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It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…


Not such a beautiful day in our neighborhood

OK, I couldn’t make this stuff up. We live in this neatly polished Scottsdale community. What bothers me most about it, is the neatness and the polish. It’s just not who we are. But you’ve heard all the reasons why we make the compromises we make; “it’s a beautiful, safe, gated community where the kids can ride their bikes and play across the street at the neighbors.” Only problem is that our kids don’t ride bicycles and in the decade we’ve been here, we haven’t met a single neighbor — until now.

About three months ago we got this email from one of our thoughtful, considerate neighbors: (Please note that the names have been changed to protect me from further litigation – already had to learn that lesson the hard way — and also name changing entitles the writer to make a far more interesting and evocative name selection with much greater potential to rile and enrage readers.)

“Mrs. Gettleman,

I reside directly behind your house. Over the past few weeks, both my wife and I have heard your two dogs barking several times.

Today at 3:15p.m., I walked back in the common area to ascertain if the dogs were barking due to a snake or wild animal. I saw none. I also rang your doorbell, but no one was home.

Please see that the barking is remedied.

Adolf”

I wrote back:

“Dear Adolf,
We are very sorry about the dogs. They are puppies who get very excited when they hear things they cannot see. We are trying out several anti-barking devices and have recently hired a new trainer to help us curb their barking. We have been very successful controlling the barking at night and while we are home. But apparently there is still a problem when we are out.

We apologize for the disturbance and will do our best to rectify the situation.
Mrs. Gettleman”

But of course the story doesn’t end here. We’ve gotten a slew of emails over the past few months and the gloves have definitely come off. Adolf’s apparently formed a posse of noise Nazis who patrol the neighborhood and report back to the HOA every time a dog barks, a child cries, or a husband and wife have too volatile an argument.

Here’s the latest email from one of Adolf’s comrades (I’ve left in all the punctuation and spelling errors for your amusement):

“Mrs. Gettleman,
Your dogs are out of control and the barking all afternoon today was terrible
I understand that other neighbours have complained and that they all have a program of documentation. I don’t really want to document and call the scottsdale police but i must tell you that noise reached a brutal level today.and we may not have a choice
We have been here for awhile and  have heard the dogs bark and bark
without any adult intervention. It is not right nor fair in such a nice
earea asthis. I am asking you as nice as i possibly can to control the dogs and their barking. I heard from another neighbour that they are young but that was
like months ago and as soon as they go outside they bark and bark. My wife wants to record the barking for the police however i told her that if you know how bad it really is and how upset all the neighbours around you are getting you
will take some action. Unfortunately some dogs are meant for farm areas
where they can roam and bark unlike this little
community and the houses so close.Please keep them inside and stop the barking .
Heinrich”

We promptly responded:

“Heinrich,
Thank you for alerting us to this situation.   Except for rare occasions, when we are not home, they do not bark at all.  So we could not have known it was still an issue. We have installed a dog run away from the rear of the property. We have installed an anti-barking device. And we have methodically trained them using proven behavioral techniques.

We  also agree  that noise pollution needs to be controlled.   There are at least two other dogs that we hear with loud barking  which need to be restrained. When we are outside, we often hear other dogs in the neighborhood. We are wondering how you know that only our dogs are barking? More importantly, we find  the incredibly loud voices of he Goldberg’s in their backyard very difficult to handle.  The regular conversations are loud enough, but when the laughter gets going it is very disturbing.   I believe the positioning of the houses causes an echo chamber effect that magnifies sound amplification.    There have been times when we could  not even sit out side because they were so loud that we couldn’t hear each other speaking.And frankly, their humor tends to be rather blue which when broadcast across the wash creates a very uncomfortable situation for our children.   Maybe you can e-mail them and remind them to either whisper or not speak at all when in their back yard.

Once again, thank you for the notice of our dogs.  We will continue to work on subduing their barking.

Debra Gettleman”

This came next:

“Mrs. Gettleman,
I have been patient. But it has been nearly three months since we last communicated. You may not be aware, but both my wife and I work from home.The amount of distraction from the noise generated by your dogs and your children at certain times of day is affecting our ability to engage in our work and personal activities both inside and out.

I respectfully request that the barking issue be addressed before we are forced to take legal action. We simply want to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of this lovely community.
Adolf”

“Adolf,
Let me start by reminding you that this is in fact a “residential” community. If you are having trouble working, maybe you should consider getting a real office somewhere where children and puppies are not allowed. You seem like the type of person who would be very comfortable in a fluorescently lit office cubicle for 8 hours a day. Or better yet, you could take your friend Heinrich’s advice and go live on a farm far away from other people altogether.

We must admit that we hear barking and frolicking children too when we are outside. But that is in fact part of living in a neighborhood. As for my children, they are in school everyday from 8 to 4 and then have various after-school activities. We assure you that the screaming you hear is not from our house. In fact, we know where the screaming originates. But unlike the tactics used in Deutschland in the 40s, we refuse to turn in our neighbors and join this noise pollution witch hunt that you and your colleagues have embarked upon.
Debra”

“Dear Mrs. Gettleman,
I have tried to be kind and patient. But your tone of hostility is undeniable.You leave us no choice but to pursue legal and civic action against your children and animals.

Adolf”

“Dear Adolf,
Bring it on! There isn’t a court in this country that will punish us for having happy kids and dogs who make noise once in a while. I highly suggest you get some
proof that it is in fact our dogs and our children disturbing your curmudgeonly cosmos.

With all love and sincerety,
Mrs. Gettleman

The funniest part of this whole story is that we’ve been seriously thinking about moving. We were trying to decide if we should move or just do some massive renovations on our home. The more irked I get, the more I’m leaning towards months and months of loud, dusty digging, jackhammers, and construction. I sound mean and vengeful. I know that’s what you’re gonna say in your comments. But come on, it’s one thing to lock people in a gated community and take away their personal mailboxes. But to regulate their kid’s enjoyment or charge them with disturbing the peace because their dogs bark when a coyote passes by. You have to admit, this is excessive.

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About gettrich

Debra Rich Gettleman is a professional actor, playwright and journalist living in Seattle, WA with her husband Mark and two amazing boys, Levi and Eli.

8 responses to “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood…

  1. Helen ⋅

    The funniest thing about this blog post is the “Ads by Google” at the end: “Barkoff” indeed.

  2. Dear Ms. Gettleman,
    I must say that I sincerly enjoyed your post! I too have a Gestapo that lives behind me that is far too interested in the actions of my pooches. We went through much of what you have described here. We got to the point where ours were only outside maybe 15 or 20 minutes at a time. Then one day I was doing some work in the kitchen and all of a sudden our dogs start going crazy. Our neighbor is in his backyard antagonizing our dogs… catching him in the act and sending my husband to fix the situation put an end to our problems. If I were you I would become the most obnoxious neighbor I could be. Definitely renovate! You can also check with the local law enforcement and see what exactly their rules are on pets, let them behave as puppies do just within the scope of the law. 🙂 After all, the mature thing to say is, “he started it”.
    Best Regards,
    A proud mother of too poorly behaved dogs! (well sort of they are pretty good most of the time.)

  3. Mack Burly ⋅

    Dogs barking at coyotes or whatever? Just doing their job. Kids at play? Birds chirp, cats purr, dogs bark and kids play. It’s Mother Nature, don’t mess with it. This is nothing a “Mack Attack” wouldn’t cure. A couple of my stereo-bumbin’ homies or my motorcycle associates could show these Snotsdale clowns what noise really sounds like. I’ll tell ya what, Debra, I’ll bring my air-powered demo hammer over. I’m sure there is some hard substances you’d like demolished. If not, I’ll bring along a truckload of granite boulders to break up. They’ll never complain about your dogs and kids again.

  4. Barry Shalen ⋅

    Your kids are making too much noise? I understand they work at home, but do they work in their backyards? Doesn’t their house come equipped with windows? And in your neighborhood, I’m sure they’re double paned! Can’t they turn on (or up) some indoor background music? Maybe classical? Maybe a white noise machine? I think you should wire and mount some outdoor speakers and crank up the hip-hop, with extra bass! Oh, and ask Adolf if he would like your kids and/or dogs to wear yellow stars in the neighborhood so everyone can readily identify them.

  5. levi gettleman ⋅

    mrs. gettleman
    these dorks should move to a anti dog/ children
    wait to go girl!!

  6. Aleah ⋅

    Love this post! I can’t believe they actually complained about the boys making too much noise. Ridiculous.

  7. Your post is the reason why we live on a half-acre in a non-homeowner-association neighborhood! Good luck on your attack on the Nazis!

  8. Pamela ⋅

    I had a good laugh and a feeling of comfortable familiarity (but in a positive sense) when I read your post this morning! Across from me lives a woman who fosters dogs. She has no fewer than 8 at any one time, all running around happily, barking a mailmen, squirrels, lawn guys, and me as I come and go. It’s daytime and it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I work from home as a paralegal. I’m on the phone all day long and never had a problem. Behind closed doors, even 8 neighborly barking dogs, (plus my two) have never gotten in the way of my work. I say go for the renovation. It IS your home, after all. Screaming kids (whether from joy or a fit), barking dogs (whether squirrel catching or just likes to hear himself), and all the other ‘disturbance’ just sound like LIFE to me. Enjoy it and keep fighting back. After all, you do INDEED have the moral high-ground here!!

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