05 Apr

I must be part dog

“It’s a dog’s life in the suburbs” in the Philadelphia Inquirer (April 5, 2004).

I always thought my father was part dog. His hearing was so good that he had a special knack for hearing the howling, whimpering, woofing, yapping, yelping and barking of every neighborhood dog. As 10 minutes turned into 20, and 20 into an hour, the canine calls would escalate.

Ruff! Ruff! Ruff!

And as they did, so would my father’s blood pressure. A polite phone call to the owner would ensue. Sometimes the barking would stop, often times not.

Ruff! Ruff!

A polite rap on the door, followed by peace and quiet for 10, perhaps even 20, minutes, and then . . .

A second not-so-polite rap on the door.

At wits’ end, though he hated to do it, a call to the local police.

I always understood my father’s frustration, but I also thought his hearing was just too good to allow him a relaxing life in canine-filled suburbia.

Now it’s getting to me, too. My wife and I bought our first house last spring, a little rancher in that canine cluster known as Chester County. To my surprise, it wasn’t long before I discovered that, like my father, I am part dog.

Perhaps it is a genetic quirk that my father passed along that causes me to hear the relentless noise of our furry four-legged friends. Or perhaps there is nothing genetic at all about it. It could just be the laissez-faire attitude of the pets’ owners.

To be fair, I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of dogs. Sure, they can be cute – especially when they’re sleeping – but they’re just not my cup of tea. I’m more of an aquarium guy. Give me a 20-gallon tank, throw in some neon tetras and clown fish, perhaps an algae eater for tank cleanliness, and I’ve got all the companionship I could ever need. That said, I’ve got nothing against man’s best friend. In fact, of all the dogs that populate my little portion of suburbia, only two happen to make themselves known through canine calls – morning, day and night. (It’s just past midnight now, and the barking has finally subsided.)

Still, I hold no malice toward the little fur balls. I do, however, have a problem with their owners.

With spring’s arrival comes the opening of windows and the sharing of neighborhood sounds: the baby crying; the Saturday morning battle of racing lawn mowers; the neighbor’s nighttime television; the hum of the air conditioner; and, to those of us who are part dog, the incessant barking of a German shepherd or two. (It’s 12:15 a.m. now, and the canine commotion has started up again.)

But that’s life in suburbia, one might say. You trade the sound of inner-city traffic, gunshots and gang wars for a little barking dog or two – what’s there to complain about? Well, you’re right, I am being pretty petty here. God knows there are bigger problems in the world than a barking dog.

The thing is, being part dog and all, I do begin to feel sorry for the creatures (and myself) when they’re left to play “fetch” by themselves for hours on end. Back me up here, PETA, but I can’t stand to hear a dog left out all day and night with no companionship but the sound of its own voice. It’s a pretty lonely life, and one that hints at a greater epidemic sweeping across suburbia – lack of consideration for that old-fashioned thing we used to call “community.”

It’s an easy fix, though. I’m going to propose at the next township meeting that anyone applying for a dog license must first pass a test – a hearing test that will prove that they, too, are part dog.