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Today I return to the conversation I started a few weeks ago in “Pick up your Poop,” on the idea that a few (or even one) bad egg can hugely impact a neighborhood. I think this is true regardless of where you live, but it’s greatly exacerbated by city living because the shared space is so much smaller. The neighbors I had last year in Arlington didn’t like our household much, mostly because we used to sit on our deck, drink margaritas, and talk shit on Sunday afternoons. The conservative couple in the house next door seemed to find that offensive but never really caused much conflict except for the occasional dirty look or snide comment.

Living in the District has proven much more difficult to maneuver. One of the things I love about D.C. is the row houses. One of the things I hate about D.C. is the row houses. They are beautiful but leave no space between you and your neighbors. I mentioned in my previous blog that the guy in the English basement below us has a dog that he likes to let poop all over the alley. Lately he has taken to keeping the dog caged in a small space behind our shared house. I won’t call this space a backyard because it’s about the size of a small bedroom, but it’s just below my window. The dog now lives there day and night. At night he barks and whines and cries for hours on end. Clearly this has become a huge problem for me, but because of the structure of our neighborhood, for other households as well.

The owner of said dog consistently wears wife beaters so I’m just going to refer to him as “Wife Beater.” After the first couple of sleepless nights, I asked Wife Beater as nicely as possible to please stop leaving the dog out at night. Of course he didn’t stop. So I asked again, this time more sternly, but still friendly, and again he kept leaving the dog out at night. So finally after a week of sleepless nights, I starting banging on his door at 2 in the morning. That got his attention, briefly. He was not nice about it but brought the dog in for a night. Then it was back.

This pattern continued on and off for another week or two until someone (not me, I swear!) called the Humane Society. Good! I thought. I don’t know if they gave him a ticket or not, but it didn’t seem to change anything, except, of course, his opinion of me.

The next day when I came home, he was sitting on the steps to my front door so that I couldn’t pass. This is how the conversation went:

Wife Beater: Don’t you ever knock on my front door again. Ever. For any reason.
Me: Umm…okay. Well then, please don’t leave your dog caged in the back at night, and I won’t.
Wife Beater: Don’t you ever knock on my front door again.
Me: Again, fine. I don’t like knocking on your door, so if you stop leaving your dog out, I won’t have to.
Wife Beater: I’m not promising you anything!!! (near yelling) You called the Humane Society on me.
Me: No, actually, I didn’t. I prefer to deal with people one on one, which is why I’ve asked you repeatedly to bring in your dog.
Wife Beater: You know it was you, you liar.
Me: I have no reason to lie, and you’re being disrespectful. The fact that you think I’m the only one in the neighborhood affected by this just shows you how oblivious you are to your surroundings.
Wife Beater: If you ever knock on my door again, you’re not gonna like what happens.
Me: Did you just threaten me?
Wife Beater: All I’m saying is if you ever knock on my door again, you’re not gonna like what happens to you.
Me: (silence) Fuck you. (storms off)

Yep. That is not a conversation I image one has in the ‘burbs. That is a city incident. The whole thing made me feel angry. And scared. I don’t like being spoken to like that, and I don’t like what it brought out of me. Last weekend, I found out the guy I had been casually seeing has a serious girlfriend and was cheating on her with me. I was very calm about the whole thing. I explained to him very sensibly that I didn’t appreciate his dishonestly and that I wouldn’t be seeing him anymore, and encouraged him to be a better man in future. How can I be so calm and clear-headed about a cheating guy but freak out over a stupid dog? This is the kind of weird thing living in a cramped living space brings out in people.

Several people have encouraged me to file a police report. Please don’t lecture me, but I’ve decided not to. If he threatens me again, I’ll take further action, but I want to give the situation a chance to sit and see if it resolves. I did, however, email my landlord about the dog. She has told Wife Beater that he is not allowed to leave his dog in back at night. That was two days ago, and so far so good. I’m hoping that things will return to normal without further disruption or conflict, but I’m skeptical. I hate that. I am comforted to know that if this does turn into a battle, I am not alone, my roommates have my back, and hopefully so does the anonymous, Humane Society-calling neighbor. Cheers to you, good neighbor, whoever you may be.

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