A Struggle & A Question

So, this evening I had one of those moments that leaves me feeling unsure and doubtful.  You see, it’s my neighbors;  their dogs, really. They have several (four) quite large dogs, and I’m bothered by the dogs.  We have a six-foot stockade fence around our backyard, but still, we can’t sit on our back patio or let our daughter play in our backyard without those dogs growling through the fence at us.  It bothers me.  It worries me.  I know, logically, that the dogs can’t jump the fence.  But still … I won’t let my little daughter play out back unless one of us is out there with her, just in case.

I’ve talked to the neighbors about the dogs, but the lady; well, it’s in her heart to rescue and foster dogs, and that’s what she does.  I think that’s laudable, but I just don’t like it so close to me and my precious little girl.  I don’t think you can be sure of a rescue dog’s background, what abuse it may have suffered, what its temperament truly is, or whether or not it might “snap”.

So this evening one of the neighbor girls was over playing with my little girl when the doorbell started ringing frantically.  It was starting to get dark, so I assumed it was the neighbor girl’s sibling, coming to tell her it was time to come home.  But when I got to the door, there was no one there.  I went back a couple of minutes later, after I’d put my shoes on, to go out and check and there was the next door neighbor, with her two kids (one in a stroller, one on foot) and there were two of her big dogs, running amok through my front yard.  They were not on a leash, and it appeared that she was out for a walk with the kids and the dogs.  But why would she take them out off-leash?  Lots of our neighbors walk their dogs, but no-one walks them off-leash.  Ever.

I went back inside to ask my husband what he thought we should do … okay, truly, I was telling him that he needed to get out there and tell her (our neighbor lady) that it was completely unacceptable to let her big dogs run through our yard and landscaping unleashed and amok.  So, my husband fiddled around and had to go put on a shirt (he was in his wife-beater) and some shoes, and then he had to look out the front blinds to ascertain the situation, and by the time he went out front they were gone from sight.

Can you tell I’m not being very loving to my husband in this account?  I know it’s wrong, but I felt the situation called for immediate action, not getting dressed.  So that is wrong on my part, because once I asked him to handle it I should have stepped back and LET him, and done nothing further.  But instead, I let it irritate me further.

So, after he came back in and reported that there was no one (and no dogs) about, he went back to his office to resume his work.  And I got my walking stick (just in case) and went back out front.

By this time, my neighbor was returning home with the dogs and kids and another friend, and trying to herd everyone/animal back into her garage.

I called her name, and she turned and promptly began having an asthma attack.  I thought (and still do think) that this asthma attack was faked.  I know it’s wrong, but based on past interactions I’ve had with her, and the theatrics that she displayed, all I could think was, “Oh great, now she’s faking an asthma attack to get out of accountability.”

Which naturally made me feel even more irritated.

So I just told her, “I don’t want your dogs running unleashed through my yard.  I don’t think that’s okay so please don’t let that happen again.”

She (after another fit of gasping for breath) explained to me that she was sorry but that her son had let the dogs out.  But then she went on to say that her dogs were super-nice and wouldn’t hurt a flea, and that it was really nothing to worry about.

Now at this point I’m struggling, because she has two small children, both special needs children, and it was totally believable that her son had let the dogs out.  But, her dogs are NOT super-nice, they are scary, and I’m not a dog-hater.  I love dogs.

So I just said, “I can appreciate that this was an isolated incident, but please don’t let it happen again.  I don’t want your dogs in my yard.”  I didn’t make any threats (i.e., to call animal control, or the police), even though a part of me secretly wanted to.

Anyway, she went in, still apologizing, and I went back home and related the incident to my husband, who was not at all pleased with my actions.

I get it.  I mean, I really and truly “get” it on all counts.  I “get” that my husband probably felt like I was saying he was a failure for not handling it in the first place, and that I was condescending to him.  And I “get” that she IS a mom of special needs children and that she has struggles.

So in an effort to try and live the way I believe Christ commanded us to, I am feeling guilty and feeling like I missed the mark.  I mean, did I add to my neighbor’s burden unnecessarily with my self-righteous indignation?  I think I probably did.  And did I heap condemnation on my husband for insinuating that he didn’t handle it in the way I felt like it should have been handled?  I think i probably did.

If I had simply stayed in my house, the situation would have resolved itself anyway.  It was already resolving itself by the time I went out to talk to my neighbor.

So why did I feel the need to confront her?  I am asking myself what I could have done differently (well, besides staying indoors and doing nothing at all).  If this were a first incident, I would definitely believe that i had over-reacted; but there have been a few prior incidents with her dogs.  So, I really do, truly, in my heart, feel that she is irresponsible in the way she manages/handles the dogs.  But that aside, I don’t feel like I acted in a very Christian way.  And that makes my heart heavy.

What could I have done to better show Christ’s love to someone who was having a difficult situation?  I am still trying to justify my actions, but I feel there is a better way and I am just “missing” it.

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6 thoughts on “A Struggle & A Question

  1. I understand your heavy heart, but I don’t think you were over reacting. Was there a kinder way to say what you needed to say? Perhaps, but some of us need a “kick”in the butt to get our act together. How bad will this lady feel if something DOES happen? A hundred times worse than she might have felt this time. I don’t think you can ignore your gut feelings about these dogs. And sorry of offering to help somehow, I don’t know how you could have handled it better.

  2. I’ve thought about your post for quite a while, and I think you handled the situation appropriately. Remember that scripture says to be angry but sin not; you didn’t swear at her or behave badly, based on what you said. You were protecting your family, and that’s exactly what you should do.

  3. I think you’re being unnecessarily hard on yourself. Don’t forget that ‘love thy neighbour’ goes on to say ‘as theyself’. (and Shakespeare ‘This above all: to thine own self be true….Thou canst not then be false to any man.’) God doesn’t ask you to respect your neighbour instead of yourslelf, but as well as. If you deny your own beliefs to accommodate theirs, you’re disrespecting yourself – and thus the God who made us all equal.

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