When you have a horrific cold and headache what sounds do you like to hear?
Perhaps, a recording of waves crashing on a beach?
The T.V. in the background?
What about a large dog who lives above you howling and barking without pause for over an hour?
Not my choice either.
Get a Grip
Admittedly, I was already in a bad mood because when I get sick I feel like I am on an island alone without chicken soup and hugs.
However, on a recent afternoon, my neighbor’s dog’s incessant barking/howling was about to push my over the edge into a canyon of complaint.
Before the cold meds, and my impatience led me to pick up the phone to call the landlord, I got a grip of myself.
Two years ago, I was the one fielding complaints about Toby barking and howling in our small, fourth floor walk up apartment in New York City.
Bella and DiDi (my fur sisters) don’t like when my parents or guests leave the house but they don’t have serious separation anxiety.
The most irreverent thing that happens when the Bella and DiDi are left at home is DiDi spitting out a treat that my mom hands out to take her mind off the departure.
With Toby, it is a different story.
Dog Parenting Skills Put to the Test
In September of 2012, as I headed back to work at NBC after some time off to adopt Toby, I closed the door to a crying and howling furball.
Soon, I learned that in order to calm Toby down when I left the house, tools such as a frozen Kong and relaxing music in the background.
Before walking to the subway, I would stand in the courtyard of my building to monitor Toby’s noises.
A lot of those mornings, tears would rundown my face as I heard my dog calling out not to be left.
So that my neighbors didn’t think I was an emotional basket case, I would throw my sunglasses on as I cried.
Even though I had sought the help of a respected trainer to get Toby’s barking under control, I felt completely alone and scared standing outside willing Toby to stop barking.
A place such as Pawmmunity, where I could have gone to share how I was feeling and get reassurance I was doing the right things would have made a big difference.
Madness Randomly Ensued
As a few weeks passed, I stopped crying and Toby barked a maximum of 5 minutes when I left.
By November, we got to a point where he would take his place on his bed waiting for the frozen Kong, let out 30 seconds of barking and then be silent (I left a sound recorder with my dog walker’s knowledge to track his barking).
Of course, just as the dog had settled and vastly improved on his anxiety-driven barking, a neighbor who had never said one word about Toby in the 3 months prior to him living in the same building, raised hell with building management about Toby and me.
It was completely ironic and maddening.
Said woman, who had never been in my apartment and didn’t even know my name spent weeks making my life a living hell.
She threatened to call the ASPCA on me because Toby’s bark sounded unhappy so she claimed I wasn’t treating him humanely.
Then I was accused of leaving a negative comment about her business on an online review service.
I didn’t even know her name or what she did! Her accusation was completely ridiculous!
Then, came the late night knocking on my door, which of course Toby would bark at as any dog that is not deaf would have.
This was followed by a barrage of notes on my door and more complaints about the dog and me to building management. And on and on…
I felt like a prisoner in my own home and couldn’t understand why this woman was acting out now when Toby was barking less.
Standing Firm With My Dog
In dealing with my unhinged neighbor, nothing brought peace.
Venting to my mom and friends helped a little but I was still so bothered.
Then one day, my dog walker who knew Toby almost as well as I did, told me to be firm. She charged me to stand up for myself and end this nonsense.
Because she understood Toby and why dogs bark, she was able to connect with me in a way others couldn’t on this topic.
Finally, I sent the building owners the “Toby Tapes” aka the recordings I made of his drastically reduced barking and a firm note threatening legal action if this woman didn’t stop harassing me.
Toby resumed his life as a happy and less anxious dog.
However, I had a new understanding of how the world is full of some good ones and some not so good ones who will make other people’s lives hell because they are unhappy.
So, on the recent afternoon when the dog above me was barking out of anxiety, I chose restraint.
If the dog does continue to bark a lot, I vow to be a nicer and more understanding human than the one who caused me so much grief two years ago.
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