If I sound a little bit testy this week, don't blame me. I haven't gotten much sleep. In fact, I haven't gotten a good night's sleep in two months. Make that two months, one week and four days, which is, incidentally, exactly when a neighbor right behind me went to the pound and adopted a big ugly mongrel who barks. And barks. And barks.
The first time I heard him was at 6:15 on a Thursday morning. There I was, sleeping oh-so-peacefully, dreaming that I was kayaking with Barbara Bush, when all of a sudden, an irritating sound jolted me wide awake. Of course, I knew instantly that the sound was coming from a dog – but which dog? Not the poodle in the condo unit on our left. She's a neurotic, panic-stricken creature whose piercing shriek sounds like someone has caught her toe in a mousetrap. And it wasn't the dog that lives below us. I'd know his Beagle-baying, hound-dog bellow anywhere.
No, this morning’s noise was definitely new. I know it may sound strange, but it was almost as if that dog knew how the word "bark” was spelled and was taking great care to pronounce it accurately (and loudly!) "Bark! Bark! Bark! Bark!”
At first I tried to ignore it, but because our bedroom is on the back of the building, I was only a few yards away from the sound. Next I tried a pillow over my head. It didn't help. Finally, I gave up and got out of bed. Grumbling into a cup of coffee, I told myself that the poor thing was probably just having a bit of trouble adjusting to his new surroundings. Surely, I thought, he would calm down in a few days. I was wrong.
A few days became a few weeks. And still he barked. From 6:15 in the morning, right on through the afternoon, and into the evening. I tried talking to his owner, but it didn't do much good. The woman explained that she was away from home fully twelve hours every day (coincidentally, the same length of time that her dog was barking), and she certainly couldn't leave him in the house that long. She was apologetic, but didn't know what else to do.
And I'll admit the situation was a sticky one. After all, the whole reason for her buying the dog was for protection. The problem was, without proper training, the dog was barking at everything – potential intruders, squirrels, garbage men three blocks away, falling acorns. It made no difference to him. More than anything, though, he was just plain bored and lonely. Stuck all day long in a tiny little backyard with nobody at home to talk to him, or play with him, he barked to maintain his sanity – which was causing me to lose mine.
The most frustrating part of it for me was that I was dealing with a dog. I mean, if he'd been a human, I would have known exactly how to handle it. I'd knock politely on the back gate and say, "Excuse me, I hate to be a bother, but I've got a really tight deadline on the article I'm writing, not to mention a splitting headache. Would you mind terribly much holding down the racket just a bit? I can't tell you how much I'd appreciate it." Then we'd chat about the nice weather for a minute. Problem solved.
With a dog, however, it's different. All I can do is open up my back door and yell at the top of my lungs, "SHUT UP, YOU STUPID MUTT!" And does that help? No. It only makes things worse. Where minutes earlier he was simply barking at the wind and the Blue Jays, now he's barking frantically at me!
Don't get the wrong impression. I like dogs. I really do. And I'm not normally such a crabby person either. But enough is enough. This ceaseless barking has brought a change in my whole personality. Just last night when I went for a walk, I saw my backdoor neighbor in her yard and I smiled sweetly and waved at her. But as I strolled past her, I muttered under my breath in a scratchy voice that sounded exactly like that prickly old Miss Gulch in The Wizard of Oz, "I'll get you, my Pretty...and your little dog, too!"
Like I said, if I sound a little bit testy, don't blame me. I haven't gotten much sleep.