Despite occasional drawbacks, such as obscenely expensive plumbing and roofing problems, I love home ownership. The kids have a yard to play in, I have my own personal driveway, and life is basically tranquil. Now, that isn’t to say that the newest family on the block doesn’t have a rooster in its backyard (whose head I would like to see mounted on my wall most mornings). But overall we (pets and people alike) get along very well, thank you.
The neighbors to the left of me are amazing. In addition to full-time jobs, they spend every weekend pruning, raking, seeding, planting, mulching. It’s so embarrassing that I have to close my blinds and pretend I don’t know they’re out there. I’m so tired on the weekends that I can barely pour a bowl of cereal, much less perform yard aerobics. I awaken on Saturdays to the sound of electric hedge trimmers and it’s downhill from there. I mean, what is it with all this obsessive stuff? Kick back a little! It’s not like the yard is going anywhere.
My neighbor across the street, Sonny, is the self-appointed guard unit of the block. I’ve had a couple of break-ins lately and he has assured me that he can install a security system for a fee of just a few dollars a month. When and if it goes off, there will be no need to notify the police, he says, because he will personally neutralize any fleeing suspects. Naturally this scares the daylights out of me. I’m afraid I might accidentally set the alarm off in the night and find myself lying on the driveway inside a chalk outline. Sonny don’t play.
The rather colorful pair to the right of me built an eight-foot fence around their property in which to contain Samson, a chronically unhappy German Shepherd. That blasted dog barked morning to night and then all night long. Finally I asked if he could sleep inside (their house, not mine), but it took me a long time to get up the nerve to approach them. I mean, they moved in right at Christmastime and their names were Joe and Mary, for goodness sake. I thought it would be in the spirit of the season to cut them a little slack. I think what finally did it for me was when Joe gave my older son a candle shaped like a skull. As it melted, red wax would flow out of its eye sockets. Once I saw that, well, the game was up. Samson was given indoor privileges shortly thereafter.
Miss Mary, just around the corner, is the real dog aficionado. She takes her daily walk with this yappy little dog that prisses down the sidewalk like it thinks it’s really something. It may be hard to imagine anything so low to the ground looking down its nose, but I’m telling you it does. Look, buddy, you’re on a leash. Get over it.
Cats are another matter. I have a couple myself and consider them respectable residents of the neighborhood. Other than scratching out the lining of my couch, they haven’t done any major damage. I took them kicking and screaming to the vet to have their manhood removed, so they don’t wander around digging around in other people’s yards. Now, they just lie on the front porch, shooting the breeze and drinking mint juleps like everyone else in the South. Once in a while, when they’re in a generous mood, they even present me with tokens of their affection: gold, frankincense, and squirrel. I tried talking to them about it, letting them know that, while I appreciated the gesture, my tastes ran more to bubble bath and nice sweaters, but they were so offended that I dropped the whole matter.
Which was probably the right thing to do. When dealing with animals or neighbors, your best bet is to tolerate differences of opinion and celebrate what you can.