Browsing Tag

neighbors

Guest Posts, Pets, Relationships

Dogs Are Better Than People

April 3, 2022
dog

When my dog was attacked, it brought out the best and worst in me.

A college professor of mine once said, “I’ve never met a person who’s better than a dog.” He was a religion professor and seemed keen to say things that were a little edgy – that would make the class stop and think. One day, he argued that the bible is full of fables meant to teach morality rather than actual historical accounts. I don’t like to think of myself as sheltered – when I say I’m from Iowa, I always point out that I’m from a city in Iowa – but that was the first time I’d heard that concept. It was appealing to me because, at 19, I was growing more and more lukewarm toward religion, but not to the idea of having morals. Like, don’t lie, don’t be a jerk – that kind of thing.

And maybe that’s what he meant by his comment about dogs. They’re like little atheists who love unconditionally. Although, I did catch my dog, Lucy, stealing a couple of times. My husband, Devin, and I lived downtown, and our walking route was near all types of restaurants. While on a walk one day, I looked down to find her trotting along with a full piece of pizza in her mouth, happy as could be. Another time she scarfed down an alarming number of discarded chicken bones in a matter of seconds. (Folks, I know it doesn’t say this in the bible, but don’t throw your chicken bones on the ground.) After some Googling scared the crap out of me, I loaded her up in the car to go to the emergency vet, who shrugged and said, “Eh, it’ll pass.”

Shortly after that incident, we moved to the suburbs – not because of the chicken bones, that would have been silly – but because it’s just what Iowans do. What would we make small talk about if we didn’t have a yard to fuss over? Lucy was robbed of her chance to scrounge for food, but she did love our big, fenced-in yard where she could run around. There was just one problem: The dog on the other side of the fence, who actually seemed like kind of a jerk.

I don’t say this lightly. I legitimately love dogs more than the majority of people. The thing is, it wasn’t really the dog’s fault that he was an asshole. His owners left him (and his two small dog brothers) loose in their yard for hours and hours – once I counted 15 hours straight. So he had nothing to do other than lose his freaking mind every time Lucy’s collar so much as jangled on our side of the fence.

I was immediately annoyed, but I’m an Iowan with morals and politeness. So I talked to the neighbors gently. “Heyyy, did you know your dog barks when you’re gone?” I said. I left out the detail that their largest dog was also fond of slamming his 45-pound body against the vinyl fencing – out of boredom, I assume. I didn’t think it really mattered. The fact that he was a barking nuisance should have been enough, in my mind, to motivate them to take care of it – because morals, neighborliness, etc.

They half-heartedly tried bark collars for a while, remembering to put them on their dogs maybe 40% of the time. Then one of the little dogs got loose by slipping out from under the fence, which I know because I saw him sprinting outside my office window. I trapped the scared little thing in my garage until they got home, but not before he bit me. This was, admittedly, a little bit my fault. He was visibly scared and in no state of mind to be pet, which I had tried to do to comfort him. I returned him to them, and they apologized. Fine. Whatever. The raggedy little thing hadn’t even broken my skin.

They continued leaving their dogs out. A while later, my husband was standing in the backyard with Lucy. The fence was starting to lean at an alarming angle, a result of all the body-slamming. But we didn’t think he’d actually break it.

Suddenly, sunlight showed through the fence. Their dog had successfully popped one 12-inch vinyl panel out. Lucy ran over to see what was up, and the neighbor dog grabbed hold of her leg through the hole in the fence and refused to let go.

My husband instinctively grabbed Lucy to try to break it up, not having time to think about what a dog who was being actively attacked might do. Lucy bit his hand, but he persisted and broke the dogs up. Then he carried her, both of them bleeding heavily, into his car.

On the 30-minute drive to the emergency vet, he called me. “Just get here,” he said, telling me that Lucy was injured and leaving out the detail that he was, too. Then he called the neighbors.

“But can our dogs get out of the fence?” they asked. In the rush, he hadn’t thought about the fact that the little ones could probably escape. After all, they were prone to doing so even when there wasn’t a hole. Still driving, with our injured dog in the back, he called me again to ask me to call another neighbor to check on their dogs.

I married him partly because of his strong morals. And I don’t mean religious morals or anything like that (he’s an atheist). I mean that he cares about people (and dogs) he doesn’t even really know. He cares enough to make sure they’re okay even when he’s hurt.

Our neighbors were woefully missing those qualities. The next day, they started questioning which dog was the attacker, never mind that their dog was completely unharmed. Over Facebook Messenger, they tried to insist I call the whole thing an “incident” rather than an attack.

But at least our dog had survived. I threw myself into taking care of Lucy, who had a bandage covering the length of her leg that needed to be changed at the vet daily. Sometimes the vet would try to leave it off because it was hard on her eight-year-old body to be put under anesthesia every day (which was necessary to change the bandage). When she wasn’t wearing it, I’d put puppy pee pads under her to soak up the blood. I had to change them constantly. She’d had stitches, antibiotics, pain meds, and, at one point, laser therapy to try to heal the gaping wound.

Though there are many charming things about Lucy, one of the most charming is how she springs up and down on her feet when she’s excited. When we ask if she wants to go for a walk, she doesn’t jump but instead bounces vertically to answer in the affirmative. I feared she’d never be able to do that again.

I was an emotional mess. But strangely, I harbored fantasies of making up with the neighbors. I didn’t want to hate anyone. It’s one of the few pieces of advice from the bible that has stuck with me despite my waning religion: It’s not good to truly hate another person.

I pictured us having coffee on the porch, talking things over. “We won’t leave them out loose ever again,” I imagined them saying while I would give an understanding nod of forgiveness. After all, these things happen. If they take responsibility, all can be forgiven.

But it didn’t happen like that.

They were standoffish and defensive, and I only hated them more every time we tried to have an interaction with them. Looking at their house started to feel like looking at the place where evil lived. Once, when we were tensely trying to sort out vet bills, I snapped and screamed at them, saying that their dog could’ve killed Lucy as angry tears ran down my face. The dogs’ altercation was brief, but ours had the makings of decades worth of resentment and salty looks.

But even while I was the angriest I’ve perhaps ever been, I was flooded with love for the little mutt we had found at a shelter. And that love started seeping out everywhere.

My dad came to the vet with me one day, and I cried on his shoulder for the first time in 20 years or so. It’s not that my dad and I aren’t close – we talk and hang out frequently – but we don’t often show a ton of emotion. Maybe it’s something about our Scandinavian ancestry, but we’re the most comfortable being pretty stoic. But any walls I had up were completely broken down, and I appreciated him more than I had in a long time.

It was spring and raining constantly, so I made insane-looking plastic bag contraptions to keep Lucy’s bandage dry – the vet’s strict instructions. The poor thing couldn’t figure out how to pee with all of that crinkling, so it was a constant cycle of bagging her leg (which she didn’t appreciate) and taking her out, over and over again.

Then a light bulb went off in my head: Lucy will always pee wherever another dog has peed. She’s a bit like a boy dog in that way, lifting her leg to mark her territory. I didn’t have another dog around, but I did have pee. My husband, watching the idea forming in my head, gently protested. Always one to try to be polite and proper, he considered pouring piss around the yard to be beyond the pale. But he was exhausted, too. So I filled a red solo cup with my pee, walked out into the yard, and dumped it.

It was not the most lady-like thing I’ve done, but it worked. Encouraged by my success, I cut out the middleman and squatted (wearing a long dress) in the yard. I missed a little and had to change immediately, but I didn’t really care. If Lucy can give me unconditional love, the least I can do is pee in the yard for her.

As the weather warmed, we tried to turn on our air conditioning to keep her as comfortable as possible, but it wouldn’t start. After having moved in the previous October, we hadn’t used it yet. I called a repairman and made plans to get to the door before he’d have a chance to ring the doorbell.

But he was a little early. Lucy instinctively went sprinting toward the door, injured leg be damned. I immediately burst into tears, positive she’d worsened her injury.

But I still had to open the door. In a long, once peed-on dress with tears streaming down my face, I let him in. It turned out that the air conditioner had just never been plugged in. The man plugged it in for me and then spent a few minutes sitting next to Lucy and me on the floor. He gently pet her, avoiding her bandaged leg, and told a story about his own dog getting attacked once. It was one of several dog fight stories I heard in the weeks after her injury, usually involving humans acting worse than the dogs after the fact. Mysteriously, a bill for the repair never arrived.

My parents came over to help frequently so we could (attempt to) actually work. We ate a lot of fast food and tried to let Lucy out in the sun as much as possible at my mom’s insistence. She was convinced it would have healing powers (which I believe was the treatment for tuberculosis before antibiotics, but sure).

We ended up talking about my grandpa, her dad, for the first time in years. Even though we both admitted we thought about him frequently and missed him tons, we rarely brought him up. He had died some 11 years before, so it seemed too long to ago to still miss him – or something. But it was nice to open up about. Lucy, who’s never shy about showing that she’s missed you even if you’ve only been gone for five minutes, gazed up at us from her bed while we talked.

She was beginning to heal. In fact, given the severity of the injury, her recovery was amazing. “I was sure she’d have nerve damage,” the vet, who mercifully didn’t mention that earlier, said.

Then, a few months later, a tiny miracle happened. Visibly scarred but seemingly not burdened by resentment, Lucy started springing up and down in place as though nothing had happened.

Almost a year to the day later, I watched as the neighbors loaded their belongings into a moving truck. Pulling my couch up next to the front window for a better view and sipping on tea, I watched evil pack up. A passive Lucy napped on the couch next to me, uninterested in gloating about their leaving.

And I was gloating a little. But caring for my dog had also cracked something good open in me. Watching them pull away, I felt a surge of love. Not for the neighbors, but for Lucy and everyone I care about. Like a spring from my heart.

Jessica Carney is a nonfiction writer and event planner. She’s working on a book about the chaos, mishaps, and times plans went awry at concerts and events. Her writing has been featured on NBC News, Shondaland, and Quartz, among other outlets. She lives in Iowa with her husband, Devin, and their dog Lucy.

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Statement on Black Lives Matter and support for social change

Grief, Guest Posts, storytelling

The Widow Next Door

February 20, 2017
neighbor

By Shawna Kenney

We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men.
-Herman Melville

Where I grew up in Southern Maryland, our nearest neighbors were sometimes miles away. Still, I rode my bike through the woods and drove my first car around town confident in the fact that if there were ever an emergency, help wasn’t so far away. Neighbors kept an eye on us kids when my mom went back to work and my dad was away on duty with the Navy. They towed my prom date’s car out of the ditch while he and I stood by, helpless in our 80s couture. They also snitched on my sister and I when we were in high school and threw a big party while my parents were out of town. Since my dad’s death a few years ago, neighbors still plow my mother’s driveway after every snowstorm, unasked. When I later moved to Queens, NY in my twenties, the grey-haired woman next door welcomed me with kugel. In grad school in North Carolina, we shared blueberries with our neighbors’ granddaughter and he would periodically cut back our weeds when he was out chopping his own.

Now I live in Los Angeles, where I’ve left apartments due to bad neighbors—3 a.m. high-heeled stompers, incessant complainers, violent rage-aholics… but even in a city as vast as this, where things get downright Darwinian when it comes to parking spaces or freeway merging, I have mostly lived next to nice people. It’s good to know the mailman and it makes me happy to find familiar faces in a county of 10 million. Deep in my psyche, Sesame Street always looms as the ideal. Continue Reading…

Compassion, Guest Posts, Inspiration

Grace Notes

April 20, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Melodye Shore

As I rounded the last corner on my morning walk, I stopped to admire a flowering pink azalea. Dainty pink blossoms fluttered on graceful stems, lifted like ballerinas on the morning breeze. Winter was being nudged back into hibernation, and spring was doing one last dress rehearsal before taking center stage.

But my reverie was cut short.

The air was filled with the unmistakable whine of chainsaws, and the frantic chattering of displaced birds.

I raced toward my house, chased after the disembodied sounds until I found their source.

An army of gardeners surrounded the pepper trees in my neighbor’s yard, right behind my own. They stood sentry along our common fence, weapons raised, until my neighbor called out to them in broken Spanish. Chainsaws bit into bark–a steady, grinding noise–as one after another, amputated trees limbs crashed to the ground at the workmen’s feet.

My heart sank. Planted in the wrong spot, Brazilian pepper trees can be a bit unruly. Without pruning, they grow impossibly tall and unruly. They litter the ground with seedpods, and their gnarled trunks shed bark. They’re not indigenous to our area, and it shows. Even so, I love them. They provide shade during the hottest part of summer, and they offer sanctuary to the countless birds that, moments earlier, had taken to the sky, voicing their displeasure.

Hummingbirds patrolled the wooden fence, wings whirring as they dive-bombed the intruders. Mockingbirds hovered above emptied nests, and house finches fought in vain to protect their hatchlings. Homeless now, a pair of orioles took wing, a blur of sunshine that disappeared when they vanished.

I stared at a bald patch of sky, where leafy branches used to be, and I was overcome by a naked sense of vulnerability.  My heart ached for the birds—their sanctuary was being destroyed! But when the hacked-off branches teetered on the fence, and then collapsed into my yard like fallen corpses, my fingers tightened around my phone.

Now what? I asked myself. My neighbor and I were strangers— the fence, the trees that divided our properties also separated us from one another. I wouldn’t recognize his face, were I to bump into him at our local market, and I didn’t have his phone number.

So I called my sister, who lives 1000 miles away. “He’s killing them,” I sobbed.

“Wha–” The panic in her voice was palpable. But as I related the situation, blubbered on and on about dismembered trees and murderous gardeners, the urgency in her voice dissolved into relieved laughter, followed by sighs of relief.

“What can you do?” she said. “His property, his trees…I’m sorry, but I don’t know what I can do to make you feel better.”

So I called my husband. “You should see this!” I wailed. My eyes were blurred by tears, but I tried valiantly to describe for him the massacre as it continued to unfold.

Awkward silence.

“I wish I could help you,” he eventually said, “but by the time I get home from work, the damage will already be done.”

We ended our conversation, and in that hollow space between knowing and not believing the situation in which I found myself, I heard a still, small voice. It called me out of my panic, whispered the answer I needed to hear.

Share your concerns with the right person, it said. Speak up, while you still can. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Beating Fear with a Stick, Guest Posts

What Happens When You Live Next To Your Worst Nightmare?

September 22, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Renata Youngblood.

I had a good conversation with my meth-addict neighbor the other day.

You see, something switched in me when there was yet-another raid next door last Thursday. I’ve seen the tweakers come and go for a while and at times it bothered me, but for the most part I felt only a compassionate sadness for the lives wasted in addiction. I’m even guilty of finding humor in some of the characters we’ve witness showing up in broad daylight barely able to walk to the door of this partially painted, infinitely haunted, next door monstrosity.

But something definitely switched inside me at 5 am last Thursday when I was up with my hungry baby and heard the visiting tweakers rifling through their car right in front of my house.

Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts, healing

The Only Marriage Advice I Will Ever Give.

November 14, 2013

The Only Marriage Advice I Will Ever Give

By Julie Tijerina

Poster by Simplereminders.com

Poster by Simplereminders.com

When I was 13 years old, my father nearly punched me in the face.

He and my uncle were playing cards with my mother and aunt upstairs in the game room.  A green vinyl-topped card table had been erected to accommodate the game at the end of the pool table that filled the whole rest of the room.  Everyone was around the table, the adults, me and my kid sister because that room was the only one in the house with air conditioning.  I don’t really remember, but I’m sure it was a Fourth of July weekend, because that’s when my extended family would come down from Kansas to drink and blow up fireworks in the heat of the Texas summer.  We lived out in the country, so we weren’t breaking any laws to light fireworks and it became an annual stay-cation to invite the family and make a long weekend of the holiday.

The window unit circulated the cigarette smoke around the room.  It was smokier than any bar I’d ever visit as an adult. I lifted myself up to leave.  My drunken father pushed me back in my chair, laughing Jack and Coke in my face.  Again, I made a move to get up. Again, pushed back in my seat.  The third time, I expected the hand at my chest, so as he went to push me back into my chair, I swung hard at his forearm, knocking his arm back toward him and darted out the door, slamming it behind me.  I knew he was right behind me, so I ran as quickly as I could down the stairs, but he caught me as I was clearing the last piece of furniture in the living room, the sofa.

My dad’s left hand had me by the front of the shirt, his right raised with a closed fist. He had me backed over the arm of the sofa and I couldn’t have been any more trapped.  I turned my head as far to the right as I could, squeezing my eyes shut against what I knew was coming. My face would have been shattered if my mother hadn’t been hot on his heels down the stairs and was hanging onto his raised bicep with all of her body weight.

I was suddenly released. With a glare from my mother to each of us, she ordered him back upstairs and said to me with a finger pointing, “go to your room.”  Jesus Christ, you don’t have to tell me twice.

I didn’t forgive him for twenty five years.

Just before midnight on August 2, 2011, I found myself drunk on several glasses of wine in my best friends’ living room, having just finished a movie when a commercial came on that started a fight.  I’d relay the whole story, but it would make me sound like I was somehow justifying my behavior, which is totally impossible, so I’ll just paint you a picture instead: imagine a little blonde, drunk bitch, with her chest puffed out, screaming (yes, literally screaming) obscenities and insults at the people she eats dinner with 2 nights a week, traveled all over North America with and shared hotel rooms with, was at the time dreaming of moving to Florida with. In THEIR living room. I was so livid, my mouth was moving faster than my brain and I stormed out, taking the car, leaving my shell-shocked husband there to the deal with the group confusion.

My friends brought him home, where another fight ensued and I began to pack my clothes. My husband of 18 years helpfully handed me a box.

At one in the morning, I drove myself to my parents’ place, an hour away. (Yes, still drunk.)  I slept in my car until five in the morning when I heard my dad coughing on his back patio.  I guess that’s what old ex-smokers do.  They cough out of habit more than anything.

So, I knocked on the front door.  Since it was pre-dawn, I was greeted at the door by a flood light and a shotgun.  (No, I’m not kidding. This is Texas, after all.)  In hindsight, maybe I should have texted my parents to let them know I was there before I knocked on the door.

I stayed the day.  By the time I really sobered up and rested, I was so mortified by my behavior, I didn’t want to go home. I was invited home by my husband.  We had a long talk, as you can imagine.  And, when we were done, he arranged for me to make a 30-minute mea culpa to our friends. My memories of the day that my dad drunkenly attacked me came flooding back.  I had been in their place.  I knew exactly how they felt. I knew that I had dehumanized them, humiliated them, confused them, betrayed them, even. I also knew I didn’t deserve forgiveness because up to that point, I had been unable to forgive.  I knew I had destroyed something precious, something that was sweet and fun and brought us all joy.

The next day, I was so wracked with guilt and sadness that I did the long, big, ugly cry.  My poor husband was trying to be as supportive as he could without actually absolving me.  He knew too that I didn’t deserve redemption.  I had injured him as well, because our friendship now hung in the balance, and his life would be forever changed without these beloved friends.  But, like he always had, he stayed the course, working as an intermediary.  Trying to get us all to eat meals together and return to our normal activity level again. Since he and my girlfriend carpooled to work, I’m sure that many a conversation was had about what to do with me.  (He never shared them with me, for the record.)

I swore off booze for a time and kept my shoes on whenever I was in their home. I was determined not to make myself too comfortable in that space again, so I continually reminded myself I was a guest.  After five years of friendship, that thought tore at my heart.  It was ultimately my husband’s clearheaded words that struck a chord in the soul of my friend and healed her wound on my behalf.  (All the contrition in the world can’t make someone else forgive you.  It is their choice and their choice alone.)

At that point, my dad had actually been sober for 20 years – 20 YEARS! and had worked so hard to put his family back together. After 25 years reliving his alcoholism and trapping myself in my own head with emotional worthlessness, I was finally able to release that outdated version of him.  I never understood the angry outbursts before. I always felt victimized before.  Now I desperately wanted and needed that exact same forgiveness that I had been unwilling or unable to grant. Where it took me 25 years to forgive my father, it took her a mere year to forgive me and I’m grateful every day.

The “after-school special” part of this story, obviously is that we are all free.  After a year of (understandable) emotional distance, my girlfriend invited me to a pedicure, and I knew I had been forgiven.  But, because she chose to let go, she no longer has to relive the pain I inflicted. We don’t discuss it, or try to explain it. I released my father too and I no longer have to relive the pain he inflicted. When those memories find their way into my mind, they are easily dismissed as the vapor they are.

Our friendship and my family is (through changed behavior) whole. My husband and I bought a house behind our friends and we’ve all managed to get back to normal. We have since traveled together, shared hotel rooms together again and eaten many, many meals together. I still watch my alcohol intake when we are together in either of our homes. But, on the rare occasion I’ve had too much at a party, my “second husband” is willing to pretend to dance with me while he’s really supporting me on the dance floor.

You know when you go to a wedding, the little cards at your place setting that ask you for your marriage advice?  The only thing I write is, “forgive.”

JTijerina_03-13_small

Julie Tijerina is on a quest to learn about herself, the world and to observe other people with curiosity rather than judgment. Her home is in Dallas, but her soul is always at the ocean; her current job is in a cubicle, but her life’s work is writing. She’s a SciFi geek, a yogi, a former therapy patient, a lover of dark haired men and honest women. She was catapulted out of depression by Learned Optimism and may have just learned the secret of happiness by identifying her Core Desired Feelings. She believes all the hard stuff takes at least a year, so ease up on yourself, love.

funny, MindBodyGreen

Sexorcism.

October 10, 2012

That’s right, you read it right.

Apparently my husband and I had one last night.

At least, according to the note pinned to our front door.

I can assure you that it was not Robert and I. (Okay, I can’t really assure you but I am telling you.) Trust me, I would be proud if said sexorcism was ours.

I was sick last night and in bed with A Visit from the Goon Squad and Rob was eating salt-n-vinegar chips and watching soccer. I was asleep early with tissues in my nostrils because my nose wouldn’t stop running. Sexy, right?

Rob told me the couple in the building across way were going at it really loudly. Naturally, with my hearing loss, I did not hear. (I miss out on all the fun.)

I wish I had the courage to leave a note like that on someone’s door.

(Actually, no. I don’t.)

Nonetheless, the note made my day. I am going to leave it there.

Love, Jen-the-sex-o-maniac

Jennifer Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon, and more. Jen leads her signature Manifestation Retreats & Workshops all over the world. The next retreat is to Ojai, Calif over Labor Day. Check out jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up: SeattleLondon, Atlanta, South Dakota, NYC, Dallas, Tucson & The Berkshires (guest speaker Canyon Ranch.) She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Next Manifestation workshop is London July 6. Book here.