A Doggie Story (#339)

Our rescue dogs were very different in temperament. Woofie, the Labrador mix, saw every creature as a potential playmate. If he could have, that dog would have opened the door to any stranger with a ball…or a knife, or a gun.

Fey, our German shepherd and shar-pei mix, saw every stranger as a potential threat, unless they were a white male over six feet tall who smelled like In-n-Out burgers. (You can probably guess who rescued her from the streets of Los Angeles and what food they used to gain a starving dog’s trust.) Fey refused to let the gas meter man near the house, which was a pain in the ass, but she also refused to let burglars break into the house, which everyone except Woofie found heroic.

Woofie shook off criticism like water. “Bad dog!” meant nothing to him. So did “no!” and even, “Jesus fucking Christ, Woofie, how did you dig up an entire bougainvillea in two minutes?!”

A voice raised at Fey would result in her freezing or hiding. She was an unusual mix of fierce protector and sensitive shepherd.

Fey preferred to spend her day outside, lying on her bed on the patio unless a street sweeper, squirrel, or passing dog needed to be warned off. She and Woofie would wrestle and play tug-o-war, but Fey would break off immediately to run her guard route if she sensed a potential intruder. (Woofie would then plant himself in the middle of her route, earning warning snarls and snaps which bothered him not at all.)

One Saturday afternoon, as I prepared for date night, I heard a strange, high pitched swooshing noise and some loud clicking. I checked outside. Fey was on her bed in the sun, right under the bathroom window. I checked around the house, and mentioned the noise to Andy. He shrugged it off and continued roughhousing with Baby D.

I went to dry my hair. My hair dryer had been on less than a minute when the bathroom window cracked.

I dropped the hair dryer. Then I put two and two together and lost my shit: “SOME ONE HAS AN AIR RIFLE AND THEY’RE SHOOTING AT US!”

I flew out the backdoor. Fey dashed in the back door. She was shaking, but unhurt.

I was incensed. To hit that particular window, the shots had to have come from the yard of the new neighbors over the back fence.

The wall and the shrubbery in our backyard.

There was a shrubbery that extended about six feet above the six foot cinderblock wall, which meant I couldn’t see into the yard. The noise had stopped, possibly because the shooters heard my enraged shrieking:

“ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? AIR RIFLES ARE ILLEGAL! YOU COULD HAVE HIT MY DOG! WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”

I stormed out the back gate and over to the new neighbors’ yard, where I found a shame-faced father with a teen—a teen holding an air rifle. (In retrospect, I do not recommend confronting people holding weapons directly. At the time, I was such a mass of fury that I probably would not have cared if it were a real rifle. The zero to psycho Ashbough temper is likely to end in prison or death someday.)

I yanked open their gate and barged into their yard, yelling, “MOTHERFUCKERS! YOU BROKE MY WINDOW! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!”

The dad tried to placate me, explaining that his son was just shooting at the shrubbery, and had hit our house by mistake.

I was NOT placated. “You absolute shit heads! You utterly ignorant fuckwits! THE SHRUBBERY IS POROUS! The shots went right through! You nearly hit my dog WHAT IF MY KID HAD BEEN OUTSIDE YOU COULD HAVE TAKEN OUT AN EYE!”

By this time, Andy had showed up behind me, carrying Baby D. Andy never said a word. (Later, when I asked why, he pointed out that a) I had barely touched my arsenal of obscenities, and b) no one could have heard him over shrieking that would have put a Shakespearean fishwife to shame.)

The dad was thoroughly apologetic. He promised that it would never happen again, that he would get rid of the air rifle, that he would repair the window, that they had moved in from a more rural area and hadn’t been thinking.

“CLEARLY!” I yelled.

Part of me wanted to call the police, but father and son had too much melanin for that to be a reasonable consequence. Our local police are so bad that some of them have actually been ARRESTED for racist shit, instead of getting the usual commendations.

After my ranting ran its course (which Andy says lasted at least five more minutes), I agreed to the neighbor’s window repair offer. The man ultimately paid for a handyman to replace the window and make other repairs as a gesture of goodwill (i.e., so I would never scream my head off at him again).

Fixing Fey was more problematic than fixing the window. While we never heard or saw the air rifle again, Fey turned into a quivering, cowering wreck every time I turned on the hair dryer. To Fey, hair dryer = someone shooting at you + your human going on a screaming rampage.

I’d had easy success retraining Woofie when he was traumatized by football games on TV; I tried to do the same with Fey. I gave her treats and praised her while taking out and running the hair dryer. Fey wouldn’t eat. Not even bacon. She just trembled miserably.

So I packed the hair dryer away. Forever.

I never regretted it, either.

Our good girl didn’t deserve PTSD.

The Once-ler Next Door (#337)

As usual, March has not been a great month. Fellow blogger Mark suggested I hunker down at home.

I tried. Things got ugly there, too. Literally.

The city decided to chop down all seven mature trees that form a canopy around our house. These trees are on the city property that border the street; even though homeowners water them, they belong to the city. Homeowners aren’t allowed trim the trees without going through an arduous permitting process, but city didn’t trim the trees for about fifty years. Their massive roots raised and cracked the sidewalks.

Older folks are likely to trip and fall. Folks in wheelchairs have a hard time getting through. The city was out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The specter of lawsuits loomed.

The city marked the trees with an X of death and left a letter on our doorstep. I called the city and argued, pointing out that some of the smaller trees were not a danger to the sidewalks and had done no damage. I was transferred from department to department. A city engineer came out to our house, nodding and agreeing that some trees weren’t doing any damage.

Two days later the city told me it would all the trees down anyway, because 1) the city had already hired contractors, 2) it was more efficient to take them all down now, and 3) even the small trees would eventually be a problem.

The only nearby tree that remained was in front of Cop Neighbor’s house. This is no small irony; Cop Neighbor hates trees. The man astroturfed his yard years ago. He spent half the memorial service for one of our neighbors haranguing me about the leaves from my trees blowing into his yard.

Cop Neighbor even attempted to illegally cut the city tree in his front yard several years ago. Hilariously, stupidly, he hired the tree removal service on the exact same day that the city tree workers were finally out trimming all the trees touching the power lines in our neighborhood. (Probably Cop Neighbor never noticed all the temporary signs on our block reading, “No Parking, Tree Trimming,” as he’s used to ignoring all traffic/ parking laws.) When Cop Neighbor’s illegal tree trimmers started climbing and sawing, the city tree maintenance crew chief ran over, chewed them out, and then chewed out Cop Neighbor’s girlfriend. There’s a pretty hefty fine for touching city trees; what are the odds Cop Neighbor had to pay–LOL, never mind.

Undoubtedly, Cop Neighbor was thrilled when he saw the tree removal crews on our street. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he was the one complaining about the sidewalks in the hopes of getting all the trees cut down. He must have been pissed that his tree was the only one left standing.

Cop Neighbor decided to take matters into his own hands. Sunday morning, when all the city workers were sleeping in, two overloaded pickup trucks pulled up in front of Cop Neighbor’s house. One had a handpainted sign that read, “Tree Trimming.”

The tree trimmers consulted with Cop Neighbor. Cop Neighbor moved his giant SUV from in front of his city tree and went back inside. The tree trimmers laid cones in the street around the city tree.

I stopped gardening. The tree trimmer gave me a friendly wave.

I asked, “What are you doing?”

“Oh, we’re going to top this tree.”

If you aren’t familiar with topping trees, good. It’s a terrible practice, often lethal to trees. Which is no doubt what Cop Neighbor intended.

I have always avoided feuding with neighbors. No one wants their home to feel like a battleground. I especially did not want to feud with the one neighbor who always carries a gun and works in a profession famous for harassing people without consequences.

When Cop Neighbor threw multiple late-night COVID parties, I did not call the cops. I knew it would do no good, and I knew his friends at the police department would tell him who called. Other neighbors, unable to withstand a crowd of drunks shouting the lyrics to “Oh, Sherrie” at midnight, did call the cops. The cops came, shook hands with Cop Neighbor, and left. The party raged on.

When Cop Neighbor’s unwalked, unexercised dogs barked and howled all day, I did not call animal control or the police. Other neighbors did. The dogs still bark and howl.

When Cop Neighbor didn’t put up a fence around his house during his remodel(s), I didn’t report his impromptu junkyard to the city. I never said a word about his old sofa, which sat next to his driveway for weeks.

The most combative thing I have done is fly a Black Lives Matter flag.*

That morning, if I hadn’t just watched the murder of seven trees, I might have continued to remain silent.

Instead, I summoned my inner Karen and said to Mr. Tree Trimmer, “That’s a city tree. Do you have a permit?”

“Oh, don’t worry, I trim city trees all the time.”

I crossed my arms. “It’s illegal without a permit.”

Mr. Tree Trimmer went to consult with Cop Neighbor. Another neighbor came by with his dog. I petted the dog and asked about his grandson until Cop Neighbor charged over.

Now, Cop Neighbor usually presents himself as an amiable person to the neighborhood. Today, he was in full cop mode, spittle flying as he yelled, “What do you care what I do the tree?”

I took a deep breath and said, “It’s a city tree. It’s illegal to touch it without a permit.”

“So?! What are you, the tree police?”

“These guys said they were going to top it, which will kill the tree.”

“So?! I called the city about it and they won’t trim it and it keeps dropping leaves on my car!”

Note: Cop neighbor actually has SIX cars around his house: SUV, sedan, girlfriend’s sedan, his 70’s muscle car, his police car (which he locks the keys inside of on a regular basis), and sedan that maybe belongs to his girlfriend’s wife or sister).

Cop Neighbor continued ranting. “You should mind your own business! No one cares what I do but you!”

I scoffed. “Yes, they do. But no one will say anything about all the illegal stuff you do because you’re a cop!”

Cop Neighbor threw up the hand at me and stormed back to his house, still yelling that I should mind my own business. The tree trimmers yelled at me as they drove away as well, telling me I was “everything that was wrong with this country.”

I yelled back, “Oh, yeah, the cop doesn’t care about laws, but I’M what’s wrong with this country!”

Sadly, most police departments produce people just like my neighbor.

When what we need is a Lorax.

*Cop Neighbor’s girlfriend responded to my BLM flag by flying a “Police Lives Matter” flag. People were constantly walking by, doing a doubletake over the dueling flags, and taking pictures. (Their flag came down around January 6, 2021.)

 

New Year’s & All That Noise (#243)

A few years ago, a thirty-something couple moved into the house behind us. They had two girls under age five and another baby on the way. When the mom told me that her husband once danced and sang on a table, I assumed she was indulging in nostalgia rather than foreshadowing.

Until festive lights went up in the backyard. This was followed by a disco ball, loud music, and the chanting of “Drink, drink, drink!”

Another neighbor called and asked where the frat party was.

“At the newborn’s house,” I replied.

Continue reading New Year’s & All That Noise (#243)

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. Continue reading Problem Pet Owners (#213)

Year of the Dawg (#212)

It’s Chinese New Year, and it’s also my third blogoversary! I bet y’all think I’m gonna do an uplifting or informational post about the Year of the Dog today, right?

Nope. Today I’m gonna talk about just how much a new mattress can improve your life. Continue reading Year of the Dawg (#212)

Poop & Poison (#197)

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?

Poop. Continue reading Poop & Poison (#197)

Neighbors (#113)

"Good fences make good neighbors" - Robert Frost
“Good fences make good neighbors”    –Robert Frost

Andy is not the most outgoing guy on the planet. He’s perfectly polite and even warm if you greet him, but he will not go out of his way to meet you. Andy had lived in his townhouse for about 5 years before I moved in and we got married. He said hello to exactly one neighbor. Continue reading Neighbors (#113)