Francesca Serritella: Barking Up the Wrong Tree
YOUR DOG IS BARKING LONG AND LOUD AND LATE. DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. That was the note I found taped to my door one morning.
YOUR DOG IS BARKING LONG AND LOUD AND LATE.
DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
That was the note I found taped to my door one morning.
Who had left it? It was unsigned.
Most puzzling, Pip hadn't been barking. He'd snoozed soundly in various positions around and on top of my head all night.
So what was she talking about?
I guessed "she," because of the loopy script. That, and the passive-aggression of posting an anonymous complaint to my door instead of slipping it underneath, said "mean girl."
It's the girl's bathroom approach to resolving neighborly conflict.
Obviously, this was a misunderstanding. She'd likely heard a different dog barking, one that would presumably continue barking, while she would continue to falsely accuse mine. But without a signature, I had no way of reaching her to clear it up.
I threw out the note and hoped the problem would sort itself out.
Then a terrifying thought: What if she told the co-op board?
Co-op boards in apartment buildings are like illuminati. No one is sure who they are, but they control everything and rule by fiat. Pip and I both had to interview with a board member to get my apartment. My dog's politeness is a requirement for living here.
If he got a reputation for bad behavior, we could be out on the street!
The injustice upset me. Pip is my baby, my angel, my pride and joy. He's the best-behaved dog I've ever had.
He is also the worst watchdog I have ever had.
He's almost purebred teddy bear with few vestigial dog instincts. He never barks at noises outside, from other apartments, or even direct knocks on my door.
When the Chinese food delivery guy buzzes, Pip looks at me, like, "You gonna get that?"
In fact, when my old apartment was burglarized, he watched silently as the perps broke my window, robbed me, and left carrying the loot in a Lisa Scottoline promotional tote bag!
If nothing else, he should've barked at the irony.
But my then-neighbors reported they didn't hear a peep.
This was the witness stand testimony I rehearsed in my mind.
I was confident in Pip's innocence, but the note made me paranoid. I felt guilty.
Over the next week, if he yipped once during playtime, I'd rush to shush him. I feared every neighbor I passed was potentially the one who secretly hated us.
Then, just when we started to get comfortable again, another note:
YOUR DOG BARKS FOR HOURS, ALL DAY AND ALL NIGHT. IT'S UNFAIR TO YOUR DOG, UNFAIR TO YOUR NEIGHBORS, AND AGAINST THE LAW. FIX IT OR I WILL CALL THE POLICE!!!
Gurl, no. You did not just accuse me of being a bad dog mother.
If she meant to intimidate me, it had the opposite effect. I was snapped to attention.
Pip couldn't speak for himself, so I'd be his defense lawyer. The best defense is a good offense.
A charm offensive.
First, I left a sweet-as-pie reply note on my own door explaining the misunderstanding and leaving my info should she wish to discuss it further.
She didn't contact me, but I knew the message was received, because the note was ripped from my door, leaving ragged, torn paper behind.
Luckily, I retained a copy for my records.
Second, instead of avoiding my neighbors, I was chatty and solicitous. I held doors, I helped unload groceries, I brought coffee to the doormen. And each time, I was sure to bring up the case of mistaken identity:
"I just feel so sorry I can't help whoever's being disturbed, but you know it couldn't be Pip," I'd say.
"Oh, no, he never barks. He's such a good boy."
Speak up, so the jury can hear you.
I called our superintendent myself and said I had a sensitive matter to discuss. He came over, and I recounted, through quavering voice, how upset I was that any neighbor would think me so inconsiderate as to leave threatening notes.
" 'Barking all day?' My Pip?" I gestured to the dog, who lay flat on the floor. He wagged his tail when I said his name.
He couldn't have performed better if I'd coached him.
"If all my tenants were as quiet as you and Pip, my job would be easy," my super said. "Do you have the note?"
Of course I'd preserved the evidence.
He read it. "I think I know who this is. Many problems with this tenant. Don't worry, I'll take care of this."
"Oh, thank you, thank you!" I was relieved. And confident that I wouldn't hear from my cranky neighbor again.
I never did.
Turns out, the illuminati is me.
Look for Lisa and Francesca's latest humor collection, "I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places," and Lisa's new novel, "Damaged," in stores now.