Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Prisoner in My Own Home

I hate my neighborhood.  I live off of a busy street where people speed and run the 4-way stop sign in from of my house.  You have to be careful when you go for a walk, drive or anything in this neighborhood because of all the traffic issues.  In addition to the traffic, there are a number of people who leave their dogs outside unleashed and unattended or who have invisible fences.  I've written about how awful my neighborhood is in the past but it has only gotten worse since then.

In the past few years we have had 3 new neighbors move in who have made what used to be the sanctuary of my yard, uncomfortable for me as well.  To one side I have a grandmother who watches her 6 grand kids.  She leaves the grand kids unattended in the yard and they enjoy coming up to my fence and poking their fingers through to taunt my dogs and yelling things at them.  If I didn't hate kids before this, I do now.  I am planning on planting trees on this side of the yard to block this neighbor.   

Behind us, we have a neighbor with a labradoodle that is outside and alone all of the time.  This dog is very friendly but very bored and frustrated.  The woman lives alone and is very old and often takes long naps and forgets that her dog is outside  On more than one occasion we have caught her dog after she broke her lead and had to bang on her door to wake her up.  The dogs all agitate each other when they are out at the same time.  The fence that we built to deal with our next problem, has solved this problem.  The dogs still bark at each other when they hear one another but they can't see each other so it doesn't escalate. 

The worst neighbor of all has three large dogs that get no exercise.  She opens the door and lets them run free in her yard while she stands on the porch or stays inside the house.  They run straight to my fence every time and try to jump the fence to get to my dogs.  So of course my dogs try to jump the fence to get to her dogs.  There is a hill on one side of my neighbor's yard that makes the fence only about 3 feet high where our two yards meet.  The dogs could easily get to each other when it was like this so we spent $1000 building a 6 foot wooden fence in front of the 4 foot chain link fence on 2 sides of our yard before anything awful happens.  Unfortunately, my neighbor hasn't done anything and we still have to restrain our dogs when they meet on the one side of the fence where they can still see each other.  All of the dogs immediately run to this side of the fence every time they go outside just in case the other dogs are their for them to fight with.  It is incredible stressful.  I have plans to block their access to each other on that side as well.   

I am extremely nervous that I am going to run into one of these situations when I am in my yard.  It was bad enough that I didn't feel comfortable walking my dogs in the neighborhood but now I stress out on my own property.  I leash my dogs in my 1-acre fenced-in yard or avoid taking them out when I think the neighbors might be out.  My dogs don't get nearly as much exercise as they should and, because of that, have behavioral problems which are difficult to fix.

I have started driving my dogs to a different neighborhood to go for walks in the morning because my neighborhood is so stressful but 1 walk a day for 2 active 4 year old dogs doesn't cut it.  I know that I need to work with my dogs more on their training but it is difficult to train a dog that doesn't have any way to drain his excess energy.  My old German shepherd, Chale, was so much more behaved than these dogs are because he got walked 4 times a day and played fetch until he was exhausted.  But he didn't have the challenges that these 2 have.  He wasn't as reactive as they are because when he was young I didn't live in this neighborhood.  I was able to exercise him without fear of neighbors and traffic. 

I talk about moving with my husband all the time.  Somewhere more secluded where there isn't traffic and where we have less neighbors.  Realistically that can't happen for a couple years with what we owe on the house and where we are in our lives right now.  I have had these dogs for less than 2 years.  I can turn around their behavioral problems if I work at it.  I can't let this neighborhood beat me but on days like this I feel so defeated because I know exactly what they need but I don't feel like I'm in a place where I can provide it.   

I need to come up a with a solution that doesn't involve building a fortress that blocks all neighbors from view and putting a dog park in my yard to keep them entertained. 

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