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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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If only neighbors had a guarantee

Kerry Madden Los Angeles Times

It’s 1 a.m., and the dogs next door are barking again. Actually, 7:27 p.m. on the white-noise-machine clock, which never says the right time because I unplug it and carry it from room to room to hit “rain” or “crickets” or “ocean” to drown out the barking dogs next door. Sometimes I turn up music. I blast the fan in the winter, keep the windows closed in the summer. The dogs bark the split second I open a book in bed. They bark while the coffee is brewing at the crack of dawn. My dreams in between are filled with the timbre of snarling dogs.

Let it first be said that I love dogs. Our messy house is a menagerie of children and animals – we have three kids, two dogs, two cats, two finches and a low-maintenance hermit crab. But the dogs next door bark and bark and bark. Let’s call them Thing One and Thing Two.

The owner of Thing One and Thing Two, let’s call George. His name is not really George, but my grandmother had a George back in Leavenworth, Kan., and I never really understood her raw contempt for him. But now I have my own George living next door, and if she were alive, I would call her up and say, “Ah, now I understand.” Because I hate my George with wild and free abandon, and I would sing it from the rooftops – only I wouldn’t be heard over his barking dogs.

My grandmother’s George did not wear shirts. My George often does not wear shirts either, a practice my grandmother called “common.” George’s dogs live about 10 feet from our bedroom window. It’s usually the middle of the night when they scramble up in a panic, nails scritching across the back porch as they fling themselves hysterically into the yard to bark at nothing. They bark until they are hoarse and defeated and scrabble back up the steps – scritch, scritch. I lie awake tense, waiting for the cycle to start over.

Recently, the dogs woke me again at 1:30 a.m. on the clock radio. I was home alone, husband and children away for the weekend. I went outside just as George drove up. I was going to be brave and confront him. Politely. And then he saw me waiting, so he didn’t get out of his car – he just sat there. A standoff. But he wouldn’t get out, and I chickened out.

Another night, I did go pound on the door. He appeared and warned me, “You better get out of here,” like I was a thief. I said, “Your dogs have been barking for an hour!” He said, “Uh, yeah.” Then he disappeared. Never an apology. Nothing.

My husband has gone over to talk to him several times, and the discussions take forever because my husband thinks that eventually compassion and empathy will penetrate his thick hide. Ha! I left a poem by Billy Collins, called “Another Reason I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House,” in his mailbox. Part of it goes:

The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.

I close all the windows in the house

and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast

but I can still hear him muffled under the music, barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,

his head raised confidently as if Beethoven

had included a part for barking dog.

My George has, so far, expressed no more response to the poem than to any of our other pleas. In the meantime, I have purchased a product called Dog Silencer Pro. It should arrive any day. It costs $89.95, and I am going to hang it on our fence with a prayer that the barks of Thing One and Thing Two will, as promised, set off high-frequency sound waves that are supposed to “annoy” but not hurt their ears, and that all will be silent.

Maybe those blessed high-frequency sound waves will carry with them the possibility of goodwill, forgiveness and even neighborliness – all festering resentments washed away. If not, it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

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