Our dogs have been trampling our next door neighbors’ banana tree area for several months now. We’ve tried to adjust their shock collar range to keep them out of the neighboring beach and yard. Hasn’t worked. We’ve tried to supervise them, which involves us yelling and them ignoring us. That hasn’t worked, either. Of course, the banana grove is great outhouse territory, secluded, easy access to their own yard but not in their own yard, so who wouldn’t poop there? Plus, other than this one issue, we thought we were being good new neighbors. We created nice new landscaping. We improved a property that looked like a crack house for raccoons. We don’t party or play loud music. There are no cars up on blocks. Still, we started getting shovels full of dirt and poo on the front deck, tossed there by the neighbors’ yard guy. Hint.
After getting a shaming letter in the mail, we took embarrassed action and hired our yard guy and his crew to build a fence next to our deck and out into the river which would separate the two properties. The long suffering Mr. P. and his crew slogged in river muck and high winds for hours and actually completed the whole job in one day. Our elderly neighbor walked out on his balcony to observe. “That motherfucker! I hope he’s happy!” said my infamous mother in law, somewhat surprisingly, since she not-so-secretly hopes that all the dogs will die one day really soon.
It’s a bizarre defensiveness that hangs over you when you’re clearly in the wrong but you resent having to admit it and do something about it. It’s like a baby whose unholy screams are drawing blood from everyone’s eardrums. “You try to stop her, then!” snaps the poor parent to the first smart ass who bothers to complain. Just because we didn’t use birth control, or can’t afford a babysitter, or are stupid enough to own four dogs, doesn’t mean you can throw down superior judgments, you old dog-hating, baby-hating intolerants. Ya’ll go blow some leaves off your driveway. Lighten up! After all, we’re suffering, too. Every fuckin’ minute. So you can share our suffering, since we’ve created a problem beyond anyone’s control.
The fence is nothing like anybody imagined. We showed Mr. P some photos of dune fencing and ended up with something like a livestock enclosure on a Guatemalan finca, posts crossed with wire. “It kind of looks like something from Samuel Mockbee’s Rural Studio,” I said on the phone before my husband got home, struggling to lend it some kind of aesthetic dignity. Really, though, as I studied it by moonlight around 2 am, I realized it’s just butt-ugly. It’s effective, though. The dogs poop on their own beach now. The only dog it hasn’t totally stopped is Sammy, because he’s so small and can slip through the wire like Peter Rabbit into Mr. McGregor’s garden. Fortunately, he sticks so close to my side that I can grab him in the nick of time before he crosses over to the forbidden zone.
Robert Frost — or more accurately, his neighbor — knew that fences were good things. RF thought fences were kind of dumb trappings of civilization, but he would probably feel differently if a bulldog was digging up his garden and he stepped in droppings left by a retriever the size of a Shetland pony. I’m not even sure if we’ll be on speaking terms with our neighbors. Between me defending my badly behaved babies and our neighbors’ elder-snit, a fence was long overdue.