Eight months ago, a house several doors away from mine was rented to a person named Steve Moss. He brought with him a large dog, which has changed our community from a sleepy, tranquil oasis to a painful, disturbing place.

On February 26, 2010, this dog barked and howled for 3 straight hours with a sustaining intensity that was hard to believe, let alone listen to. At 9:45 PM I went over and knocked on the front door of the house but nobody was there. I went home and returned with a brief note, informing that the dog had been barking and howling since 7:00 PM, and it was very disturbing. I left the note at the front door at 10:00 PM.

About a month later the barking started to return, less frequently at first. Then the problem grew to a point where I felt the need to keep track of it, noting the date, time and duration of these disturbing outbursts.

On May 13, the dog started in at 7:45 AM with an onslaught that continued on for over an hour. I went over and knocked on the door, a middle-aged Latina woman answered. She appeared to be the maid, her English wasn’t too good, but she was nice. “Your dog has been barking for over an hour” I told her, “it’s very disturbing.” She looked at me with complete incredulity, as if confused by my presence, and responded “Oh, yes. The dog. You are here to cut the grass?” I politely made it clear to her I was not there to cut the grass.

Over the next week, a succession of 3 separate early morning persistent barking and howling sessions followed, typically lasting from 1 to 2 hours.

On May 25, the barking starting again at 8:00 AM. At 9:45 AM, I made my 3rd trip to the front door of this house in 3 months. Steve Moss opened the door and said, “I suppose you’re here about my dog.” He continued that he’d been away, and just got home about 10 minutes ago. I told him that his dog had been barking since 8:00 AM, to which he replied, “I doubt that. I’m sorry if my dog disturbs you. That said, my dog is not a barker. He’s just a little overprotective.” This comment left me speechless for a moment. I gathered myself and tried to respond in a reasonable, unemotional way. I explained that I had lived here for 14 years, and that I was anything but a complainer. Of how big a deal it was for me to come knock on a neighbor’s door to complain about anything. I told him his dog’s persistent barking had been very disturbing, for months now. He stood there unapologetically; his arms folded, and said nothing.

On Saturday, June 12, the barking and howling started at 7:30 PM, and continued on into late evening. By 11:30 PM, the barking faded into painful howling. I went over and knocked on the door, but no one answered. Every couple of hours the howling would go on for about 15 minutes, then abate. This went on all through the night, into the morning and continued all day Sunday. At 8:30 PM, the dog was still barking and howling, but I noticed a light was on inside the house. I walked over yet again, and knocked on the door. After a considerable delay the door opened, and 2 teenaged girls appeared. I asked them why they were allowing this dog to bark and howl for the last 48 hours. One of the girls answered sheepishly, “The dog wants to eat us.”  She explained they were housesitting for the weekend, and unfamiliar with the animal. “He doesn’t like us, we’re afraid of him. We can’t let him inside, he’ll kill us.” The girls begged me not to call the police or Animal Control. They were embarrassed and afraid they’d get in trouble with their host, Steve Moss.

I found myself at a loss for what to do about this frustrating, metastasizing problem.

There are 2 homes between my mine and Steve Moss,’ both of them very peaceful, quiet old guys who go out of their way to mind their own business. I find it hard to believe they haven’t been as disturbed by the noise as myself. But then again, these are guys who probably wouldn’t complain if you lit their homes on fire.

A friend told me, “You’ve gotta get Zen with this.” I tried many things to distract myself from the problem; I’d go for 4-hour walks, or surf Ocean Beach during the times when the dog would go off. I tried earplugs, or wearing headphones and listening to music. I’d play war movies on TV with the volume cranked. Unfortunately, the benefits of these measures were short-lived.

Finally in September, after months of continuing punishment, I decided to start videotaping what was happening from the back porch of my house. I pointed the camera due west, directly over Steve Moss’ backyard. I tried to set up the camera and tripod in the same place each time I filmed, unable to leave it installed and running constantly. I work out of a studio in my home, so I was able to commit myself to the task and be attentive. I started “collecting” this dog’s barks.

The above video documents a 2-month time period. It represents a fraction of the amount of actual barking this dog did during that time. Typically, I wouldn’t even set up the camera and start filming until the dog had been barking intensely for several minutes.  I filmed a total of about 4 hours of this dog’s barking, and ended up cutting it down to a little over 5 minutes.

If you find the above 5-minute video uncomfortable to listen to, I hope at very least it conveys a taste of what I’ve had to listen to for the last 8 months.

October 31, 2010