When my wife and I were looking for a house to buy 15 years ago, I told her about a rule I had: the “let-the-dog-out-without-worrying-about-it-getting-hit-by-a-car” rule. I wasn’t even sure we’d ever get a dog, but figured this rule would also apply to future kids. Our neighborhood has large yards, lots of trees/forest, and all streets are dead ends.
About 2 years ago, we did indeed get that dog.
When I was a kid, the friendly dogs went free, following the pack of roaming kids. In these past 2 years, I’ve discovered the world of dog-ownership has changed a great deal…
SCANDAL #1: I let my dog walk off leash. She’s half whippet and half black lab. She was made to run. As we walk she chases squirrels, chipmunks, deer, and fox. She will never catch a fox. I don’t think she really wants to catch a deer. But she has hit the lottery a couple of times and caught a squirrel and 2 chipmunks. She is extremely obedient (thank you previous owners, whoever you are!). I can literally snap my fingers and she’s at my side – or better yet, call “Winnie, come!” and she jerks in my direction like I yanked hard on a tight leash. I don’t let her approach pedestrians or other dogs, because I know that those people don’t know whether my dog is friendly. However, I know from the harsh glares of some of the neighbors (even other dog owners), a lecture I once received from a neighbor, and some whispers I’ve heard through the neighborhood grapevine, that I am considered a menace by quite a few people.
SCANDAL #2: I cut through some neighbors’ yards. I take my dog through the woods, as I walk along a creek often picking up trash. To get back to my neighborhood, I need to cut through some neighbors’ backyards. I made the mistake of doing this while one of our older neighbor’s kids was visiting and doing yardwork. She was in the front yard and as I came walking out of her driveway and on to the street, I said “Hi.” She was about 40′-50′ away, yet physically startled and exclaimed, “Oh!” My dog followed behind me as we entered the street. Less than 2 weeks have passed since then and I can tell that this was a traumatic experience for my neighbor’s daughter, as this “no trespassing” sign has since been posted.
The elderly woman who lives there is as sweet as can be. I wonder if she knows that this sign is there?
I had a similar experience with a neighbor when we first got our cat and let her outside. She “escaped” (or in retrospect, “went”) into our neighbor’s bamboo. A woman, who was also visiting her elderly mom, came running out asking me who I was and what I was doing on their property. I guess it didn’t help settle her nerves that at the time I was in my bathrobe and slippers.
SCANDAL #3: And this is a big one… I don’t pick up my dog’s poop. I get that we, being a civilized society and all, don’t want dog poop lying around in places where we might step – places like sidewalks, walkways, or an entire yard of any house with kids. But when did we become so generally rigid that we need to strictly control where animals poop outside?!?
In this neighborhood we have herds of deer, fox, opossums, raccoons, squirrels, birds, and cats pooping all over the place. What is it about a dog’s poop that drives people into a rage – turning neighbor against neighbor? I’ve trained my dog to poop in the woods, in ivy, or in areas where I’m very, very certain nobody is going to walk.
Our closest neighbor has 3 dogs and generally lets them poop wherever. Their German shepherd was pooping right at the bottom of our stairs where our kids frequently run. We politely asked them to keep an eye on their dog – and that pooping anywhere but there is fine.
Apparently, a dog pooped in a neighbor’s yard across the street…
Honestly, I think it was our dog’s poop (however, rumor has it from a dog-walking neighbor who saw the offending poop pile, that it was the poop of a big dog, so my wife thinks it might have been the German shepherd). In the 10 years that our neighbor has lived there, I recall seeing them in their front yard twice – once to put up a bird box and once to plant a tree. They are empty nesters. A lawn service cuts their lawn.
In all my years growing up with dogs roaming all over the place, I never once recall a grown-up making a fuss over where a dog pooped. Now, it feels like people are obsessed with it.
Maybe this a symptom of something good – and what happens in an area like Montgomery County, where life has become so good and easy for so many that dog etiquette is a big deal? I think of my childhood days growing up in a middle-class neighborhood in PG County, when kids and dogs roamed free for hours on end, neighbors knew and helped each other, and we suffered together through real problems.