New Year’s Resolution: Be Nice

Received this one of our readers:

Neighbors, if you are having an issue with a neighbor, instead of leaving nasty anonymous notes, how about leaving a signed note? That way, everyone can work it out. If you’ve got a problem, go talk to your neighbor face to face.

Background: we had a relative visiting for the holidays with her dogs. Being dogs, they bark. We had someone take bagged dog poop from the garbage and leave it on our front porch, and a nasty anonymous letter complaining about the barking.

- Janice and Richard
(3 year Wallingford homeowners)

I know it can be painful to confront people in person, but it’s surprising how often you find out some piece of information that might change your mind about what’s going on. And it boggles my mind that someone would feel they needed to speak up enough to leave a bag of dog poop and a note, but then be such a coward that they couldn’t simply knock and express their feelings face-to-face.

So here’s a new year’s resolution for that anonymous pooper: talk to your neighbors in person if you’ve got a beef.

  • Donn

    I remember back in the day, a New Year’s Resolution was something you made for yourself to follow, not for someone else.

    The problem here is probably that we are living within a rather impoverished social structure. In a more traditional community, I suppose there would typically be elders who would resolve conflicts like this. We have plenty of old people in Wallingford, so maybe just find an old person, explain the problem and have them go and deal with it!

    Seriously, this is one of the places where some level of comfortable social relations between neighbors pays off. When you need to resolve a problem, when you need help with something, when you just need neighbors who will put up with you. Otherwise, if your neighbors are basically just familiar looking strangers, might as well stick with the dog poop. Try dog poop with a really nice, apologetic note, might throw them off balance.

  • Huber Cooney

    Plus one to Janice and Richard. A few years back we had some young people sitting our house and dogs one Saturday night. They left a window open and went out until late, being young people and all. Our dogs barked and howled most of that time, which wouldn’t have been an issue if they’d closed the window, but when the young folks came home it was to a nasty and anonymous note from a neighbor. I understand dogs barking until almost midnight is unpleasant but if someone would have left a less nasty note, and signed it, we would have apologized in person with hat in hand and tried to explain it was unintentional and wouldn’t happen again. However, if we ever figure out who left the nastygram (and I have some suspicions), I’m going to knock on their door and advise them of better ways to resolve conflict while simultaneously reminding them of the pettiness of their characters.

    One Saturday afternoon a year or so later, I left the dogs outside and they must have barked at our neighbor’s cat for too long because the police called us with a complaint from a neighbor. Repeat. A Saturday afternoon. While we were home. I guess they figured they’d get caught if they left a note.

    We are not the only ones this has happened to around here. It’s left a bitter taste in my mouth about the people in this neighborhood. Reminds me of the old man we grew up next door to who was always screaming at us to get off his lawn. I guess some people don’t grow up. Just nasty.

  • Donn

    On the other hand, I bet a quarter the times your dogs’ barking has annoyed your neighbors outnumbers these two incidents by two or three orders of magnitude.

  • Sea

    If your dogs or guests’ dogs are known to be barkers, you could introduce yourself to your neighbors, inform them about the dogs, and ask them to contact you directly (give your phone #, don’t expect that they walk over to you-in Huber’s example, nobody was home) if the noise is excessive. This would likely go a long way toward preventing nastygrams. It’s just like if you start a home remodeling project-you’re much better off if you inform your neighbors ahead of time, rather than expecting that they will pleasantly reach out to you when the noise or commotion has become too much.

    Also, if your dog barks while you are away, find a way to address that behavioral issue. Dog and neighbors alike will likely be happier.

  • Huber Cooney

    Thanks for the sanctimoniousness, Donn and Sea. And for the reminder that dogs bark. Happy new year!

    • Abigail

      to Huber Cooney – Is the tone of your last posting possibly a clue to why people leave you notes rather than approaching you in person?

      Donn and Sea’s posts can be viewed as helpful suggestions to take a look at.

  • brazen_infidel

    You are SO inconsiderate of your neighbors as to torment them with this noise, and then you have the damned gall to bitch about THEM not being “nice” enough to YOU? Cry me a river!

    I was once in a very similar situation. I implored my neighbor very nicely on several occasions to keep the dog from barking for hours on end, day or night, but to no avail.

    Wish I had thought of dog poop myself! It’s a good bet that anyone as rude and stupid as to inflict such a nuisance on their neighbors in the first place probably can’t be reasoned with.

  • Donn

    Very likely there’s little they can do about it anyway. This coupled with the “he’s just being a dog!” attitude, and the feeling that everyone is by rights entitled to dogs. I’m sure the police get tired of hearing about it, too. I wish people would have horses instead, they’re quieter and you can use the by-products in gardening.

  • Neighbor2You

    I’m not excusing the poop-on-porch action, but I do wish I felt more confident that this hypothetical in-person exchange would result in something other than the defensive claim of: “They’re dogs. They bark.”
    I think most of us can abide an occasional woof-woof. For me, it’s actually a sound of reassurance that our canine friends are responding to what they hear in their surroundings. Not a problem.
    Chronic barking is another matter, and falls into affecting one’s neighbors in an unneighborly way. Speaking up about that may be an uncertain, even unsettling, prospect to some. So I’d like to offer a technique I learned when I first moved to Seattle in the late 1980′s: my new neighbors dropped by, introduced themselves, and gave me their phone number, saying, “We don’t always know if the sounds in our place are annoying to others. If that happens, just call and let us know. We’ll quiet down right away!”
    Wow. Now that’s not just neighborly…it’s gracious. I immediately reciprocated…and we’d established a communication line. It’s a practice I’ve followed every time I’ve moved or when someone new moves in near me, so that my neighbors know I’m open to hearing their concerns, be it about music, dogs, or whatever. Will we always agree? No, I imagine not, but at least they know in advance that I’ll answer the door to hear them out, and to talk with them.

    • brazen_infidel

      I agree. Janice and Richard’s cavalier comment, “Being dogs, they bark,” doesn’t inspire much confidence in their empathy or respect for their neighbors. Did they reach out to the neighborhood before bringing in the nuisance dog?
      Well, it’s never too late to be neighborly. I’d suggest that, instead of sending huffy notes to the Wallyhood blog, they visit every home within earshot of their house, bringing a box of bonbons as a peace offering, and apologize for the inconvenience they have caused.

    • Janice

      Hi Neighbor2You, I agree with your recommendation. You put my point in much better words! Introduce yourself to your neighbors! Meet them! Bring something tasty to the block party. If something happens, talk about it rather than leaving anonymous threatening notes in a way in which nothing can be worked out.

  • Wallyhood

    For me, it comes down to intention: the person who had dogs who barked didn’t INTEND to annoy their neighbors. They may not have realized that is was annoying or how annoying it was. On the other hand, the dog poop person was being DELIBERATELY cowardly (by being anonymous) and rude (dog poop). There’s a HUGE difference, in my opinion.

    Plus, there’s the practicality of the outcome: I’ve had my music up too loud. Someone comes and tells me, I apologize and turn it down. Someone anonymously leaves dog shit on my step, fuck them. Which outcome would you want?

    • brazen_infidel

      Absent any prior acquaintance and rapport between the parties involved, your feckless advice, if followed, could easily lead to violence, even tragedy. You don’t know what kind of sociopaths you might be dealing with. Yes, even in Wallingford.
      As for intentions, that drunk driver who just ran over your wife and baby in the crosswalk didn’t INTEND to hit them. She just didn’t care enough not to drive while impaired — just like Janice and Richard didn’t give a thought to their neighbors. So screw “intentions.”
      Some moderator.

  • Donn

    No question, I’d want them to find the volume dial on those dogs, and turn them all the way down. If only. “Being dogs, they bark.”

    You got one side of the story, and went to press with it. We’re doing your job for you, reading between the lines for the other side. Maybe we’re right, maybe not, but just remember, when people bring their stories to you, pointing fingers at their rotten neighbors — leaving notes on their improperly parked cars, notes on their porches over their barking dogs — there’s always another side to those stories. People who are always having trouble with their neighbors, maybe it’s because their neighbors are rotten, or just misguided and need to you to explain how to do better … or maybe it’s not that simple.

  • Donn

    Excuse me, I forgot to address your point about intention.

    Some years back, I was situated between dog owners on two sides. At any time I ventured out into my back yard, I was likely to have one or the other of them barking at me. A third, neighbor on the diagonal, also had dogs, so they’d all bark at each other whenever they were out. This lasted basically as long as the dogs lived. About the only thing my neighbors could have done, would have been to keep the dogs inside their houses at all times, and that wasn’t a realistic expectation. So … I’m your neighbor, here’s my proposition: I’m going to get a couple of dogs, maybe they’ll be nice quiet dogs that everyone likes, or maybe they’ll bark incessantly at all hours, for weeks, months, years, until everyone is about out of their gourd. Who knows. However it turns out, that’s how my little doggies are, and it’s your job to put up with it, even though as your neighbor I haven’t made any priority to endear myself to you and I’m not going to even apologize unless confronted directly. Did I INTEND to annoy you? Heavens no!

  • Sea

    Jordan, some people don’t give a shit whether they’re annoying their neighbors. You’re assuming that people who are told their music is too loud or their dog is barking too much are going to respond kindly. Huge assumption, and as brazen noted, potentially dangerous.

    • Wallyhood

      I don’t believe that the dog-poop leaver thought to themselves “I would go over and confront the person personally, but I’m worried for my safety if I do, so I’ll leave an anonymous note and dog-poop, instead,” which is what you’re implying. Do you really, honestly (not for the sake of argument, but in your heart) believe it?

  • Janice

    Hi Wallyhood readers! Original poster here. I wanted to make a few clarifications. We love our neighborhood and our neighbors, and we have a lot of respect for our neighborhood. We know most of our adjacent neighbors by name. If you need a jump, knock on our door. If you need to borrow a lawn mower, it’s yours! If you need someone to help lift something heavy, let me get my shoes. The “cavalier” attitude that some have taken about our post is how I was dealing with how upset and shocked we were at the extremely rude and nasty anonymous note. We had already planned on leaving cards with our contact information and explanation of the duration of my sister-in-law’s visit next year. And, if the visiting dogs are barking too much, or our music is too loud, we’d be happy to do something about it.

  • Yani

    You people are all jumping on Janice when they aren’t even her dogs, and she had no idea they were going to annoy someone, especially with such an enormously rude gesture. Online, everyone immediately goes into judge and condemn mode.

  • brazen_infidel

    Breaking news: Sister Theresa is alive and well, and in Wallingford, no less. Who knew?
    Well, one of her neighbors didn’t, and something here (besides the poop) doesn’t pass the smell test. Why would a recipient of OP’s many benevolent deeds feel the need to make his or her complaint in such a furtive manner? There must be something intimidating about this couple, their house guests and or the dogs in question.
    Speaking of which, as guardian of and neighbor to many dogs over the years, I have found that the chronic barkers are usually neglected or mistreated. I feel sorry for the dogs, who must have felt abandoned in a strange environment while their owners and hosts were away partying. Leaving the animals in this condition is not what such a kindly person as OP purports to be would do.
    On top of that, OP announces her intention to subject the neighborhood that she “loves” and has “a lot of respect for” to a repeat performance in the coming year. Can you spell OBTUSE? Can you spell ENORMOUSLY RUDE?
    Mamma mia, this is not going to end well. I hope the poor dogs do not suffer the consequences.

    • Wallyhood

      “I’m going to take care of dogs next year, and I’ll be sure to contact all of my neighbors personally beforehand to make sure they have my contact info, in case the barking annoys them”. If that spells enormously rude, I need spelling lessons.

      • brazen_infidel

        You do if the dogs you are hosting have a history of creating a nuisance with their barking, as OP’s now do.
        And if your neighbors do complain, what are you going to do about it? Tell them, dogs will be dogs?

    • Yani

      You are making assumptions.

      First, my own dog LOVES to bark. He is in no way neglected or mistreated. He thinks he’s protecting me. He barks at the slightest movements. I sometimes think he loves barking the way people love to sing. Unfortunately, he spends most of the day inside so his barking doesn’t bother anyone. He still barks inside too, though not nearly as much. Fortunately none of my neighbors thought putting a bag of dog poop on my porch was a solution. Which incidentally is not a solution, and only causes bad blood between neighbors. I have apologized to my neighbors before, and I’m sure if this was Janice’s dog, she probably would have had the same conversations with her neighbors as I have.

      Secondly, you are assuming that they abandoned this dog while they were away partying. You don’t know this. You have no idea what the circumstances were. Unless you are the dog poop perp! You are anonymously condemning someone you apparently don’t know. Sounds like you might be the dog poop perp. If not to her, maybe someone else.

      How about we don’t make assumptions, and stop condemning people?!

      • brazen_infidel

        Now look who’s making assumptions!

        As I explained in my first post on this thread, I had a similar problem once, and had several frank and earnest discussions about it with the offending neighbor. As a result of that experience, I know how infuriating it can be to be subjected to that kind of racket for hours on end, day after day. It is, after all, what pushed “Son of Sam” over the brink.

        I’m not condoning poop throwing; I’m saying that it was thoughtless of the original poster to create such a nuisance in the first place, and in my opinion she and the moderator have no business getting sanctimonious about the fact that someone reacted badly. You reap what you sow.

        • Yani

          It sounds like you’re projecting your own experience and frustrations onto Janice. It sounds like your neighbor and you went around on this issue, and perhaps your frustrations were even justified. But the situation is different for Janice. The dog in this circumstance doesn’t live there, and doesn’t have a history of annoying anyone in Wallingford. Surely you can give a neighbor a few days tolerance for something that is purely temporary.

          Have you never gotten emotional in the heat of something and said something you maybe shouldn’t of said? Given your reaction here, and the harsh words you’ve had for the post in general, I’m guessing you have. I have. I understand. She was upset. It’s upsetting to have someone react so severely to something, when all along she assumed she was in good standing with her neighbors. If one of my neighbors did that to me, I would be shocked, and very upset.

          • brazen_infidel

            You make a fair point: Even on a blog post, there is a tendency to become invested in a position one has taken and dig in. I gather that you know Janice (I don’t), and I think it’s great that you’re sticking up for your friend.

            That said, she was still wrong, whatever her intentions may have been, to impose a burden on her neighbors. If you want to be a true friend to her, I’d suggest you advise her nicely to (a) apologize to all her neighbors and (b) never do it again.

          • Yani

            Thanks Brazen.

            I actually don’t know Janice at all, and maybe that’s why I can look at this more objectively. I just really love my neighborhood, and don’t like seeing people so upset with each other, and over some really small when you think about it.

            If I did know Janice, I probably wouldn’t tell her any shoulds or oughts, because it wouldn’t be my place. And if I was offended by what she said, I would have rolled my eyes at this post, and moved on with my day.

            Group Hug! ; )

  • Donn

    I doubt they’re all that intimidating, it’s just different social styles. The culprit is a local, no doubt. Seattle is not really known for people who relish `in your face’ confrontation, or see it as a productive avenue. Even if it doesn’t get especially confrontational, they don’t really want to hear your lame excuses and insincere apologies, and that sure isn’t what they’re after. They just want you to know the score, with the dog poop to show you they mean it. It’s in a bag, after all – this is Seattle!

    • brazen_infidel

      You might be right about the culprit, Donn. Either way, Obtuse Original Poster still doesn’t seem to know the score.

  • Claudia

    So I am finding the moderator of Wallyhood is anything but neutral. Over the past few months I have found him defensive, opinionated, and sometimes as rude as the rest of us, if not more so.

    • Wallyhood

      I never said I would be neutral. Quite the opposite: this blog and commentary rejects the mythical “objective observer” model of journalism. I allow everyone to have their say equally, but get to express my opinion alongside everyone else.

      I’m sorry you think I’ve been rude. Reading over my recent comments, I don’t see it, but you’re of course entitled to your opinion. I’ll cop to defending my positions.

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