I definitely like dogs better than people today.
Fun Fact: I have rewritten the lyrics of Deck the Halls to make it a Back-To-School carol. I am considering doing this with more songs. Suggestions are appreciated.