Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Morning Ruckus

This morning, I almost lost it. My temper, that is. I was taking a nap when I heard a commotion outside. It was the sound of barking and growling dogs. I looked out the front door and saw a big dog chasing my fifteen-year-old cat from our porch. I ran outside. One of the dogs came over to me and started sniffing me. The owners, who live across the street, called the dogs and they slowly, reluctantly returned to them. I told my neighbors that the dogs attacked my cat and damaged some flowers. They didn't say anything. They just took the dogs back to their house and went inside. I didn't like that one bit, but I was more worried about my cat at the moment. I walked around calling and looking for him. I didn't know what happened to him. I couldn't find him anywhere. Before I looked out the front door at the beginning of it all, it sounded like one of the dogs, some kind of bulldog, was fighting. It could only have been with my cat. After I went outside and couldn't find my cat, I came back and looked at the porch. A flower pot was knocked over. Some other plants were damaged. Some plant stakes were uprooted. But, thank goodness, I didn't see any blood.

I stayed out in the front, hoping to see my cat, and also wanting to talk to the owners of the dogs. They were loading up their SUV for what appeared to be a trip. I was hoping one of them would ask me how my cat was or about the damage I said their dogs had done to my plants. Neither said anything. They just ignored me. I began to fume.

I'm a shy person, and I don't like confrontation. I've probably avoided it many times when I should have risked it by standing up for myself. Even this time, I was reluctant to say anything to my neighbors. Besides, I didn't know what to say. On the one hand, I understand how easy it is to let a dog (or two) get loose. I used to own dogs, and it's happened to me. And I know that some dogs hate cats. I had a dog that did. So I wasn't as upset over the incident itself, although I was certainly worried about my cat, as I was about my neighbors' reaction to it. It was like they didn't give a shit. It was like they were this young couple who cared only about themselves.

Still, I felt I needed to say something, and I tried to figure out what it should be. For one thing, I wanted to tell them that if their dogs injured my cat, I expected them to pay his vet bills. I also wanted them to know that I was displeased over the way they ignored me after the incident. I stood conspicuously out front hoping that one of them would come over and ask me about my cat and, perhaps, survey the damage to my plants and, at least, offer an apology. That would have pretty much resolved the matter. But no one said anything.

Finally, I decided to initiate things. I walked over to their driveway and began speaking to the young man. I tried to keep myself calm, but when it became readily apparent that he didn't give a damn about my cat or plants or me, I got angry quickly. He argued that dogs get loose sometimes. Shit happens. He asked me what my cat was doing outside in the first place. My cat was out. His dogs were out. What did I expect, and what did he have to apologize for? I said there was no equivalence between my cat being out in our own yard on a quiet cul-de-sac where lots of neighbor cats are out during the day, and two big dogs coming into our yard and attacking my defenseless cat and damaging my property. He didn't agree. I called him a "fucking asshole." He told me to get off his property or he would call the police. I told him to go ahead, since it would save me from having to call them myself to report and document the incident in case I needed to sue them to pay any vet bills.

At that point, his wife came out to talk to me and he went in the house. She seemed a little more reasonable, although I still had the impression she didn't care either. She just wanted me out of there and for peace to prevail. Finally, he came back out. He told me a really didn't give a damn about my cat or my property. If my cat hadn't been outside, nothing would have happened. I told him if I ever saw those dogs loose again in the front, I'd call the police. He said to go ahead, because they wouldn't be outside again. I was getting angrier, and I then said something I regret. I said I "might do more" than just call the police if I caught them in my yard again. That didn't go over too well, and I can understand why. Even when I said it, I didn't mean it, and I would certainly not hurt an animal on purpose unless it was strictly to defend myself, someone else, or my pets. I just wanted to say something that got his goat, so to speak. But that was too much, and I walked away.

Yet, I simmered. And I called him a fucking asshole again, this time from my own yard. I told him to come over to my yard and I wouldn't threaten to call the police. I would just kick his fucking ass. He said he didn't want to waste his time. I guess that was a pretty good response. His wife came out at that point and warned me to "go inside" and leave them alone or she'd call the police. I told her to go ahead. I wasn't doing anything illegal, I was just inviting her asshole husband to come over and get what he deserved. I then walked next door and looked for my cat in the tree the woman had finally told me she saw her dogs chase him up into. He was still up there, just out of reach. I tried to coax him down, but he wouldn't come, and I had no ladder to climb up to get him. Still, he appeared to be OK physically.

He's always been a "tough guy." I saw him once chase a big raccoon out of our garage in the Bay Area and fight him till the raccoon scampered away. Raccoons can tear apart big dogs with their razor sharp teeth and claws. Another time, my cat repeatedly slapped and then chased our gardener's dog that had wandered into our backyard here in Sacramento. However, he was no match at any age, much less at fifteen, for a big, young, snarling bulldog, much less two of them. But I digress.

I saw the young punk neighbor in his driveway again, and I called him an asshole again. Then I decided it was time to go inside and cool off. Later I came back outside to try to get my cat out of the tree and watched my neighbors drive off. When I reached up to try to pull my cat down from the tree, he bit at me. Not hard, just enough to let me know that he wasn't ready to come down. So, I left him alone and came inside to write this entry.

More than an hour after the incident, my cat's still up in the tree. I'm wishing I'd handled things differently and kept my cool, and I'm wondering what I should have said and done instead of what I did say and do. I'm also wondering what, if anything, I should say and do now. I don't think my neighbors and I are ever going to be friends after this. That's an understatement. But I also hope that we aren't enemies. I think the best I can do at this point is to let it go and get on with things and try to make myself into the kind of person who doesn't blow up the way I did today no matter what people say or do. That is giving them control over my emotions and actions that they don't deserve, and giving them reason to think that, because my reaction was more extreme then theirs, they are completely in the right and I am completely in the wrong.


Tom said...


Under the circumstances, IMHO, you should give yourself a break for having gotten angry.

Forget the past (not that I have any criticism of what you did) and concentrate on what to do next (that is, AFTER getting your poor cat out of the tree).

I would use the internet to figure out the finer points of legal liability, here. You can photograph what damages there are and, in an extraordinarily nice way, send your neighbors a bill for damages. If they don't pay, you could sue them in small-claims court. All this may sound petty, but it would establish where fault lies and put your neighbors on notice that a recurrance won't be tolerated and that you will use the law, calmly, to assure that your pet is safe and that they maintain control of their dogs.

Nagarjuna said...

Tom, your advice is unimpeachable. Actually, I'm not down on myself over how I reacted. It was excessive but understandable. I just want to handle things better next time, if there is a next time, and I believe that I will.

However, it would be a little ironic if, in the wake of my recent rant against Kia Vaughn's lawsuit and America's "obscene litigiousness," I should end up suing my neighbors. :-) Vaughn's supporters might well call it "poetic justice." A Buddhist might call it "karma."

Finding Fair Hope said...

I don't think a lawsuit is in order here. I doubt if it would even make you feel better.

What you have learned is simply that you don't like these people, and through your loss of yourself, there is little chance they will ever like you either. Perhaps that explains some of the remorse you feel. And perhaps they will keep their dogs away from the neighborhood cats!

You were tested and did not behave as you would wish to have in your most reflective moments. All you can do is observe your behavior and experience its results. It will not happen again in the same way -- but it is through situations like this that we learn about ourselves and eventually change what we can.

You have a great deal of courage in telling the story. But this is only one chapter in it.

Nagarjuna said...

Mary Lois--
I think your comments are spot on. I don't think there are grounds for a lawsuit, and I'd be reluctant to bring one even if there were. I suspect that they WILL be more careful about their dogs (that, I neglected to mention, my wife believes have also defecated on our front lawn on more than one occasion), and I have learned valuable lessons from this experience that will hopefully make a wiser person in how I respond to future provocations and other challenges.

Thanks, Mary Lois.

agnostic_gospel said...

What should you have done?

Maybe you should have calmly meditated, read a good book, preferably the story of Bruce Lee, then gone over and kicked his behind!