Friday, June 12 2020
I made the mistake of going out to the mailbox to get the mail this afternoon. The problem wasn't just the dead black snake in the road (which I picked up and threw onto the shoulder). I happened, you see, to go to the mailbox just as the guy who lives in the little house supposedly terrorized by our dogs was in his house's northwest sideyard. He's a bald guy with bad posture who looks to be about sixty, though he could be younger than me. I decided to act like he wasn't there, but as I was walking back to my house, I heard him calling out to me with a tentative "hey!" So I stopped, turned around and asked, "Yeah?" "Do you live down in that house down there?" he asked vaguely, but I knew what he meant. "Yes," I replied. "...the one with the dogs?" "Yes, I have a couple dogs," I agreed. Then, in a somewhat combative voice, he laid out the various problems my dogs have been causing him, particularly barking, defecating on his lawn, and, most egregiously, destroying the cover for a barbecue grill. I asked how he knew the dogs responsible were my dogs or even that they were dogs (and not, say, bears). The neighbor said that had the grill been attacked by a bear, it probably would've been dragged some distance. Also, he claimed there were dog tracks in the recently-disturbed earth. He described Ramona as "big" and acting like "he wants to tear your arm off." That didn't sound like the Ramona I know, but she can get that way when provoked. I agreed that the evidence from the grill sounded convincing and I apologized for the damage the dogs had caused, if indeed it was them. I still considered the evidence circumstantial at best, so I kept asking questions, such as whether the man had seen other dogs besides the big mean one. He was vague, not even sure whether there had been one dog or three. He did admit to being the one who'd called the dog warden, though he indicated that the person who had been most upset about the dogs wasn't him but was instead the woman of the house (who is either his wife or his girlfriend). I got the sense that this man hadn't been in the neighborhood all that long; perhaps he'd recently shacked up with the woman who had been living in the house, someone whose arrival in this neighborhood predates ours. At one point he man even referred to the woman of the house with a knowing eye-roll and the expression, "Women..." I wasn't going to play along with his sexism, but him putting things on the woman in his life seemed to de-escalate the tensions. What really helped, though, was after the man told me I'd be expected to pay for the grill cover ($38), I agreed to. And when he offered to fetch the receipt, I said that that wouldn't be necessary. After that, we talked about various measures to keep the dogs from wandering into his yard. The man suggested I walk the dogs, but, as I explained, my wife already takes them for walks every morning. Maybe, I allowed, I'd have to take extreme measures. I mentioned that for one of our now-dead dogs (Eleanor) who'd been attacking cyclists, we'd had to set of a virtual fence triggering a shock collar.
Gretchen was just coming to the end of the Farm Road as I wrapped up my conversation with the neighbor. I told her that it had gone well and that I'd agreed to pay for his grill cover. Gretchen said she wished she had been there for the conversation, and I agreed it probably would've gone better that way, but that I'd handled it okay and that tensions were largely de-escalated.
This afternoon Gretchen and Powerful made a bunch of things in the kitchen again for another socially-distanced gathering on our east deck. Powerful's lawyer Kasha (now pregant) and her husband Seth would be coming up the Thruway en route to another socially distanced gathering in Margaretville (one of the closest places to the City with still-affordable rental opportunities for coronavirus refugees). They arrived shortly before an unexpected power outage that forced me to use my phone for most of a Microsoft Teams videoconference I'd been in with my colleagues Alex and Hunter. I joined the gathering on the east deck at least a half hour after it had started, eating the mustard-flavored lentil salad and the delicious cold pasta salad while completely avoiding the quiche (even though it contained no real eggs). Periodically Kasha felt waves of nausea related (she thought) to her pregnancy, but these would quickly pass and she could go back to eating again. Most of the conversation was on the subject of vegan food, though Kasha is not vegan during her pregnancy due to "anemia." Meanwhile Seth operates some sort of vegan food business.
Late this evening, the dogs went out through the pet door, and after about 15 minutes I went to see if they were visiting our bald-headed neighbor. I quickly found Ramona in the strip of woods across Dug Hill Road and Neville coming back on the road from the direction of that neighbor, suggesting that they actually had been to his house. Evidently this is a new night-time habit that they've developed, and I'm going to have to do something to break it.
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