Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dog barks + owner shrugs = gavel slam?

Note: This column appears in the 10/27 issue of The Glendale Star and the 10/28 issue of the Peoria Times

We’ve finally reached that point of the year where we can turn off our air conditioners and go to sleep soundly with the windows open, the gentle cool breeze blowing in and comforting us as we dream of unicorns jumping over rainbows, or whatever it is that you dream about.

And then, if you’re like us, you can be violently awoken by your dog, who jumps up to start barking back at a neighborhood dog who has been left outside and began barking wildly, at something, like nothing, for some unknown reason.

This has always confounded me—say you have a dog, right? And you love your dog so much that you’re like, “You know what dog? You’re gonna stay outside like, forever. Summer heat? Coyotes? Bobcats? Scorpions? Deal with it. You’re a dog. You can handle it. I love you. But I must set you free.” That makes no sense, right? I mean, why even have a dog?

But hey, everyone’s different, I guess. I just would figure that the least a person can do, for both his dog and the betterment of the entire neighborhood, is bring the dog in at night. It’s bad enough to hear the howling sounds of the coyotes, and the accompanying mental imagery of them surrounding a poor, defenseless baby unicorn somewhere in the nearby desert. But the cacophony of barking induced by coyote-howling and much lesser sounds, like wind, from dogs left outside is just too much.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this. Glendale City Council recently considered the issue of public noise, especially from dogs, and they also touched on the sensitive topic of public smells, for which I firmly believe there is not nearly enough legislation.

Judge Elizabeth Finn, based on how things proceed in Peoria, recommended that three unrelated nearby property owners must sign a complaint in order to achieve prosecution for an owner with an annoying dog. Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs was not a fan of such a definitive required number, stating that some homes in Glendale feature large acreage, so finding nearby property owners to concede would prove difficult. Now, I would argue that if you live on a large chunk of land, and you are hearing a dog bark at night or smelling a foul odor, it is probably your own dog and own odor. But whatever. The point is that city council is finally addressing barking dogs and random odors. Also “squawking birds.” Some people have problems with that, too, apparently.

My problem is that I am still unsure from which houses these dogs are barking in my own neighborhood. I therefore run the risk of approaching my neighbors to sign a complaint and discovering that they are actually one of the culprits.

“Hello, neighbor. Would you mind signing this complaint? Dude over there keeps his dog out at night and it drives me crazy.”

“I keep my dog outside at night.”

“Oh that’s cool. Did I say ‘dog?’ I meant, the dude over there smells bad. Just sign here.”

I already have zero or a negative relationship with the majority of my neighbors, so this should work out well. I miss the old days when things didn’t have to pass through city council, and if you had a problem with your neighbor you got a bunch of other neighbors to help drag that person into the street and publicly spank them with a humongous wooden spoon. It used to happen like that, right? Sometimes I think I was born in the wrong era.

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