Neighbourhood Crap

My daughter Rachelle’s hockey team had a potluck party Saturday night. Afterwards, with the parents sitting around enjoying a liquid libation, the subject of dog crap came up.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, it wasn’t me who started that ball rolling.. I’ll blame that on my wife. The host family’s two well-behaved dogs were sniffing around, and my wife Brenda brought up the subject of dog walking: who does it, how far, how often, topics that make non-dog owners’ eyes glaze over and run to the nearest exit.
Anyone who is over fifty has probably noticed that a lot more people seem to be dog owners now than during the sixties and seventies. Any astute sociologist or analyst of modern society could probably trot out the reasons for this phenomenon: more indulgent parents giving in to their kids’ demands, more people living alone and therefore needing some sort of companionship, single people meeting other singles in dog walking parks, the astrological age we’re living in: you take your pick. And it’s also true that people aren’t as neighbourly as they used to be. Like Jim, for example.
Yours truly may pride myself on being a grumpy old man, but I am only a pipsqueak compared to the man we share a driveway with. Jim has lived in his house for more than twenty five years; we’ve been beside him for a mere eleven. Our house was previously owned by an eighty three year old woman, Elva McNamara, who would make Pollyanna look like Snow White’s evil stepmother. Elva wanted to share driveway plowing expenses with Jim but he refused; he had a four wheel drive vehicle that he said had no problems in deep snow. Elva had a lovely back yard full of every type of blossom possible in Ottawa, Jim would come over whenever he wanted and cut a few; Jim’s dog, a large Lab, would use Elva’s yard as his personal latrine. Finally Elva became too old for the upkeep and we moved in.
Clearly to Jim’s disappointment. The first time I met him he was in a bad mood; not used to sharing a driveway, I had blocked him in, and he rang our doorbell indignantly in order to point out my thoughtless stupidity. Brenda seemed to be pleased that someone else had noticed my predominant character trait, but I was less impressed. “The guy is an asshole,” I said, presciently.
It wasn’t long before Brenda came onside to my line of thinking. The melting snows of March soon revealed a small backyard festooned with gifts from the good neighbour’s canine.
“I picked up ninety piles of crap today,” Brenda announced to me one Saturday afternoon as I drove into the driveway from a hockey tournament. Our daughter Rachelle, four years old, had been stepping in it and then tracking it through the kitchen and dining room. I shrugged, perhaps feeling a bit guilty that I had not been present to do what Brenda clearly saw as my manly duty. “Yeah, it’s easy for you to shrug; didn’t you used to sit in your grandfather’s outhouse just for the fun of it?” Brenda challenged.
Well, yes. That was when I was a young kid. The one bathroom in my grandparents’ house was often occupied and the two-seater in the shed seemed to be a haven, especially in the summer when it was warm. I didn’t even mind the flies buzzing around my head; there was always a pile of old magazines stacked inside and I could get away from the endless farm chores that never seemed to abate. Besides, on a farm that had both cattle and at least fifteen horses at all times, I had grown used to many different forms of manure, spending a good part of my time either shovelling it, spreading it or stepping in it.
We have, however, lived an uneasy truce with our neighbour in the intervening years. Earlier on, before heart ailments slowed him down, Jim had been a triathlete, and as a divorced man, he seemed to have a steady parade of much-younger, athletic women come-and-go, none of whom he seemed to stick with.
“The guy’s a stud,” I mentioned to Brenda, admiringly.
“The house is a chick-magnet,” Brenda corrected me, having none of an older male’s delusions. “They’re hoping he’ll keel over and they’ll have a house in the Glebe.”
The uneasy truce was no more lasting than a Middle East peace accord, however.We were away in Cuba for a week this Christmas and one morning, both returning from dog walking missions at the same time, Jim confronted me.
“Did you dump dog crap at our backyard gate?” Jim didn’t use my name, he still doesn’t know it after eleven years of being next- door neighbours. Or if he does know it, he never uses it. My eyes widened in surprise, both at the accusation and the thought that I was still a suspect for anti-social behaviour after years of détente. “No,” I proclaimed righteously.
“Well, did your wife do it?” Jim was not one to give up easily.
“She would never do that,” I huffed indignantly.
He turned away, saying nothing but clearly doubting my sincerity. The dog crap lay at the gate’s door for several more days, clearly awaiting a Good Samaritan or the return of the culprit wanting to clear his conscience.
Several days later, over a glass of wine, I brought up the subject with Brenda, chuckling that we would even be considered the culprits in such a dastardly deed.
“Jim next door accused me of dumping dog crap at his gate. Can you believe that?” I asked, clearly miffed at having my purity and integrity questioned.
Brenda calmly took another sip of her wine. “That was me,” she confessed…proudly. “We got back from Cuba, and there was Jim’s dog’s crap sitting right on our driveway. I just decided to return it from whence it came.”
So that’s it, I surmised. Peace on earth will be hard to attain. Revenge and retribution will go on forever, whether it’s in the Middle East, Chechnya or the dog-crapping terrorists of the Glebe.

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