109 Freedom of Speak
I mentally load an artillery projectile into our Civil War cannon to retaliate. In reality my husband charges the fence at warp speed. The two men have a macho meltdown of nuclear proportion. At one point El Toro Drunko challenges my husband to settle this dispute the old fashioned way and duke it out. Darn, I’d just dropped his boxing gloves off at the cleaners. Who knew? The dogs, not getting any attention, wander off. The men realize they are yelling over soundlessness, and abruptly walk away from each other.
During the next few weeks we avoid the intimidating bullies. The dogs are let out one or two at a time. We assume things are status quo until we find a ticket from animal control tacked to our front door. It’s for nuisance barking. My heart races and my hands shake as I drive downtown to their office. I explain the situation (without expletives). They describe the county laws and give me suggestions to avoid further action. I’m hopeful.
Large Palm trees go inside our fence, bushy shrubbery outside and a privacy fence is installed around the chain link. All our efforts to block noise and confrontations make us feel like claustrophobic in our own home. Our neighbors reach new heights and appropriate their children’s tree house. They sit up there with friends, drinking and laughing as they agitate our animals into a frenzied state.
We outfit the dogs with bark collars as the last defense to keep the peace. As I contemplate building a moat around our fortress, I peruse the mail. I read “NOTICE TO APPEAR IN COURT”. What? I scream, cry and stomp out a tantrum. They’re not going to take our dogs! I gather my soggy tissues and call our attorney for guidance.
I perform my best Stephanie Plum-like investigating techniques and snap 8 x 10 glossy photos. Trampled bushes and crushed flowers between our properties prove that someone has been intentionally provoking our dogs. We audiotape our dogs barking during the day when we aren’t home. This establishes they bark less than the allowed length of the time. We enlist the support of our other neighbors and a certified dog obedience and temperament tester. Both are familiar with our dogs and agreed to be in court on our behalf.
The court date arrives, we are armed and dangerous, more like disarmed and harmless, but confident. The accusers have an audiotape of dogs barking too. The judge takes the two tapes into his chamber to listen. He declares they are the same dog. Uh, really? He slaps us with a frivolous $25.00 fine. I’m ready with my Freedom of Speak speech, but he smacks that gavel and it’s over. The tapes are the only admissible evidence. No speech, no character witnesses, no day in court for us. We lost. The Losers won and cackle at us as we leave the building. Now what? We continue to live a muffled existence, with the mute button pressed on our lives?
It’s three months to the day since the sentencing. A beacon of light shines through our dismal tunnel by way of a For Sale sign on the front yard of the dog haters. Our prayers have been answered. The house sells quickly and the new, new neighbors are a blessing.
We visit promptly, welcome muffins in hand. The door opens to a household of earsplitting kids, screeching birds, tanks of flesh eating fish and a flock of smelly chickens. Oh, my. We love them.
We can remove the bark collars from our pups. Loretta and her posse are once again allowed the Freedom of Speak!