The houses on either side of ours have each sold several times over. And we’ve been lucky to have had several nice, friendly, couples living next to us over the years. The current neighbors are nice enough, both families. The ones to the east have been there for a few years now. The ones to the west have been there for half a year or so. But we just haven’t formed real friendships with any of them the way we did with the previous neighbors.
Mark does a little better with all of them than I do. He spends a lot of time outside. (Personally, I think it’s his way of avoiding the inside chores.) And Mark is not one to just quietly go about his business if he sees the neighbors out and about. He will yell over the fence, just to say hello, or ask about whatever yard project appears to be happening. He gets them talking. Me? I haven’t fared as well. The first time west-neighbor Susie came out while I was outside, Mark hollered over to her to introduce me. I was mucking around with some flowers and I stood to go meet her as I was saying hello. She said hi quickly and turned and walked away. Weird? The neighbors all still feel a little bit foreign to me at times.
Lucy feels the same, I think. Whenever the east-neighbors come out in their yard, the fur stands up on her back and she barks and howls at them. It’s embarrassing, to be perfectly honest. Those poor people can’t work in their garden, mow the lawn or enjoy a bonfire if I happen to let my dog out at the same time. Of course, the minute I hear Lucy start up, I run outside and haul her furry little butt back inside. I’m sure she doesn’t understand, but I can’t have her howling at them all the time. (And oddly, she doesn’t do this to the west neighbors. Only the east-neighbors.)
I’ve contemplated getting a bark collar for Lucy. I’ve complained to Mark. “They’re not dog people.”
(I know this to be true. We ran into them at Petco one time. They were buying cat things.)
“If they were dog people, they would talk to her,” I said. “If they would just say something to her, maybe go up to the fence and show her they are not a threat, she wouldn’t be scared of them. I wish they would just speak to her.”
“There’s nothing you can do,” he said. “If they’re not dog people, they’re not dog people.”
And so every time Lucy is in the back yard, and every time I hear, “Wuff Wuff Wuff Wuff…Rowr Rowr Rowr Rowr,” I know it’s a pretty good bet that the east-neighbors are outside. Just this evening, I had that very suspicion. I went running outside and sure enough, east-neighbor man and his elderly dad were out in the back yard. East-neighbor man just smiled and waved at me, ignored Lucy and continued walking to his garden at the end of the yard. But east-neighbor man’s dad was coming toward the fence and stopped just on the other side of where Lucy was and where I was headed. As I approached, I heard him speaking very gently to Lucy. He told her what a good girl she was to protect her home that way, but that she needn’t worry as he had no intention of harming her or her family.
I apologized and grabbed Lucy’s collar, telling her “No,” and trying to soothe her. At the same time, east-neighbor man’s dad continued to talk to her and to me. He told me about his Golden Lab who is thirteen years old and suffering with cancer. He told me how she still wants to walk and the way she loves car rides. Lucy continued to bark and howl some, but she was sounding less intimidating. East-neighbor man’s dad told me how he was taking his dog for a ride the other day when he saw another dog wandering along a busy street, looking uncertain what to do. He said he stopped and the wandering dog looked at him as if to say, “What is this? There are so many cars, I don’t know what to do!”
East-neighbor man’s dad said he couldn’t allow the dog to continue wandering on such a busy street so he opened his car door and let the dog in. He checked the dog tags and contacted the owner and delivered the wandering dog home to safety. And all the while he talked, he continued to interrupt himself to look at Lucy and soothe her with gentle words until she finally sat and cocked her head at him and contemplated whether or not he was okay. And clearly, she decided he was.
When Lucy was all settled, east-neighbor man’s dad said to me, “Well, I think I’ll go help my son now,” and he ambled off to walk back to the house with him. And Lucy watched them both go and she made not a sound!
I could have hugged that man. So sweet. So patient. So gentle. And something bigger than that. So generous! He didn’t have to give my dog the time of day. He could have been annoyed at the incessant barking and howling. Had I been in his shoes, I would have been. But he wasn’t. Instead he gave Lucy and me a bit of his time and a bit of himself until everything was alright. He left me speechless.