Sunday, January 15, 2012

Batman and the Warning

Despite their tiny, goofy exteriors, dachshunds are fierce dogs. They think they are ten times bigger than they are. They protect their house, their yard and their people without fear. They bark when they feel they need to. Car drives by, bark at it. Garbage man, bark. Mailman, bark. Little kids on bikes, bark. Doorbell, nuclear barking. After their initial puppy year, it got better and better.

So when Batman's mom complained to the local animal control about the noise, we received our first "LEGAL WARNING" that we needed to do something about the barking. Since we had never actually made friends with them, and heaven knows we tried, we went to the animal control office and asked them for advice. We linked off a little fenced area in our garage with their kennel, added an "As Seen on T.V." dog barker device that they hate, a radio that plays constantly (they like the Spanish channel), blankets, tons of toys, water, food and a papered "potty" area a few feet away. We did everything they told us to do. While I was at work, I spent the days terrified that the neighbors were going to poison my only children.

But for the next two years, everything went well. The radio cut the barking entirely and they seemed to love their little spa in the garage. Two weeks ago they started building the next set of townhomes to the left of us. We thought the property would remain empty since the economy was so bad, but suddenly cement was poured and they started framing 6 six new homes. New sounds. So many new sounds.

Warning number two came two years after the first. It enrages the imperfect me. We live twenty feet from the building site - nail guns, the saws, and the trucks entering and exiting all day long. Lily has anxiety. She thinks aliens have landed and Gus just barks because she is barking. Peer pressure at its finest. Despite the fact that our neighbors can also see the new building going up, they issued us another warning from Animal Services.

Andy wrote Batman's mom a nice note explaining that we were doing everything we could and when the framing was done, the dogs would calm down. I sent the note with another loaf of banana bread. That night, Batman's mom left a retaliatory note taped to our front door, on children's construction paper, in her child like handwriting with a black crayon, that they had put up with our dogs for two years and how dare we not take responsibility for the noise. Too many exclamation points, a sad smiley face. Threats to have the dogs taken away...

Then two days later the opportunity came to let her know how I feel about her noise. I was awakened at around midnight, by her spa tub starting up full blast at my head through the wall. I wanted to cry. Townhomes! But then Batman started whining about something and soon enough, she was yelling back only this time, it was so loud, Andy was also fully awake now and listening wide-eyed. We had heard it before but never this clear. For two years we had listened to her discipline her son in in decibels uncomfortable to us, but never thought it was our business. Until now. "Why do you have to be the stupidest kid on earth," she screamed. "I don't care if you sit there all night!" And on and on and on. Eventually we heard a physical struggle between the two and then silence. I had worked myself up into a lather by that point, imagining the worst. I had an identical tub and it was not small. That was the night I made a call and protected a child I have called "Batman" for four years now. And Child Protective Services was more than happy to keep my name anonymous and say that they were "acting on a hunch." After I saw their car pull up and heard them enter the house, I went back to sleep.

We haven't had a complaint about the dogs since the houses next store were finished. I have noticed the abusive tantrums from Batman and his mom have also gone away. I hope they haven't just moved it to another part of the house.

Banana Bread and Batman

When we moved into this townhome unit we were the first to buy. It was a great deal at the time. We paid top dollar in 2007 (though we didn't know that at the time).  And then the market plunged into outer darkness and our loan flipped $80,000 upside down within the next two years. We are not the type of people to feel good about walking away from our mortgage. We can afford it. It's not an optimal situation with our dogs, we wish we had a fenced in yard, but this is a choice we made, we borrowed money we didn't have and we are paying it back because we said we would.

But here's the thing: you're got to really love your neighbors when you move into a townhome. For the most part, we have awesome neighbors, the kind of people you run to when your end of the building is on fire and you're in your underwear. These people are stellar. So when the last people moved in, the people that would share a wall with us, we were excited to meet them and welcome them into our club.

They were not excited to meet us.

While the moving truck was pulled up out front we went over and introduced ourselves. They were polite. Their small son had a Batman costume on. Which, incidentally, he never took off in four years. Dad shook Andy's hand. He was very nice. Mom looked about my age which secretly made me happy because everyone else in the hood was half my age and bearing children right and left. We offered to help bring in boxes and it was like we had leperosy all of the sudden. "Don't touch anything," she said flatly, "we're fine."

Who says that? No one. You smile and say, "Oh, we're almost done but thanks anyway," or "You're so nice but we've got a system..." or something. Sheesh. "Don't touch anything."

I was unphased. I would go down with the ship as usual. So....

A few days later, instead of crashing on the couch after work, I got out the old Ninth Ward cookbook and baked some famous Zona Steiner banana bread (I had a hard time letting it out of the house).  While it was still hot, I wrapped it, tagged it with "Welcome home neighbors!!!!" Smiley face. Too many exclamation points. "Please rely on us for anything you need. Andy, Jan, Gus and Lily." Then I took three steps over to their front door, lights on everywhere, I could hear the 72" T.V., the kid running around screaming, mom yelling at him. "They will fit right in here," I thought. I rang the bell.


More silence. Like everyone inside the house had frozen, wondering what to do. Eyes shifting.

I took a step back. Maybe I was too close, "in their space" so to speak. That bread was hot so I switched hands. Rude to ring twice? Oh well. I was committed. Loud bell.

Creepy silence.

I saw the blind move quickly. Too quickly. I took another step back.

By this time I was thoroughly confused. Maybe they were in their underwear. So I waited a little longer giving them time to throw on clothes. Mormon women with hot banana bread to no go easily into the night.

Third ring. I'm nothing if not ballsy.

Lights start going off. Really?! Okay I get it, letting my macro smile fade. Should I take the banana bread back home and slice into that goodness myself? It had a sugar crust for crying out loud!!!! I wrestled! Hung my head and debated with myself. The other loaf was almost gone. No. I was taught better. Pause. Crunchy hot sugar crust. Dang!! I gently laid it on the welcome mat, took a deep breath, bid it goodbye and hoped it would call me as soon as it got inside to tell me what was really going on in there.

But it never got inside.

The next day, I saw it sitting there on my way to work. Poor thing had been out in the cold all night and was probably now as hard as a brick, and feeling bad that it had not fulfilled the measure of it's creation.

But I'm starting to. So... that's good anyway. (I hope it gave them ants.)