Quiet Desperation

Enough barking might be worse than a bite

Column by Craig Marshall Smith

For the umpteenth time the house next door has been rented. Like most of the others, the move-in was so discreet that I didn't even see it. I don't know how many are living there now, genders or what they look like.

I think ownership of a big dog that barks incessantly is required for occupancy. I always hope that my newest neighbors might just have two or three neon tetras, but it's always the Hound of the Baskervilles.

I know, I know: It could be worse. It could be a crack house or a party house. It's never that. But there is almost always the torture of compromised days and nights by a spectral beast constantly BARKING loudly.

I am not talking about five or 10 minutes at a time. The current canine can go on for hours. To give you an idea, he or she gave me the idea for this column when it broke into my nap two hours ago, and is still going strong.

Why don't I mention something to the owners? I have tried that in the past. The next step is to file a complaint. That's Section 1.05 (1) (h) under Douglas County Resolution R-998-100. That can become a Class 2 petty offense, and it sets up the possibility of resolution or a really bad relationship with the neighbor forever after - or even retaliation.

One wishes that responsible dog ownership would never come close to reaching that point, but obviously it does if there is a seven-step warning process. That is Section 1.05 (2).

The Douglas County website pages on pet ownership responsibilities are excellent and thorough, but who would ever read them, until after the filing of a complaint?

Another reason I won't complain - yet - is that these owners, like all of the others, will be gone in a year or a year and a half. As I said: Umpteen. If someone were to buy the house and look like they would stick around for a while, I would communicate something to them.

I built the backyard fence 20 years ago. All that separates Smitty from Baskerville are some aged wooden pickets. If I had the money, I'd replace the whole thing. That's always one of life's biggest words: "If."

The good news is that Smitty rarely goes out there. His unwillingness to go outside if it is even slightly too warm or too cool is astounding. He completely refuses snow. Also rain and fog and certain mists.

I think it would be nifty if everyone received a copy of pet ownership responsibilities the day they unpacked. I'm not going to do it. Chances are it wouldn't do any good. As I have said before, some people own dogs who shouldn't be allowed to own a houseplant.

I watched a great Hitchcock film, "Rear Window," the other night. Maybe you know the story. Jimmy Stewart is stuck in a wheelchair with a cast on his broken leg, and spends the entire film watching and listening to what goes on from his third-floor courtyard apartment.

There are sounds coming at him constantly. All of the windows in the courtyard are open, because it's a hot, humid summer. I would lose my mind.

One of the things I value more than anything else is being the maker of all of the sounds that I hear in my home. With one exception. I like to hear airplanes flying overhead once or twice in the middle of the night. I try to imagine who is flying and where to and why.

A dog's incessant barking is more like dripping water, only much louder.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.