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Puppies, Shame and Ice Water

By Sandra Macke-Piper, MSC|CPA|LPC

Around 10:15pm there was a knock at my front door. Hesitantly I cracked the door open. It was dark and I was the only one home at the time. Fortunately, it turned to be a neighbor and not someone planning a home invasion. The neighbor on my front stoop was in her house robe which immediately caused me some concern. I figured whatever was going on must be serious.

After greeting her she told me my dogs were waking her up in the morning and keeping her up at night because of their barking. I apologized and said I was unaware their barking had bothered anyone but would make sure it did not happen again. Then she added it was waking up her kids in the morning and they were not happy about it. I thought to myself, “Aren’t your kids in high school?”. It was a random thought and did not matter. My dogs definitely should not be waking up my neighbors unless their house is on fire. Thus I kept the thought to myself.

Again, I apologized and attempted to reassure her it would not happen again. I thanked her for letting me know. Undeterred by my apology and promise to fix things, she continued. My puppy, who I have had for two months, was evidently bothering a lot of the neighbors. According to this neighbor, they had formed a Sandy-is-a-bad-neighbor committee and had been talking about me behind my back. This woman, the one at my door, was the only member who possessed the necessary bravery to tell me to my face what a horrible neighbor I had been. Then she said she did not want to be the kind of neighbor who complained for no reason. I assured her I understood her frustration, thanked her sincerely for telling me and reiterated the problem would be addressed immediately.

I am not certain what she heard me say but she pressed on. She felt the need to point out people are sleeping in the morning and I could not just leave my dog outside to bark. At this point I told her I do let my two puppies out in the morning and then go to the bathroom. Then I let them back in to feed them. She said she thought it was the little one that had a particularly piercing bark and I just could not do that. I agreed and said one of the puppies rarely barked but the other one had a very high-pitched bark. Once more I assured my neighbor, of more than a decade, I did not want to be a bad neighbor and would definitely address the situation. She tacked on at the end, she wanted to let me know how horrible the barking had been for her and her family and that the barking could not continue.

My initial genuine appreciation of her telling me was starting to give way a bit. Beat a dead horse much was a phrase running through my brain at the end. But most of what was going through my head was just how genuinely bad I felt about causing my neighbors distress.

When I awoke the next morning, I took my dogs out and stayed out with them, making certain they did not bark. At all. Operation No Barking was in effect at my house. I talked with both of my children about the importance of not waking the neighbors. What I did not say was, if we all didn’t work together to get the problem addressed, the dogs would have to go.

What I have been feeling all day is shame