You know what’s great about having dogs? Especially big dogs?
I can walk any time without fear. If I’m restless (or pissed at my in-laws) at 10 PM, I grab my dogs’ leashes and away we go. When I’m flanked by 70-90 pounds of dog flesh, people will cross the street to avoid me.
You know what’s not great about having two big dogs when walking 6 miles a day?
150 pounds of dog creates a lot of poop. All that poop has to be bagged and hauled to trash receptacles. At first, since I need both hands for leashes, I tried to use a fanny pack. Sadly, the amount of poop often exceeded the capacity of the fanny pack.
I thought I was the model dog-owning citizen, strutting through my Southern California neighborhood with dogs who sat nicely while I cleaned up after them and then carried away their debris.
You know what? I still got yelled at.
Old white men – because, yes, it was ALWAYS old white men — would eye us as we went by. Never mind that I always kept my dogs off their front lawns. Even if a dog used the grass strip on the other side of their sidewalk or in the street, an old white guy would invariably yell, “Damned dogs!” or, “Make sure you take it with you!” as I bagged poop and put it in Fey’s pack.
Sometimes, I’d hold up a bag of poop to show them I was cleaning up and shut them up.
It didn’t work. They’d lecture me on how they found poop in their yards all the time. Because of course it makes sense to yell at the woman who clearly picks up her dog’s poop about irresponsible dog owners who don’t.
As usual, the people who needed the lecture weren’t around to receive it.
I did tweak my dog-walking routes, though, to avoid certain houses with bored, grumpy old white men.
I missed one.
As I was cleaning up after Fey on my own street one morning, a middle-aged white guy charged us, screaming, “No! No! No, goddamn it!”
I waved my bag and said, “Don’t worry, I’m going to clean it up,” and proceded to do just that.
“I don’t care,” he raged. “How would you like it if I came to your house and shit on your lawn?!”
I could have pointed out that where Fey pooped was not technically his lawn, but the dude was not rational. Since there’s no point in talking to crazy, I called the dogs to heel and we continued walking.
The man’s disproportionate reaction was disturbing, though. I made a mental note to go into the street whenever we went by Psycho Dude’s house.
That night, about 10 PM, I heard a splash in our backyard. Andy went to investigate. He found a piece of ground beef in one of our water features.
The ground beef was embedded with pellets of what looked like rat poison. I called the police. They said that unless we had seen someone or had been threatened, there was nothing they could do. There was no point in even sending out an officer, they said.
We drained the water, threw out the meat, and counted ourselves – and our dogs — lucky. If the meat had landed on the brick patio, we’d never have heard it. The following morning, either dog could have gulped down the meat when we let them outside. We might never have noticed until it was too late.
Andy was convinced the poisoner was Psycho Dude. The next day, he insisted on walking the dogs with me. We went by Psycho Dude’s house. He was outside. I ignored Psycho Dude. Andy, on the other hand, went for the full macho stare down.
“It’s totally him,” Andy told me afterwards. “You should have seen his face when he saw Fey and Woofie. He looked shocked. And furious.”
We’ve got no proof,” I reminded him.
But I told all the other dog-owners in the neighborhood about the potential poisoner. They weren’t surprised.
The owner of champion basset hounds told me that he stopped walking by the guy’s house after Psycho Dude sprinkled cayenne pepper on the sidewalk. Since basset hounds are the low riders of the canine world, they could easily inhale a large amount of pepper, causing inflamed tissues and pain. Luckily, the owner saw the pepper before leading his dogs through it.
Other dog owners told me how the Psycho Dude followed them home in his car. None of them reported finding poison meat. But none of them have backyards as accessible as ours, either, thanks to our corner lot. Our street also has the least traffic, unless school is in session. At 10 PM, no one school-side would see anyone throwing meat in our yard. (Actually, we find Wonderbread sandwiches in our yard all the time, so apparently no one sees kids chucking their unwanted lunches over our fence during school hours, either.)
Not long after I warned her about Psycho Dude, one dachshund owner told me Psycho Dude had a fit when her dog peed on the curb in front of his house. The next day, his sidewalk was coated with pepper again. (Dachshunds are also low riders.)
Andy and I made a habit of checking our backyard for poisoned meat before letting the dogs out.
We didn’t find any for a year.
Before Christmas, though, I walked the dogs with a potential a new dog-sitter along their evening route. As I paused to warn our new sitter about avoiding Psycho Dude’s house, Fey peed on the Psycho Dude’s curb. (undoubtedly she was leaving a return pee-mail for the dachshund).
The next day I found more poisoned hamburger meat on our patio. This time, I insisted that the cops come out and I gave them the meat. Again, they told me there was nothing they could do without witnesses — or a dead dog. I gave them Psycho Dude’s address anyway and told them all the dog harassment stories. The cop said he’d run the address for complaints and maybe pay Psycho Dude a visit.
I was pissed. Even going into the street wasn’t enough for this dog-hating dick. Psycho Dude felt he owned the sidewalk, the curb, and the street.
I decided that I was done accommodating crazy.
That very day, and every day following, Fey, Woofie, and I marched right past Psycho Dude’s door – in the morning and the evening. I never let the dogs stray from the sidewalk onto his lawn, but I never walked in the street again. I refused to change our route, even when he was outside, washing his car.
I never looked at him, but I could feel Psycho Dude glaring.
I don’t know what the cops said, but eventually, a “For Sale” sign went up. The house sold quickly. Our dog-loving neighborhood rejoiced.
And when I met the new owner, she cooed over my dogs. Then she asked if I’d known the previous owners and their children.
“There was a child living here? Are you sure?” I asked. “I saw a woman once or twice, but I never saw a kid.”
She said there was a pink room with bizarre décor. I told her bizarre wasn’t surprising, and gave her a rundown on Psycho Dude’s dog-hating behavior.
“What?!” she gasped. “Over dogs?! That is awful!” She patted Fey on the head, then spread her arms wide. “Here you go, honey, you pee wherever you want!”
Fey obliged, of course. As we continued on our way, I puzzled over the pink room. I wondered if the strange, hateful man kept a daughter locked up. Or a sex-slave.
Or maybe the woman I’d seen just liked pink. I shrugged and let my speculations go, reveling in a street that seemed brighter and happier.
Sometimes, you can’t bring your psychotic neighbors to justice.
But you can outlast them.