Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Imagination Sure Can Run–Part One

I like to think I have an active imagination. Unfortunately two recent experiences reminded me that there’s a fine line between imagination and just plain crazy.

The first one happened a few weeks ago.

I share a small backyard with a young couple, who have a beautiful border collie, oddly named Tally (at least I think that’s what I heard during one of the rare conversations I had with the wife). Tally is a calm, well-behaved dog. I’m not sure how they’ve managed that, considering how challenging it is to give a high-energy dog, as border collies are known to be, adequate exercise without a big fenced yard—speaking from experience, of course. But somehow they have. Maybe she’s the rare exception or maybe they spend their days hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains or maybe they take daily trips to the dog park. I don’t know. All I know is that I rarely hear her bark.

That is, until a few weeks ago when I worked from home and listened to her bark and whine all day. I followed the cries into my bathtub to peek through the tiny window that faced the yard. She sat at their back window, directly across from me, her furry face pressed against the glass, panting and whining and then letting loose a high-pitched bark.

At first it was a minor annoyance. But as her distress seemed to escalate my irritation grew to concern. What if she were trying to communicate something? What if she were like Lassie trying to tell the world her owner was hurt or in danger?

I went around back to investigate, walked up the steps and looked through the front window. Tally barked ferociously as any good watchdog would do. I couldn’t see into the side room, so I considered going into the yard to peek through the very window where Tally had sat before I triggered her protective instincts.

What if the wife, probably around 27, had had a heart attack and was lying on the floor unconscious? What if she’d had an accident or been attacked by an intruder and needed help?

Should I stick my face right up to the glass where Tally had just whined? Or would another neighbor see me and think I was a snoop? A busy body? Or just plain ass crazy?

What if I didn’t do anything and later her husband would come home and find her on the floor unconscious? What if she were dead?! The police would question me. I would say I had heard the dog barking all day and then an investigator would ask why I hadn’t done anything. “You could’ve saved her but you didn’t!” the husband would shout.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what the right thing to do is.

I contemplated calling the landlord to get a cell phone number but I refrained. Three times that day, I walked to the house to investigate, and each time I stopped short of creeping into the yard to do the full-on window search. Each time I returned to my computer, where I listened to Tally bark and wondered why no one showed up mid-day to walk her. Poor girl.

Sometime after 6 o’clock Tally stopped whining. Voices floated from the house. All was well. The wife, and her husband, had avoided some terrible fate, and I had escaped the embarrassment of advertising my craziness to the neighbors.


  1. I had something similar happen to me with a neighbor except in my case he was dead. 6'6'' and wedged between the counters in a galley kitchen. Better a fool then a regretful fool

  2. We should always err on the side of caution, as Pasadena Adjacent notes. Of course it's a fine line between concern and nosiness, and you tread it beautifully. My only questions are, why was Tally so jumpy that day? Was it an isolated incident? Is she left alone every day? I look forward to seeing the mystery unfold in future posts. Keep on watching out Sus!!

  3. I say: "Go with the Lassie theory" and investigate! Dogs are known to have saved many a lives. My dogs are not barkers. All the neighbors comment on how quiet they are. But one night an intruder came into our backyard looking for God knows what. Henry, the Protector, alerted me in my sleep. I didn't care that it was three in the morning and he might disturb the neighbors. I was thankful that when it mattered, he barked and scared that intruder away! Sometimes our instincts may be be off but sometimes they may not be and as they say - better safe than sorry! Dogs KNOW stuff.

  4. If a dog rarely barks and suddenly she's barking, something's up. Maybe you should mention it to the owners. Could there be something like a gas leak? Or something less insidious, like a mouse in the house. I know when we had one Boz went nuts. And he never barks.

  5. I'm sorry; I found this very funny. And the 6 o'clock news would say: "And although the neighbor admits hearing the dog howl for several hours, she failed to take any action whatsoever."

  6. PA, yikes! That's quite a cautionary tale. I'm thankful it didn't turn out to be something like that in my case.

    Mel, it really is a fine line. I got lucky this time in that apparently there was no need for concern. But you ask good questions that I can't answer. All has been quiet back there since. But next time I run into the neighbors I'll try to get more info.

    Lize, Henry is a hero! I hope I get to meet him soon.

    Petrea, I agree: something *must* have been up. I'll have to check with them.

    Hiker, your comment cracked me up. You know that's *exactly* what would've happened. I'm glad it didn't turn out that way and I escaped being chastised on the evening news.

  7. And then the co-anchor would shake her head in display. "Sad commentary on our times, isn't it Matt?"

  8. Hiker,

    Oops. I forgot I turned on comment moderation.