Intruder Alert

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The very first thing we did when we bought this house 4 1/2 years ago was install a fence to keep our dogs secure and safe. The two gates have a small gap under them, but we had Darwin (85 pounds of golden) and Brody (105 pounds of Pyr) at the time, so that wasn’t really a problem.

When they were gone and we got Mozzie and Oliver, we put boards and logs and such at the gaps to keep their little puppy-butts in the yard. The front and right side are six-foot white privacy fence, and the left and back, which border the woods, are four-foot chain link. I’m sure Oliver could clear the fence in one leap if he wanted, though he’d probably immediately impact a tree, but so far he hasn’t tried it. They’re both almost two years old now, 65 pounds each, so policing the gate-gap hasn’t been an issue.

Until yesterday.

I was sitting in my “office,” AKA my spot on the couch, from which I command my World Headquarters and Petting Zoo, at about ten a.m., when I saw an animal on the deck, right up against the sliding doors. Something small and tan. Maybe bigger than a squirrel, but not by much. Possibly a small cat, because there are a lot of free-range cats in the area and they sometimes (foolishly) come in the yard. Could also be a good-sized guinea pig, but I found that unlikely. I couldn’t get a good look, because the Direwolves rushed to the door and were blocking my view, so I got up to investigate.

Uh-oh. It was the little chihuahua I frequently see at the rental house across the street. Not good.

I opened the door a crack, squeezing myself out while shoving the very excited Direwolves back. The little dog scooted to the steps, but once I was outside and the door securely closed, she wiggled over to me, and I picked her up. Yes, I checked; she’s definitely a girl. Perhaps four very solid pounds. Four wiggling, squirming, vibrating, very-much-needs-a-nail-trim pounds. The ten or twelve long red claw marks down the middle of my chest can testify to that last part.

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She looks kind of like this. But wigglier. So…much…wigglier

What to do? Mozzie and Oliver were quivering with anticipation of my returning to the house with what they believed was their new chew toy. I didn’t even dare go inside to find the key for the gate so I could go out front, where I was sure the neighbors must be looking for the little intruder.

I decided to go to the gate and peek through to see if they were out there. Two kids, a boy and a girl of maybe ten or so, were visible, so I yelled, “Are you missing a puppy?” The little girl confirmed they were. I told them I’d have to hand her to them over the fence, as I didn’t have a gate key handy. The pup-nugget, who it turns out is named Zoey, was delivered safely to the girl, and I advised them to watch her, because I didn’t know what would happen if she got in while my guys were outside. If it had been back in the Darwin days, I know exactly what would have happened, and it would have ended with a “burp.”

Okay, mission accomplished, excitement over for the day. I came in, calmed the ‘Wolves, and went to wash the chihuahua smell off me and change clothes, because she might have peed on me a little.

I went back to work. At a little after three p.m., Oliver and Mozzie were having raw bones, Oliver in his crate and Mozzie on the rug by the couch. And then…there she was again. Apparently, I am Zoey’s new BFF.

Since Oliver is the one who can jump higher than my head (He’s a standard poodle) and he was in his crate, I decided to risk bringing her through the house to the front door, which I did, Mozzie hot on our heels. I returned her to the little girl again, and asked if she’d seen how she got in the yard. The gate on the right. Yep, pretty big gap there. I reminded her I have two large boy-dogs, and even if they thought they were playing, they could easily hurt such a tiny dog. I was thanked profusely, and came back inside and through to the back yard to find some stuff to stick under the fence.

I honestly don’t know what would happen if Zoey came to visit while the boys were outside. They can run about 86,000 miles per hour in pursuit of squirrels. Luckily, squirrels can run 86,001 miles per hour, and they have yet to catch one. They have, however, caught and killed bunnies and mice and voles, and once scared a possum into playing dead, after which I picked it up with the pooper-scooper and deposited it outside the fence. Mozzie, especially, despite being an overall timid golden, has a high prey drive, and I don’t know how he’d react to seeing a small, furry critter in his yard, even if it is (technically) a dog.

Tom declines to get involved, saying he’s tired of being responsible for other people’s problems, despite my pointing out that if she got in the yard and they killed her (on purpose or accidentally) it would most definitely be our problem, if not from a “neighbors are hysterical and furious because we killed their dog even though she was trespassing” standpoint, at least from an “I am horribly, permanently scarred because I saw my dogs tear apart another dog” one.

Actually, this is par for the course in terms of my neighbor interactions. I still don’t know the names of anyone who lives there, or even who really does live there since people are coming and going all the time. But I know the name of the dog, and she has been in my house.

If Tom brings some landscape blocks from the shed, I’ll put those by the gate instead of the flimsy board-and-log barricade I put there yesterday. In the meantime, I hope they manage to keep Zoey at home. But there are always small kids there, going in and out, and it’s inevitable she’ll get out at some point.

Just hope my puppy-predators are in the house at the time.

I Have No Idea What’s Going On Over There Anymore

My gorgeous new yarn from Blue Barn Fiber is sitting in my mailbox, waiting for me to rescue it and ooh and aah over its glorious yarny-silky goodness, but I’m trapped in the house.

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Seriously, just look at that. It’s called Tide Pools, and I ordered it on a 50/50 SW merino and silk base.

But I can’t get near it because, as I figured, the Redneck Kid-Farm Rodeo is in full force out in their front yard. Last I counted, there were 8-10 kids from toddler to teen running about out there. I know they don’t all live there. It’s a 2-bedroom house, and my best guess is two of the older boys actually live there.

I have no idea who the rest of these assorted rugrats are. Cousins? Friends? Paying daycare customers? I don’t think they’re other random neighborhood kids, because I can’t think of any white kids on this street.

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As I reported in This Post (which contains photographic evidence of excessive kid-quota), there was one primary thing that might just put me over the edge. And (shudder) it appears to have happened.

What I wrote: “I’m really, really glad they don’t appear to have a dog, though. A dog running around out there would not be appreciated by my dogs–or by me.”

And…guess what. Yep. Dog. It looks–from my spying-spot in the dining room–like a little tan chihuahua. But it could be a puppy of something else short-haired that will be larger when it matures. I don’t know yet. So far, it’s been out on a leash, but I’m not optimistic it will stay that way. I picture it wriggling under my fence and getting eaten by the the Poodledactyl and Sir Mozzie the Swift.

For now, observation continues. They do seem to go a lot of places, and should the vehicles be gone when I check, I’ll need to make a dash for the mailbox. This is seriously impeding my usual practice of Immediate Gratification. Waiting sucks. But people suck more.

UPDATED: At latest count, four boys playing basketball. Three toddlers in a wading pool. One young boy going back and forth between the groups. Two teen-type girls watching the toddlers. AND…the dog. Looks like a chihuahua or maybe a chi-dachshund mix because it has a long back. If it’s not a puppy, it appears young. They keep putting it in the pool with the toddlers. It keeps jumping out. And, you guessed it…it’s no longer on a leash.

It’s gonna be a looooooong summer, folks.

Neighbors Again

It’s going to be a long summer.

I’ve blogged a few times about the new neighbors in the small rental house across the street. As best I can tell, there seem to be parents and a couple of teen boys who actually live there, but since the menagerie of children changes hourly, I can’t be entirely sure. There are bigs and littles, girls and boys, elementary, middle school, toddlers…

And I’m not a kid person. I don’t hate them, exactly. The old saying is children should be seen and not heard, but I sort of prefer they be neither seen nor heard.

There’s the basketball hoop monopolizing the street, the ball spending more time in our yard due to the slope than on the actual “court,” and the piles of worn plastic toys. There is a hobby horse that looks alarmingly like one I had when I was a kid…and I was born in the 1960s. Pretty sure there’s some sort of consumer safety issue there.

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Now I’ve been treated to bald, shirtless, paunchy guy hanging out in the yard–the father, I’m assuming.

Then a four-person tent appeared in the front yard. Not the side yard, of which there is roughly a half acre, or the back yard. Right in front. Presumably to accommodate kid-overflow. I think the mother does daycare, but who the hell knows?

Now we have a new sight to behold. The other morning I heard an engine and thought, “Yay, they’re mowing their yard.” But it kept going. For a long time. I peeked through the blinds, and thought it was a strange way to mow, going all over the place. Oh, and up and down the street too.

Huh. It’s not a lawnmower at all. Not anymore. Now it is a former lawnmower with the mowing bits removed, serving as an ATV, and kids are driving it around. Which I’m fairly sure isn’t especially safe.

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The giant blue tent would be just out of frame to the right.

The only thing I’m clinging to at this point is they do not have a dog. Because if they had a dog tied in the yard or roaming at large, Steps Would Be Taken.

The summer may be long, but I’m hoping their lease is short.

Good Boundaries Make Good Neighbors

I’m not a people person, but I’m especially not a kid person. The only one I’ve ever cared about was mine, and he’ll be 34 tomorrow, so even that is well in the past. I do not want to hold your baby. I don’t want to hear the cute thing your toddler just did. I am not even remotely interested in your daughter’s dance recital.

However, if your puppy caught a grasshopper, I totally want to hear about that in great detail.

As I mentioned in THIS post and THIS other post, we have new occupants in the rental K1361house across the street, and this is causing me some anxiety. When we moved here four years ago, it was occupied by a 30-something single woman with an elderly dog, and then a couple of young Marines. They were good, quiet, friendly, but boundary-respecting neighbors, and I was okay with that.

A little more than a month ago, people appeared over there. I had a hard time figuring out who the residents were, as the various individuals spotted seemed to vary. But after a month of observation, I’m fairly sure the ones who live there are a woman and two younger-teen boys.

Yes, I realize the “normal” thing to do would be to walk over there to say hello and introduce myself. If you don’t know anything else about me, you should be aware that “normal” is not a word ever used in any way regarding my social skills and interactions, unless it’s prefaced by “ab-“.

My issues come from the numerous other children who are there on a regular basis. The woman must do some sort of daycare, either for relatives or as a business, as two toddlers (maybe more…honestly, kids all kind of look the same to me) are usually present. There are also a boy and a girl of approximately middle school age. Maybe others. I should probably keep some sort of logbook.

This is a lot of kids.

Plastic outdoor toys started to show up in the yard. Then a portable basketball hoop was placed at the end of the street. Our house and theirs are the last on our respective sides of the dead-end street, and I have to admit that’s a pretty good setup for a basketball hoop. What they don’t know, however, is that patch where the road ends is considered overflow parking for our two houses. We only have a small gravel drive in the front of the house, so if you have company, that’s where they go.

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Kid-faces blocked, because even I realize that’s kind of wrong.

Now the truly horrifying part. I’ve noticed these kids, who are definitely school age other than the toddler-types, are present throughout the day. Know what that means? Home school. These other kids who I don’t think live there–it’s only a two-bedroom house–might be part of the home school setup. Maybe she has some sort of cooperative with other families in her church or something. She has a “pray” sticker on her truck, and that seems like the sort of things church families probably do.

I’ve also noticed the boys tend to be out playing basketball at very regular times, suggesting home school “recess.” Our late-great dogs Darwin and Brody would’ve been very upset by this, slinging bark-drool all over the front windows and destroying the blinds. Mozzie and Oliver will take off barking if they hear a distinct noise or kid-related squealing, but other than that are doing pretty well. In fact, I have a feeling Mozzie might actually like kids–much to my dismay–because he’ll sit at the window quietly and watch them play.

I’m generally the tense, curmudgeonly one…but for some reason this basketball hoop is bothering Tom a lot more than I’d expect. The ball bounces into our front yard, and he gets all territorial. I’m supposed to be the territorial one. He’s supposed to be the laid-back, friendly, tolerant one who will chat with the neighbors when they cross paths outside, finding out who they are and letting them know we’re harmless but have definite boundaries. Now I’m finding myself saying things like, “It’s no big deal. They’re not hurting anything,” when I’m more accustomed to saying, “They’re out there…all the damned time.”

I don’t like it. I don’t like any of it. I have this shifting herd of non-adult humans running around out there, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel about it. Luckily, the room where I spend 90% of my time is in the back of our house, away from the road.

I’m really, really glad they don’t appear to have a dog, though. A dog running around out there would not be appreciated by my dogs–or by me.

Who Are The People In My Neighborhood?

I’ve slacked a bit on my scoping-out of the new neighbors in the rental house across the street, and I’m still not sure exactly who lives there and which of the numerous people I see are just visiting or helping them settle in.

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In addition to the dark SUV, there’s now frequently a white pickup there as well. Night before last there was a third truck parked at the end of the street–at ten p.m.–and some guys had lights on it and were doing something which seemed to involve a large rolling jack like they use in auto racing. Whatever they were doing, it rated very high on the “my dogs must bark themselves into a frenzy” scale.

I’ve observed the small humans seem to primarily be there on weekdays during traditional work hours, which continues to support my hypothesis that the woman does some sort of home daycare, either as a job or for family members. I’ve regularly seen 3-5 kids, and they all seem to be taken elsewhere by evening.

I  told Tom I thought this was preferable to them actually having a bunch of kids. He wasn’t sure why. But if there are several children, maybe in some sort of shared custody situation, there’s the potential for a bunch of them running around the yard and street day and night. So, kids that go away are slightly better than those who don’t.

Today, Tom called my attention to several boys unloading items from a trailer in the driveway. The unusual bit was they were all wearing white shirts, black pants, and ties. I have no idea what to make of this. Religious minions? Sheldon Cooper or Alex P. Keaton wannabes?

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For those of you under 40 who have no idea who Alex P. Keaton is…here you go. Michael J. Fox before he was Marty McFly.

The religious aspect is a distinct possibility, which is of some concern because I am slightly allergic to such things. The black vehicle has a “pray” sticker on the back, and since they arrived, whenever I step out the front door, the air crackles with electrical energy, making my skin tingle, and I break out in brimstone.

I told Tom if they turn out to be Jehovah’s Witnesses and come knocking on my door, I could answer wearing my devil horns and offer to introduce them to my dog Cerberus. Tom thinks this would not be very neighborly, so I’ve agreed to revert to my usual door-answering strategy, which is simply not to do it. Besides, I only have two dogs, which leaves me one dog-head short of pulling off the whole Cerberus thing.

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Wonder if these guys are busy…

So, surveillance continues. Eventually, there will be some sort of interaction (Tom, not me…obviously) and all questions will be answered. But for now, I’m gathering clues and theorizing worst case scenarios. This way, no matter what we eventually find out, it will be better than what’s been going on inside my head.

Just Being Neighborly

Unless you’re lucky enough to live deep in the forest, in a converted missile silo, or on an island somewhere, neighbors are a fact of life. Social convention suggests we’re supposed to be…neighborly. But for those of us with social anxiety, a strong preference for hermiting, and a dedicated aversion to anyone encroaching on our territory, “neighborly” has a somewhat different definition.

We lived in our house in Minnesota for 17 years. In that time, I spoke to a few neighbors a handful of times, in instances of extreme necessity. Once, Sprocket escaped the yard, and a neighbor returned him. Another time, a neighbor’s dog went walkabout, and I pointed out where I saw him. And I once spoke to Next Door Neighbor West to apologize for Brody barking him deaf while he worked in his back yard. Turned out he didn’t mind; he just barked back. That was nice. Brody made a friend.

So, basically, I talked to neighbors about dogs.

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No. Just…NO.

Four years ago this week, we moved into this house. I quickly learned southern neighbors are…different. Before we got our fence installed (which is six-foot privacy fence on the front and right side, where there are people, and four-foot chain link on the two woodsy sides), the guy across the street and one house up stopped over to say hello while we were out on the back deck. After a bit, he announced he had to pee and proceeded down to the trees at the back of our yard to do exactly that.

In our yard.

I went in the house and did not go back out.

We’re the last house on a dead end road, so we have nice, quiet neighbors on one side, a rental house directly across from us, and the yard-urinator next to that. I have no idea who else lives on the street. I’m not interested.

The most interaction I’ve had to date was with the quiet couple next door. Two years ago, I was on the deck and Darwin-big-paw was observing me and managed to knock the pole into the sliding door track. I had no phone, all windows and doors were locked, the gates were also locked, and I had a pot of chili on the stove. Oh, and Tom was in Jacksonville, 40 minutes away. So I had no choice but to haul my aging, sedentary ass over the chain link part of the fence into the woods, trek through the neighbors’ side yard, knock on their door, and ask to use their phone to call Tom.

Yeah, that was fun. Anyway…

We’ve been really lucky with the rental so far. When we got here, a nice single woman in her 30s with an older, well-behaved dog lived there. When she moved, it was occupied by two young Marines. They were polite, kept to themselves, looked great mowing the yard, and were well-armed, which was comforting since I’m often home alone. But they moved in the fall, and the house has been vacant.

Now, someone has moved in, and I’m not exactly sure what to make of it. I originally noticed a woman and either two teen boys or one teen boy and a husband. The older-seeming of the males always had a hat on, so I couldn’t get a read on him. But either situation seemed unlikely to inconvenience me in any significant way.

I take my privacy and the tranquility of my domain seriously. Yard-urinator-guy has a lot of grown kids, grandkids, a whole big family that often congregates in the covered gathering area by his house. They’re loud and boisterous, but in a happy way, so as long as the festivities conclude at a reasonable hour, I’m fine.

But these new people…I’m not sure about. I usually only see one vehicle, but after a couple of days I noticed (shudder) children. Like teacup humans up to maybe 4-5 years old. I’m not sure, exactly. I’m not a kid person. These small people seem to come and go, so now I wonder if the woman does some kind of (shudder again) home daycare, either as an income source or for family.

This would not be acceptable for a lot of reasons. Kids make me very, very twitchy. Adults, once you make your boundaries clear, tend to leave you alone. (Pee in my yard, I put up a fence, problem solved.) Kids don’t do that. Plus, they run around outside, yelling and laughing and doing other kid-type things. Yeah, I know, kids have to play. They were inside, but Mom kicked them out because they were making her insane, and now she’s hit the Xanax bottle, the hidden Twinkie stash, and possibly has vodka in a coffee cup. So the kids are outside.

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I’m totally the Dad-bear on the left

I can ignore them. My family room (AKA “my spot”) is in the back of the house. But the Direwolves, not so much. If there are kids riding bikes or playing games or running around, I’m going to be dealing with a lot of barking. And doG forbid the kids take an interest in the dogs, because then I’ll have them sneaking through the woods to the chain link or peeking under the gates in the privacy fence so they can see the doggies.

Yeah, I’m that neighbor. The creepy old lady who looks through the blinds and takes random surveillance photos to text to Tom to get his take on the latest developments. I was going to post a couple of these photos here, but it occurred to me this might be crossing some sort of socially-acceptable–and possibly legal–line. I don’t know. I’m not good at this.

So, eventually, Tom will be outside and see them and go over to talk and see what they’re like. This is his primary neighbor-related duty. People like him. I make people uncomfortable, which is only fair, since they make me even more uncomfortable.

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Oliver and Mozzie occasionally assist with the surveillance

Today, I saw a little purple plastic ride-on car thing in their driveway. This implies outdoor child-related activities. I do not like this. I’m imagining a swing set, maybe a bouncy-house, perhaps even a wading pool, and this is not good. For me.

The good news is I have not yet observed any dogs. My worst fear is someone will move in with several unruly, troublesome, roam-at-large dogs. Nobody else on the street has a fence. A house with resident outside or uncontained dogs would be awful. Mozzie and Oliver would be glued to the front windows, barking themselves into a spit-slinging frenzy. At-large dogs could be exploring our fence, digging under gates, or going to the woods side chain link and harassing my dogs. At which point I shall lose my mind.

For now, it’s a waiting game. I check the situation whenever I pass through the front of the house, but it’s been chilly, so I don’t yet have enough information.

But just in case, anybody know how to build a moat?