Problem Pet Owners (#213)

Some people shouldn’t have pets. Take my family. I had anywhere from 3-7 siblings when I was growing up. There’s no way a parent will notice a listless cat needs a vet visit when they don’t even know that child #2 has a chipped ankle because they’re busy bandaging the road rash of child #4, dragged an entire block by the dog they never had the time to train. Eventually, the ill-trained dog will be sent to the local doggie death center. The children will cry. The dog will be replaced by a bunny. Raccoons will eat the rabbit because it was left outside.

Welcome to the circle of life, suburban edition.

Having learned from my parents’ mistakes, I was the über responsible pet-parent. I doted on my cats and trained my dogs – and still I made some stupid mistakes that could have ended very badly.

So I was understanding when other people’s dogs got loose. These dogs invariably found my dogs on our daily 6 mile trek. I collected at least a dozen friendly canine escapees and got them back to their owners. At least a dozen more escapees were aggressive, or at least aggressively guarding their block/ yard. The minute  they saw my dog Woofie, they attacked him. Some dog owners heard the commotion and came running. Not once did I lose my temper or tear even the repeat owner/ offender a new asshole. Admittedly, that would have been overkill, as my other dog Fey didn’t think anyone should beat up Woofie but her. She’d usually torn the attacker a new one already.

When the charging dogs were small, I hauled ass and dogs down the street. Usually hysterical children trailed behind the dog like a comet tail,  crying after accidentally letting their dog out. There was good reason to cry, too — no Yorkie going to survive my Shar-pei/ Shepherd’s counterattack. Having lost so many childhood pets of my own, I couldn’t bear the thought of a child sobbing over the broken body of their tiny dog. So I ran.

My dogs followed, albeit reluctantly. Clueless Woofie looked longingly back at a potential playmate. Clueless Woofie firmly believed he was beloved by all.

Meanwhile, Fierce Fey snarled threats over her shoulder: “I would kick your ass, if I weren’t such a good girl!”

The little dog would eventually tire. He’d strut home unscathed, yapping: “Did y’all see that? Two big dogs, fleeing in terror, because that’s right, I’m bad, you know it!”

When new neighbors with three girls under age 5 moved into the house behind us, I was relieved to see they didn’t have a dog. I could see a neglected, bored dog trying to dig under the fence or playing “who can bark the loudest” with Fey and Woofie.

The dad asked me to introduce his girls to Woofie. The second Woofie pranced toward them, the girls screamed and ran. In vain did Woofie demonstrate how he could shake hands, play dead, or bark on command. The girls never came closer than 10 feet.

Their parents seemed bummed that their girls were clearly not dog lovers, but again, I breathed a sigh of relief. “Any time you want to play with a dog,” I cheerfully told the girls, “come on over.”

They never did.

Instead, they got two bunny rabbits. The father proudly showed me their hutch in the backyard. The girls played with the rabbits for a month before resuming other games.

An escaped rabbit.

I soon found the rabbits munching their way down the street at 6 AM. My dogs and I spent 20 minutes herding the bunnies back into their yard. I told the dad.

His response? “Yeah, they got out.”

Those rabbits got out repeatedly. Fey became an expert bunny herder.

I popped my head over the fence yet again, telling the father he was lucky I’d found the rabbits before the raccoons did.

He shrugged, pointing to various plants in the yard, complaining about how the rabbits chewed on everything. They’d killed several shrubs and trees.

At which point I realized that my neighbor WASN’T LOCKING HIS PETS UP ON PURPOSE. He wanted those bunnies gone. He didn’t care if it was by ravenous raccoon.

Unless you’re planning on moving, the last thing you want is ugliness with your neighbor. There was already one legendary feud on my block that had raged for over a decade. I bit my tongue and waited until later to rant to Andy about crap pet owners.

My husband immediately asked, “You’re not gonna adopt those rabbits, are you?”

“What, so your parents can eat them on their next visit? No, I’m gonna keep herding them back into his yard until they eat all his plants. Which is no more than he deserves.”

But my neighbor stepped up his game. Within a week, two other neighbors had called me, breathless, telling me they’d found domestic rabbits on the street and asking if I knew where the bunnies belonged.

I happily informed them of the bunny’s street address. The rescuers returned the bunnies to a less-than grateful owner.

Over the next month, the rabbits escaped daily.

Each time they disappeared for more than an hour, I imagined my neighbor breathing a sigh of relief, thinking the coyotes had finally done his dirty work for him.

But each time, someone brought the bunnies home. Sometimes it was me. Mostly it wasn’t. I learned that our block was packed with animal lovers delighted to play hero. Until those heroes realized that the escapes were not accidental. One woman gave my neighbor a piece of her mind, telling him that if he didn’t want the rabbits anymore, he should find them another home instead of turning them into hawk bait.

After that, the rabbits were re-homed. A year passed, maybe two, or even three. I figured my neighbors had realized they just weren’t cut out for owning a pet.

Until last Christmas, when they got a dog.

Because you know what the biggest problem with shitty pet owners is?

They don’t even know they’re shitty pet owners.

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

34 thoughts on “Problem Pet Owners (#213)”

  1. Poor dogs! I want to rant about my shitty neighbor too… except that they weren’t shitty anymore XD Finally, they learnt REVERSE PARKING after obstructing the road for 11 years with their huge SUVs. It’s a miracle that they endured 11 years of silent disapprovals and scorns in the neighborhood. They even went as far as installing CCTV in their house and dash cameras in their cars to prevent crime. They could have thought of a simpler solution earlier.

    1. Rant away! I’m trying to figure out a visual on these giant SUVs blocking the road. Was it a narrow road and they just parked perpendicular on the street? Could they not parallel park? I need more info so I can properly loathe them, too.

  2. I dedicated a whole chapter in my latest book to pets! Good to know you have such caring neighbors who looked out for the bunnies, but, yeah, pretty shitty the dad wasn’t responsible. Ugh. Gotta wonder if he raises his kids like this, right?

    But dogs? He can’t have that kind of attitude without the whole neighborhood taking him down! That’s the thing about America, there are too many ppl that will call you out if your dog barks all the time or bites/attacks someone else.

    I’m sensing part 2?

    1. As far as the raising of his children, well, apparently he didn’t mind that they had screaming contests. Literally, contests to see which of them could scream loudest and longest. SO much fun for the neighbors. I think there’s either a serious lack of regard for their impact on others, or it’s simply a different way of life. Maybe I could have dog barking contests and it wouldn’t bother him?

      Oh, yes, there will be a part 2. But you already saw part of it on Instagram. 🙂

  3. This is funny, because a few days ago I took pictures of people doing yoga with bunnies. (Will blog about it soon.) It was a fundraiser for a local bunny rescue! I don’t know how anyone could be mean to such adorable creatures but apparently LOTS of people are

      1. Sadly not, she just takes on every animal she can find. Over the past years she has killed with her good care at least 10 turtles, 2 tortoise (she doesn’t know the difference even though we told her how to take care of them), dozens of cats and dogs…

          1. She does everything you shouldn’t be doing. Her favorite part of taking care of stray animals is to give them leftover food from restaurants. – just imagine the most spicy food where your stomach gets already upset by just looking at it…that is the kind of food she gives the animals. She always wonders why there are never the same stray dogs after few weeks!

              1. She is just insane. She also does not believe us that the ducks here at the lake and rivers survive without people feeding them. According to her all animals are being fed by humans

  4. You are a heroic pet owner and neighbor.

    I’m more of a cat person. I’m attracted to their grace and softness. Also they’re easier. Our town has leash laws which people seem to follow to the letter. It’s a relief. In my last house on the edge of Port Angeles, people had big fields and dogs who weren’t always friendly to people who wanted to take a walk past their houses. It was a beautiful place to walk if you weren’t worried the whole time about having to run away from a fierce dog. I also had a run-in with a cougar one day who didn’t like me picking berries behind his bush. I can’t explain why I continued on up the hill instead of turning back, but I did, trying now to run or show fear. Now my walks are totally tame and relaxing, and I can enjoy my neighbors’ cute, leashed, and well trained dogs.

    1. You had a run-in with a cougar?! Wow. There’s a blog post I’d like to read. Yeah, in rural New Hampshire, people don’t fence their property, either. Their dogs have the run of it. Then they get upset when “tourist joggers” mace their dogs, because they insist that their dogs are friendly. Unless you are a total dog person, it’s hard to distinguish between an excited, barking, “pet me” dog and a “off my road or die” dog.

  5. I’m surprised the rabbits lasted that long! And geez, you think the neighbor would get the hint already…

    I think people rarely stop and think before they have a pet (or baby). It’s A LOT of work. I really want a cat, god knows I do, but with my work schedule I might not be able to give it the TLC it deserves.

  6. A pet is not just something to play with and some people just don’t realist that. I’ve never owned a pet. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a huge animal lover but do think animals are adorable. But from a young age my parents taught me if you don’t love something enough, don’t get it. I wonder how long those dogs stayed in your neighbour’s backyard.

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