Dog Gone It: An Exploration In Stateless Conflict Resolution
This is Liberty, a dog rescued from a neglectful situation across the street from our home. She is living proof that shaking hands with your neighbors instead of calling the state on them will bring about the best possible solution for everyone involved.
Our dog-related conflicts began with the people across the street in late November when a black and white puppy began hanging around their front yard. My first interaction with the dog was catching her eating out of our cat food bowl on the front porch. I shooed her off and tried to find a higher place to put the cat bowl (I like attracting barn cats to chase off mice and rabbits!).
A few days later I caught her in our back yard chasing our chickens, so I carried her over to their house and knocked on the door. When I handed her over I asked their young daughter to translate for me and to let her mom know the dog was chasing our chickens. The mother denied that the dog was theirs and said it was hanging around because they were feeding their new German Shepherd in the backyard (it was chained up). She said the black and white dog belonged to the people down the street and she would talk to them.
On yet another occasion, I heard a commotion out front and went to the window to see the mother from across the street standing halfway down our driveway quietly calling for the dog. I ran into our back yard to find her chasing our chickens again! Thankfully she was too small to do much damage at this point and I was able to quickly catch her. When I handed her back, I told her with some anger that this had to stop.
By December we had talked to the neighbors down the road and they told us they had given the dog to the mother across the street as a gift (the one denying it was hers while simultaneously taking it every time I brought it over). The chicken-chasing and food-raiding had continued, my frustrated door knocking had escalated, and we began experiencing the additional problem of the German Shepherd getting loose and coming onto our property and barking at our house guests.
In January, just as my second trimester of pregnancy ended I heard a loud squawking noise out front. I called for John and ran full steam at the German Shepherd holding one of my chickens in his mouth. Screaming at the top of my lungs I chased him toward his property, tripping and falling in the middle of the street. From my hands and knees in the middle of the road I screamed as loud as I could, somehow scaring the German Shepherd into dropping the bird.
I then ran to their front door pounding and screaming like a mad woman, with bleeding knees, hands and feet, and chasing the dog every time it tried to go after the bird again until they finally answered the door. I was sobbing and furious and spent the next 45 minutes in a “come to Jesus” meeting in their living room.
One of their housemates, the owner of the German Shepherd, speaks English and he translated between myself and the family. He expressed great remorse and agreed to keep better watch of his dog, the mother and father of the house reluctantly agreed to take responsibility for the black and white dog (Liberty) because their young daughter wanted to keep her.
It broke my heart to see both dogs chained in the front yard after that. Rain, freeze or shine, those dogs were there. They would cry out at night and my daughter would sign "hurt" and point to the front window when she heard them cry out. I could not stand to have her see dogs treated like this as we are huge animal lovers and did not want her to think this was okay.
Then a second family with four more children moved in. This is when the especially cruel treatment began. The neglect turned into abuse and included spraying the black and white dog (Liberty) in the face with a hose while she was tied to the end of her chain and unable to get away, throwing objects at the dogs and our chickens, and even hitting the dog. Every time I saw such an injustice I would shout for them to stop. If it was directed at our animals, I would march over and tell their parents to deal with the situation.
Then things took a turn for the worse. The owner of the German Shepherd, the mother and father who had taken responsibility for the black and white dog (Liberty), and two of their children left for a week. While they were out of town, the father of the newest set of four kids was left at the house with six children.
He did not feed or water the dogs the first four days they were left there. When a wind storm hit with 45 mph winds, they were both left cowering as debris and branches blasted them. By the end of the storm the German Shepherd's chain was wrapped around a large toy car, leaving him no more than a foot of space to move (thankfully the tree hit the toy and not the dog!). The temperature dropped below forty and the poor doggies were left right there, totally exposed.
When the black and white dog (Liberty) got off her chain and began hunting squirrels to eat, I got on Facebook and had a friend translate a letter to the dad asking him to please feed the dogs and provide them shelter from the elements. I delivered the letter and he tried to explain their housing situation to me in very broken English. He did not go feed the dogs or do anything to wrangle the loose one.
The next day John arrived home from his trip to Liberty Forum in New Hampshire. He knocked on the door across the street and told the man watching all the kids that he had to take care of the dogs. The man told John he did not own the dogs and John asked him to please help the dogs and to please help us by feeding and watering them. In addition to our concern for the dog’s well-being, we did not want a hungry dog and known chicken-chasers loose near our property.
Now, bear in mind we had both posted on Facebook asking for advice on how to deal with this situation. Calling animal control, calling the police and shooting the dogs when they come on our property were all suggested solutions. We didn't want to hurt the dogs and we certainly did not want to entangle ourselves or our neighbors with the state, so we decided to wait until the owners came home and deal with them face to face.
John wrote a very strong letter (see below) demanding they care for the dogs or relinquish them to us to find better housing. The letter said in part, “the next time your dog comes on our property, we will take it and find it a better home.” Two days after the letter was left on the front porch after repeated knocking to no avail, John went across the street to speak to the “man of the house”. In his best broken Spanish, he convinced the mother and father, who had previously agreed to take care of the black and white dog (Liberty) and neglected to do so, to let us find her a better home. Thankfully our friend Caitlyn was willing and able to help in this
One week after their return from the week of neglect, Caitlyn arrived to pick up Liberty. Thank goodness, too, because John had to stop the kids from each individually hitting her one after the other in the driveway. When one girl tried to defend the dog, they started hitting the girl.
Since Liberty's rescue, the German Shepherd was caught loose once, chasing our beautiful peacock. This was days before my due date and I shouted at him from our driveway. John went to talk to him and he apologized greatly and said he had to run inside to deal with a situation and left the dog off-leash. He has been spending more time with the German Shepherd and the dog now lives in their chicken coop with access to shelter, food and water.
I want the readers to hear this story in its entirety to understand that dealing with our neighbors instead of calling the state is a long and tedious process. Despite the stress and the months of anguish over the situation, we managed to find the dogs better treatment, build a stronger bond with our neighbors, and prevented anyone from entanglement with a violent institution.
Moving forward John and I plan to take our community relationships to the next level. Not only do we intend to resolve our conflicts face to face, but we plan to open part of our yard as a community garden to teach our neighbors the joy of growing their own food. This will help make our neighborhood more resilient as the dollar slowly collapses. Hopefully, one day, we'll be bartering with our neighbors as well!
PS: if you're interested in adopting Liberty, please shoot me an email at Cat.Bleish@gmail.com
and I will get you in touch with Caitlyn. Liberty is now potty-trained, fully fed, and looking for a forever home! Yeah for community solutions!