‘You must know what we’ve come about?’ asked my neighbour, as he clicked the gate shut and he and his wife started up the path. ‘Er,’ I said, standing in the open front door wearing gardening gloves and holding an empty wheelbarrow. ‘The dog?’
Hearing Pippi in the hall behind me, I shut the door and stood in the porch. ‘I was just filling the wood box’, I said by way of explanation, pulling off my gloves and putting down the wheelbarrow.
‘Given how much you love the jungle with all these trees’, my neighbour began, ‘why don’t you live in the country, far from the suburbs and away from here?’ I stood rooted to the spot, dream-like.
‘You must know how much your dog barks’, he began. ‘Didn’t you hear me this morning, shouting at it to stop barking?’ ‘I’m so sorry’, I said. ‘I was out for a couple of hours this morning’. ‘What do you mean “out”? Do you mean to say that you leave that dog alone? Well, when you were out it yapped and yapped!’
His wife, arms folded, took another tack. ‘As you know’, she said, ‘we share a house. What you do affects us. And yet you seem to have no consideration for us. First it was the tree we cut down that you objected to. Then it was taking the chimneys off your roof and not reinstating them. And now it’s a new dog’.
‘Look’, I said, feeling undefended. ‘Why don’t you put some of this to my daughter, who adores our dog and does a lot of the caring?’ ‘No’, he said quickly. ‘That dog is your responsibility. And’, he went on, ‘I don’t think you know anything about dogs. I think,’ and he looked straight at me, ‘you know nothing about dogs – do you?’ ‘Actually I grew up with dogs’, I returned. ‘Well’, he persisted, ‘I know dogs. ‘I know what they’re like and I can tell you that your dog is a yapper’.
‘Look’, his wife said. ‘We’ve tried really hard to get on with you. And yet you’ve shown no consideration of us. And this dog is just the latest thing. My husband is at home during the day and the barking bothers him a lot. Clearly something will have to be done’, and she looked from me to the ground and moved her feet.
‘This’, he said, ‘is it. If you don’t control your dog, you’ll be sorry. It’s a yapper, that dog of yours, and I’ve had enough’. And he looked away from me, zipped up his yellow thermal top, and headed slowly towards the gate.
And me? I looked down at my wheelbarrow, picked up the handles and pushed it down the path behind them, and then out through trees that brushed my face.