If you aren’t able or willing to be a responsible dog owner, then don’t become one

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It’s not that I’m not a dog person. It’s that I’m not a dog-owner person. But just the irresponsible ones.

Dogs are wonderful companions, but they’re also emotionally needy and require a huge time commitment. With my hectic schedule, it’d be irresponsible and unfair to own a dog. When I retire, sure, but for now, cats fit my lifestyle much better.


Compared to dogs, cats are much more self-sufficient and unconcerned about human comings and goings. Keep their food dish full and their litter box clean, get an excellent pet-sitter when you’re away and, in particular, keep them indoors or in an enclosed patio playpen, and cats are essentially trouble-free.

I can walk down to the mailbox, and my cats don’t even notice, as opposed to dogs, whose loyal little hearts burst with separation anxiety every time you walk out the door. Come back after getting the mail, and the outrageous display of joy and relief is just too much emotional pressure for me. I just don’t need that much guilt in my life.

See, that’s the thing. If I don’t care for an animal properly, I feel guilty. But apparently everyone doesn’t share that propensity, based on the number of people I see and read about who adopt animals and don’t seem to be bothered one bit when the animal is communicating that it’s wildly unhappy and needs attention, and its owners are at best oblivious and at worst unconcerned.

While cats will pee in your shoes if they’re unhappy, dogs will bark. And bark. And bark. Chronic barking is a waving red flag that a dog is unhappy and, lucky us, the world’s most unhappy dog lives right next door. We can’t step into our own back yard without this miserable mutt woof-woof-woofing its head off, which its owners never seem to notice at all.

It’s bad enough during the day, but when it barks all night long, that’s a whole new level of aggravation and fury. Apparently the folks next door sleep like the dead because no one ever chastises the dog or takes the time to figure out why this dog is so wound around the axle, and take steps to correct the problem.

Here’s a clue, geniuses: Your dog is unbearably lonely.

My observation of the four-legged noise machine next door is that it’s basically a yard decoration. It’s always outside, and I’ve never heard anyone play with it, talk to it or interact with it, even though there’s a gaggle of kids living there, none of which demonstrates the remotest interest in the dog. No one plays catch with it or baby-talks to it or takes it on a walk. It just paces in the yard all day, every day, erupting into barking spasms over falling leaves or nothing at all other than its own pounding misery.

For a while, we were blessed with another barker living kitty-corner behind us, and some nights, the barking would be in stereo. So, I got one of those little ultrasonic anti-bark birdhouses and hung it from the tree, and that cured the back-fence dog. But the one next door is immune to the allegedly painful sounds the birdhouse emits. Either that, or it’s gone deaf from hearing its own endless barking — as have its owners.

Constant canine cacophony is our daily annoyance, but last week was the real corker. The neighbors went on a two-week vacation and left Sir Barksalot alone in the back yard, which displeased him immensely. The barking would begin at sundown and continue nonstop until 3 and 4 a.m., when I assume it finally exhausted itself.

I’m not patient or tolerant enough for this sort of nonsense.

Not nearly.

One night, I padded next door in my pajamas at 2 a.m., and again the next night at 3 a.m., and taped notes on the door to let these folks know that their dog is a problem. Somebody was getting the message, because the notes would disappear, but the barking would resume the next night. I assume the notes were picked up by whoever stopped by for 60 seconds to throw some kibble out the back door so the wretched beast didn’t starve to death.

Finally, I felt I had no choice but to call the police dispatch in the wee hours and warn them of an imminent dog-icide if somebody didn’t do something soon.

Our police did what they could, which wasn’t much. I was rather hoping the dog would make them fear for their life, and that would be the end of the problem. But the officer just smiled and said he couldn’t do that, and informed me that they were able to contact the owner and someone would come pick the dog up until they came home.

So, problem solved?

Oh hayull no. I’m sleep-deprived and pissed off!

A little come-to-Jesus intervention is in order. I plan to enlighten the neighbors that there are these things called kennels where you can take your dog when you go on long vacations, and if they aren’t willing to spend money on such “extravagances,” on top of showing utter, chronic disinterest in their pet’s well-being, then take it to a dog rescue agency, which can teach it some manners and find it a kind, responsible owner.

But then, I suppose you’d have to actually care about the dog’s needs or feelings to love it enough to give it a chance for a better life.

In other words, the racket shall continue.

And, here’s the thing: This is just one irresponsible pet owner among thousands. Those little ultrasonic birdhouses wouldn’t be flying off the shelves unless there were legions of fed-up, sleep-deprived neighbors out there.

The bottom line is this: If you aren’t able or willing to be a responsible pet owner, then don’t become one. It’s not fair to the animal, and it’s not fair to your neighbors who have to put up with it.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.ipinionsyndicate.com

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