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.