Sunday, November 8, 2009

Musings: Two Reasons Why I'm Moving

The dog that lives across the street from me spends much of its life in a squealing, yipping, futile pursuit of attention. When its master, or anyone, turns into the driveway, the dog begins yipping — loudly, frantically, desperately. But they pay it no heed and go inside, without a glance, much less a word of greeting, as if the dog, despite its cries, did not even exist.

And as it recognizes that it has once again failed to enter their sphere of consciousness, the dog’s yelps for recognition diminish in frequency and volume, ending, eventually, in a final, forlorn yip…...….yip……....……..yip.

This is not your usual mistreated dog in a box. It has a large wire kennel on grass, covered to provide a mix of sun and shade, protection from the rain, and a good-sized dog house where it often sleeps. I’ve seen a man bring it food, the way a jailer might deliver a meal, without a word, smile or a touch of affection.

I’m sure they think they are doing fine by that dog, treating it well, and speaking strictly from a physical perspective, they are. But what about its mental and emotional needs?

Sometimes I fantasize about standing in their driveway and yelling: “Hey, would it kill you to take 30 seconds out of your life to simply acknowledge your dog? Dogs are not lawn furniture.” Or, more discretely, expressing a politely worded version of that sentiment in a note pinned to their mailbox.

But I don’t, because I really don’t think they’d be receptive, or get it. Instead, I do nothing but listen, and my heart feels sad.

Meanwhile, a woman has moved in next door, into the rental that my landlord created from his carport. She is close, far too close, close enough that I can hear her clear her throat in the morning, smell her cigarette smoke and cooking odors, follow conversations that I’m not interested in.

Her grandchildren have come to visit. All morning there is acrimony, and she metes out a steady stream of punishment with what sounds like a little switch.

“Get away from that door!” Whap.

“Stop that right now!” Whap.

“Get inside!” Whap.

“I told you now!” Whap.

“What did I tell you?” Whap. Whap.

And then one of the kids whaps another.

“What are you doing?” Whap. “Didn’t I tell you not to hit?” Whap. “I don’t like it when you hit.” Whap. Whap. “Why are you hitting your brother?” Whap. “You’ve been asking for it all morning.” Whap. Whap. “Stop that crying.” Whap. “Are you going to keep hitting your brother?” Whap. “Pull down your pants so you can feel this on your bare bottom.” Whap. Whap. Whap. “Did you learn yet?” Whap. Whap.

All the kids are crying now, wailing, snuffling.

I walk next door. She is putting something into her car, and when she turns around, I say hello, keeping my voice low, my face neutral.

“Is everything all right?” I ask.

“They’re fighting,” she responds.

“Yes, but is everything all right?” I ask.

“I’m just teaching them not to hit,” she answers.

“By hitting them?” I ask.

“I don’t like it when they fight.”

“You’re trying to teach them not to hit by hitting them?” I ask again.

“Yeah, so they’ll know how it feels.”

“Has it been effective?” I press.

“If I want to swat my grandkids on the butt I will,” she replies.

True enough.

And like the people with the dog across the street, what she’s doing isn’t physically severe enough to warrant a response from the cops or CPS or the Humane Society.

No, it’s just some of that run-of-the-mill soul-destroying, mind-warping stuff that’s perfectly legal — indeed, some would even argue it’s their right.


Anonymous said...

Great post - also the post about the factory farming.
The jail dog of Kauai is so depressing - seen here on a daily basis. How can people enjoy themselves inside their homes knowing they have a life-sentence prisoner dog locked up just outside? One whose only crime was being born a loyal dog.


Anonymous said...

There may be a rental on our road....are you looking?

Joan Conrow said...

Thanks much, but I have already found one, in my old neighborhood, and will be moving later this month.

Anonymous said...

You make my heart hurt. The poor little animals donʻt ask for much.

Katy said...

Glad you found a new place, Joan.

It's sad that these comments so far have bemoaned the treatment of the dog but not the treatment of the children.

Anonymous said...

Katy, my thoughts exactly! In my case, I can handle the barking of well taken care of hunting dogs, but I have a real problem listening to the poor parenting that goes on next door.

Anonymous said...

The kid gets yelled at and smacked and gets to leave home while still young, and go to school, can call CPS and maybe even recover from the bad parenting.
The dog get incarcerated, in solitary confinement for life - living with its own feces. Caged, trapped, forever. sorry - i feel much worse for the poor dog.

Dawson said...

"No, it’s just some of that run-of-the-mill soul-destroying, mind-warping stuff that’s perfectly legal — indeed, some would even argue it’s their right."

I sometimes wonder why, given all the energy and souls they suck, these sorts of people do not simply balloon up and, like the obese restaurant patron in the Monty Python sketch, explode.

Anonymous said...

Two problems, one solution.

For the dog, offer to take it on walks with you. My wife did this with the chained dog of an elderly neighbor, even took him on long hikes where I was afraid he was too out of shape. The poor dog broke our hearts wimpering and yelping when we walked by without being able to take him. The story does have a sad ending: the dog was mauled one day when some pit-bull mixes got loose in the neighborhood. The owner has a new watchdog, but now it has a "protective" cage instaed of running aroun leashed on the cement driveway.

I'm sure it's harder to get involved positively with the kids, but maybe you can offer to babysit and show a different example. In more extreme cases than this, I think the Hawaiian practice of hanai was a very good solution.

Anonymous said...

I give the child books...