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Column: It started off as a dog dispute ...

It started one spring. One neighbor began building a chain-link kennel at the very back of his property, against the fence of his neighbor to the rear. The other neighbor didn't give it much thought or even recognize it as a kennel because the fi...

It started one spring. One neighbor began building a chain-link kennel at the very back of his property, against the fence of his neighbor to the rear. The other neighbor didn't give it much thought or even recognize it as a kennel because the first neighbor didn't have dogs. Then they showed up, two of them. Labs or something. The second neighbor still didn't pay much mind, except when they barked as he and his wife approached the fence.

But as the dogs got used to their new surroundings, their perception of their territory grew. Now the second neighbor and his wife were getting barked at in the middle of their yard, then anywhere in it. Then it got really bad. The barking would start when the couple walked out their back door, 100 feet away, or stood on their deck, and even when the husband got in or out of his car along the side of the house, nowhere near the backyard.

He would tell them shush. That didn't work. Shut up! Nope. Finally one day, he could take no more and ran across the yard, started jumping up and down just as the dogs did and barked back at them.

The first neighbors, husband and wife, came running. The second neighbor's wife ran down, too. Make your dogs shut up! they demanded. No, the first neighbor's wife countered: They hadn't started barking until your husband intimidated them. That's not true, the other wife snapped back. They bark all the time. They bark whenever I open my back door. They even bark when I'm sitting inside at my window!

The two women fumed, and each stormed off for a moment. But the first neighbor stayed and, meekly, began to apologize. They were his daughter's dogs, he explained, and he was keeping them while she was going through some difficulties. Yes, they bark; he was sorry and would do something about it. They had never really spoken before and now all four introduced themselves and shook hands over the fence.

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The dogs were kept inside for a while and after a few days, the second neighbor saw them outside. They spied him. One barked -- and yelped in pain. The same thing happened a few days later with the other dog, and after a while, they would just stand in their kennel, staring at the second couple no matter what they did in their yard. The second couple felt sorry for them now; it was an electronic barking collar or something and it felt bad to hear them cry when a rare bark would slip out. Or to watch them, knowing they wanted to bark, but fearing the pain. Pretty soon the couple was giving friendly greetings to the dogs, who now would watch them curiously.

The summer ended and they were taken inside. When the next spring came, they did not materialize. Either the daughter had gotten herself back together or some other solution availed itself.

And that's the way a dog dispute should end. But here's a footnote: The second neighbor is a black man from Chicago. In a very loose recitation of the facts, you could say he has a baby mama in yet another city, bopped around at least a dozen addresses over the years and has taken a good job that could otherwise go to a real Duluthian who was born here.

I can't say I've murdered anyone, though.

Robin Washington is news director of the News Tribune. He may be reached at rwash ington@duluthnews.com .

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