Sunday, March 1, 2015

Neighbors

I haven't ridden in a week due to circumstance, happenstance and a lot of freaking ice and snow on the ground. Ponyboy has been happy and well fed, and the momentary loss of his mind two nights ago (pinned ears and threatened to kick - humped back and all - when I asked him to step over while cleaning his stall) was completely resolved last night. He was a perfect gentleman and happy to dig into his mash.

So, with no horse stories to tell, I am going to talk about my neighbors.

J and I moved into our townhouse-style condo more than fifteen years ago. I was three and a half months pregnant with T at the time and this was supposed to be our starter home. We bought new and it was several years before we realized the incredibly horrible job the builders had done in constructing our development in general and our condos in particular. When the market crashed in 2007 we saw the value of our condo drop by half, due to the flood of owners opting to foreclose on homes they couldn't sell. We were told by a mortgage broker that foreclosure was our best option. Our development had the honor of having the highest foreclosure rate in the nation, during that time. Some of the units have been foreclosed on five times. At the low point in the crash, over half the units in the development were either for sale or in foreclosure.

That was never an option for us. Instead, we've refinanced and there is a very good possibility we will be here until we die. That said, we've been here for a while and have no plans to move.

We've had several neighbors on either side of us, as well as several neighbors who have been here from the beginning. The neighbor who lives up hill started as a single mother with a teenage boy. The mother was an in-home provider for people with disabilities, so she did some strange configurations in her basement to add an additional bedroom. Two years or so after we moved in they moved out and rented the place to a family who was loud and violent, typically screaming, yelling and throwing things at 3 in the morning, which was not conducive to raising a toddler. I was thankful when they moved out and the woman sold the place to the woman who lives there now.

TH lived there with her husband for several years and now lives there by herself after her divorce. She is a musician and has played out in several bands, has two dogs and several cats. We've taken turns taking care of each other's animals when either of us has been out of town and for a while we paid her to walk our dogs at lunch time every day. Although we don't socialize with each other, she is pleasant and friendly and has been a great neighbor.

On the other side of us is a large condo unit that was owned by a set of triplets when we moved in. They were wonderful. We got to know each other very well, and Jared and I became good friends. Eventually, the two girls moved out into their own places and Jared was there alone. Most days during the late spring, summer and early fall, he and I would sit on the front porch and talk for hours while T played on the sidewalk in front of us. He was the guy who we talked to when T was having issues with his body image and I really wish we would have kept in touch when he moved out. He has since been married and has a couple of kids.

When Jared sold his condo, it was purchased by a young woman who did not have the means to truly afford it on her own. When she moved in she had a roommate, but that didn't last very long. Then she was there on her own, in an adjustable rate mortgage that had been adjusted up every six months until she was paying 26% interest on her mortgage (it had no cap). Her payment had gone from $1100 to $1900 and was threatening to go up again. She didn't have the means to refi, so she moved out and left it for the bank. That was six years or so ago.

Then our current neighbor moved in. She seemed nice enough when I introduced myself. We told her from the very beginning that if she had any issues with our dogs to let us know and we would work to resolve the issue. She was a musician who was singing in a local band, played flute and piano, and had a mid-level marketing job with Vail Resorts. She seemed to enjoy her job, had rescued a litter of kittens and a small dog. We were never friends, per se, but we were cordial to each other in passing. For a couple of years we maintained a comfortable living-next-to-each other relationship.

Then she met a man. He moved in with her pretty soon after they met and as they say, the rest is history. He is a pot-head. He wakes up and the first thing he does in the morning is smoke. On the days when they are home, they smoke so much we can't use our basement due to the intense smell that has permeated through the wall. He got her as addicted as he is, which only intensified when pot became legal in Colorado.

Now, I have no issue with pot smoking in general. I believe that it's on the same level as alcohol, and if I had my choice, I would choose a hit over a drink. That said, it is not something I want my teenage son to be exposed to as a constant smell in our own home. I really believe our approach to  drugs in the US is bass-ackward and needs to be rethought, and that marijuana in particular should be legal, taxed and pot/hemp grown commercially. I have no moral or philosophical reason against it.

However. I have seen this woman fall into rampant paranoia over the past four years. She has lost her job. She no longer plays any music or sings in any bands. She is now not working and spends all of her time in her house. They have no friends, no activities, and no hobbies, as far as I can tell. It's just her and the bong. And him when he's not working.

So, why does this impact me? Well, four summers ago we were confronted by her one evening on our way into our condo. She was raving angry about our dogs killing the bush in front of her house. She accused us of deliberately training our dogs to pee on her bush so it would die. I tried to explain to her that it was much more likely that the landscaping guys had hit her bush with their weed killer, which is what happened to the plants in front of our condo. That is why we have roses planted there and why we do all of our own weeding. She didn't listen, just ranted about our dogs killing her bush. At that point we really thought she was having problems with grieving the loss of her dog (this happened a couple of days after her dog had to be put to sleep) and made a point of staying out of her way.

Lily in her Thunder Shirt

Then we got the pups. Lily is a guard dog through and through, and had issues with controlling her reaction, especially right after we brought her home. She was young and had bonded to our family, her reaction was her way of letting us know she was willing to protect us. We were very careful to control her. We knew she was capable of becoming mean if she wasn't raised the correct way and took steps to ensure that she was never put in a position to be aggressive with a human.

The guy living next door (PH) started to tease them. He would put his face next to the screen whenever our front door was open and complain about how "vicious" they were being, when all they were doing was barking. He teased them over the back fence and through the fence, to the point where Lily is absolutely convinced he is a danger to us (which I really can't disagree with). She barks when she hears their door open and close, or when she hears him walking the dog. Both Lily and Skittle alert when he is out on the back patio.

 Skittle

Then things got more tense.

Three summers ago, I was driving T home from summer camp and we were listening to the radio. The talk radio show was asking people to call in and share their "feuds" they were having with their neighbors. Lo and behold, she called to share the story of the dying bush and our evil dogs. She went on to make disparaging comments about our lifestyle (meaning sexual orientation, not the fact that we both work, are raising a son, enjoy movies in the evening) and threatened to poison our dogs. On the radio. In public. (I bit my tongue and did not point out to her the next time I saw her that the proper term was Lesbian, not alternative lifestyle. Not queer.)

Anyway. We became vigilant in perusing the back patio for foreign objects (took the poisoning threat serious) and other than cig butts and roach butts, we haven't seen anything so far. We stopped walking the dogs out front, because there is no way to control where a dog pees and ours seemed to want to pee on the rocks on the side of the building. We stopped being cordial, not wanting to aggravate the situation, and they were openly hostile when we tried. The tension is palpable whenever we cross out in front of the condos.

Then her new dog bit me. Twice. He didn't break the skin, which was good, but she sounded pleased when I told her about it. We did not report it, since we were headed out of town for the holidays when it happened, and because I really think all dogs deserve a chance. He was a rescue. We told T to keep away from him and went on with our lives. Then he bit my mom, which we didn't realize it was their dog until six months later. Again, we didn't report it, mostly because mom didn't know who owned the dog. However, he must have bitten someone else, because they got a notice from animal control about a dog bite on their door. The next day she called animal control on our dogs. For excessive barking.

During this time, Lily and Skittle have calmed immensely. I have spent a lot of time working with both of them on socialization, interaction and behavior. We do the dog park a lot. We take them to the hardware store and Murdocks. They have never threatened to bit any one and when Skittle gets scared and growls, we remove her from the situation and work with her to alleviate her fear. They still both hate PH next door. And the woman.

Forward a year, and we get another complaint, this time with a request to call the officer. The complaint was for washing feces onto her patio (false) and for excessive barking. In talking to the officer, I explained some of our history (he laughed at her blaming us for the death of her bush) and he recorded the details of our interactions, including threat of poisoning, in our file. I told him they were teasing the dogs and she was trying to make the dogs bark in order to manufacture a complaint against us. I told him they aren't barking when we leave, when I check on them 45 minutes later, when my son comes home from school, and the neighbor on the other side did not hear them barking. He said that there was no barking when he was there, even though he walked around the condo and looked in the back. When I asked what we could do, he told us she would have to get two signatures on the complaint in order to proceed forward against us. I didn't think she could do that.

Then last night our other (good) neighbor contacted us. She acknowledged that the woman had threatened to poison the dogs. She also said that the woman was using a laser pointer to get the dogs behind our condo to bark and go crazy chasing it. When those dogs bark, our dogs bark. I think she's also used the laser pointer on our front window to make Lily go crazy at the door. She is deliberately trying to create a situation where she can force us to get rid of the dogs. She has also put pressure on our good neighbor to sign a complaint of barking dogs. Our good neighbor recorded the teasing in back with the laser pointer and then told the bad neighbor that she had done so, which caused that to stop happening, however, I still think she's pointing the laser inside the front of our house when we aren't home.

The fact that she is deliberately trying to create a situation where she could force the dogs into the pound (or to be euthanized) or perhaps she thinks we will move (which we would have done YEARS AGO for completely different reasons if we could) or maybe she's just bored. I don't know. And I really don't know what to do about it. Confronting her will not help with the raging pot-induced psychosis she seems to be dealing with.

And the hate. What to do about the hate because this has never been about the bush. This is about the hate.


1 comment:

  1. Wow. It is hard to deal with the crazy.

    It doesn't really apply to your situation, but I have a friend's story with some similarities. She had a neighbor that was falsely complaining about her dogs excessively barking, to the point of taking the complaint to the city. So my friend quietly took her dogs to a boarding kennel for a week, and got a receipt for the boarding and a signed notarized statement from the kennel owner that the dogs were there for specified days.

    At the next meeting with a city official, the neighbor produced a log they said they kept, saying (for example) the dogs were barking a particular day "10:39 am to 11:22 am" and other specific days and times. The owner then produced the boarding kennel receipt and statement that proved her dogs were not even around at those times. Suddenly, the city was not particularly believing the complaining neighbor! What an awesome idea she had.

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