The pea-soup fog lay thick between the houses as the very first light of the rising sun diluted the dark and turned shape into identifiable form. A few seconds earlier the mad scrabble of dog paws across my kitchen floor followed by the thunk of the open dog door let me know that for this Saturday morning, at least, my sleep in the warm nest of my comfortable bed was over.

I leapt up as I heard the first snorting in-breath through my bedroom window of the following deep-chested neighborhood peace-shattering woof of Mojo’s greeting of the neighbor’s dog through our common fence. “Woof, Woof,” she bellowed as I raced through the patio door in my sweatpants and bare feet, no thought for my appearance entering my head as my feet squished across the snow and icy, finally-thawing grass.

“Mojo! Mojo!” I hissed emphatically but softly, trying not to add to the din of the dogs in the watery fog colored air. Fortunately for me, she actually responded and turned my way to nonchalantly stroll back across the yard, glancing once or twice at the canine silhouette of her arch-nemesis through the slats of the wooden fence. “Get inside!” I commanded, pointing toward the patio door as she casually trotted past, not even acknowledging my existence except to quicken her pace a step or two.

Once inside I closed the dog door to wait another couple of hours to open it again, when the later hour and the electronic bark collar I attached would nip the racket before such chaos could happen again. Mojo, unperturbed, jumped on the couch and settled into a tight ball, her head resting on the fake-fur throw pillow at one end.

Several months ago I found an anonymous note in my mail box informing me of someone’s extreme dislike of the fact that my dog, Mojo, is capable of barking her lungs out ceaselessly at the provocation of seeing another dog near her territorial boundaries. Said note informed me that “your dog barks for no reason, especially on weekends. Please do something about this…signed ‘The Neighborhood.’ It took me about five minutes to figure out who the author of the note had to be, since the only neighbor within hearing distance who also had a dogly form of provocation, lived next door.

Mojo is deaf and blind to what most people might hope would evoke this territorial response, i.e. an unknown human being approaching or entering her territory, so I knew the note wasn’t from the neighbors behind me with children and multitudinous friends hanging around for barbeques and such. She will, however, stand on the back of my living room couch and huff and puff and bark through the picture window at someone walking by the front of the house, with of course, another dog.

I thought to debate the barking “for no reason” part of the note because I knew the reason for the barking was a large, mostly silent, muscular cow-dog variety of animal that charged my side yard fence in obvious joy every time she was let out by said neighbor, inciting Mojo to this verbal exchange.

It hadn’t previously occurred to me that my tendency to be gone, especially early on Sunday mornings for several hours, created a problem for anyone due to the habit of my dog to be an unfriendly and noisy neighbor. So I got the electronic bark collar, and tried to remember to keep the dog door shut when I left. I also try, when I am around, to keep the dog under control when she can freely go in and out.

It was with some joy and no little sense of vindication that I greeted the addition of a second dog to the next-door household. The second dog, after he grew up a bit, has become even more obnoxious than my dog. Sometimes I hear him voice a single questioning woof, as if to ask where Mojo might be, and the responding scrabble of dog feet through my house and out the patio door in a mad dash to attack each other through the fence. Several slats of my wooden fence are waiting for me to hammer the nails back in where the neighbor dog has lunged against it sufficiently to loosen the boards.

Every once in a while I hear the Woof, Woo-eeek… sound of Mojo, and the collar interrupting her tirade, whereupon she will be silent for a couple of days until she sneaks out again or I forget to put the collar on. I get the sense that this exchange has become the highlight of each dog’s day. I am sure that were they to meet on the street they would have no problem with each other, for the barking is heavy on the noise level, and not so much the growl of bad intentions.

Lest you wonder why I put up with this, and instead draw some satisfaction from the fact that now my neighbor often rushes out to call and silence her dog, let me say that Mojo is an old lady. She spent most of her life in the country on a large piece of property where she was free to do pretty much whatever she felt like doing with no human being complaining, except on the rare occasion that she had a run-in with a skunk.

She had a constant flow of children, their friends, and activities to keep her entertained. In a pinch she could watch and sometimes catch one of the many slower moving birds that flocked to the birdfeeders I used to keep there. Now she lives with me in a neighborhood of houses with only a little more property than your average patio home. At first I had no neighbors. Then the house occupied by her nemesis had a series of renters for a few years. If there was a problem, within a few months the problem moved away. Mojo and I were left the victors.

The young couple next door recently bought the house. The dogs are there to stay. I don’t know what I am going to do. I have become an old lady myself. I can be just as territorial and inflexible as the dog. I really don’t like flying out of bed in the still-dark hours to shut her up because I can’t train myself to make sure I close the dog door when I go to bed. I resent having to accommodate the other human beings I now live surrounded by since moving “in town” from the country.

I spent most of my life as an urbanite, after all. It surely didn’t seem having neighbors would be a problem, as long as I owned my own house. I’m in control here, right?

What was I thinking?

4 thoughts on “ON OWNING MOJO

  1. You are so nice Chris…I would say screw the person who left you a note about dogs barking. It reminds me of the note I got at Chilson once about how I parked my car. The person who left a note can move to another neighborhood – one that doesn’t allow animals. Oh and yes your writing is amazing!

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