Too dumb for an idiot stick

    This may brand me forever as a moderate on this issue, but I'll go on the record as saying that anyone caught in possession of a leaf blower should be flayed alive with a vegetable peeler. I know I should be more forceful on the issue, but I haven't been woken up yet by one yet. I've just had my late mornings and afternoon wrecked by them.
    Is raking such toil that a high-pitched whine is preferable? Is the occasional use of an idiot stick so degrading that the entire neighborhood must be annoyed instead? Does a rake simply make too much sense? Instead, these pinheads spend countless hours gently wafting only the lightest and driest leaves back and forth, this way and that, with the vague goal of eventually getting them into a pile.
    That's what a rake is for. Get it -- rake the lawn? Does anyone say, "blow the lawn"?
    In an age of gun silencers and stealth bombers, nothing wanders farther from Teddy Roosevelt's admonishment to "Speak softly and carry a big stick" than the leaf blower. It makes an ungodly racket, and does diddly-squat.
    Here I am, trying to enjoy my yard and get some exercise, and lazybones across the street is doing Emmet Kelly routine with the leaf blower, only instead of the hobo clown pantomine I hear the wind-tunnel whine of numbnuts' leaf blower.
    When the neighborhood dogs start barking, i can sympathize. The sound is grating even to our mere human ears.
    It's the rest of the time that I want to take the peeler to their owners.
    It's very simple, neighbors. Dogs are territorial. If anything comes within their sight or hearing, they bark. In a residential area, that happens a lot. Sometimes as late as 2 in the morning. The dog means well; he's just trying to keep his master safe. It's the owner who should be flayed alive with the vegetable peeler.
    If you want to keep your home and yard secure, sign up for a security service. If you want something warm and furry, get a cat or hire somebody. I just don't want to hear anything unless there's an emergency.
    A week ago I had to go complain to the neighbors because their dog was barking its fool head off in their back yard. They're renters -- the bane of any homeowner. They open the door. They have guests. They have every window closed, on a beautiful day, and shouting above the racket of the dog.
    I asked them if they would let the dog inside, so it would stop barking. They relucantly agreed. I mentioned that the dog barks a lot during the day, while my wife and I are often working at home, and the guy tried to explain that they are out during the day, and so they have no control over the dog during that time.
    I explained it to them.
    You see, a dog is a social animal. It wants to be with you. When it can't be with you, it barks -- like right now, you see? If you don't want the dog to be with you most of the time, then you shouldn't have a dog as a pet. It's what pets do; they are companions. When you're gone during the day, the dog is upset. It's alone. It's a social animal. Alone is bad for a social animal. It's anxious. So it barks.
    (That's why you usually associate dogs with nuclear families, where someone is home with it most of the time, and the dog has had some sort of obedience training. As opposed to a college student, with a sullen room mate who wants nothing to do with the dog but have yet to put his foot down, who got a dog in a fit of homesickness and sentimentality but really doesn't have the time or interest to be a responsible dog owner.)
    The other day when I was out raking, one of my neighbors was walking past with some smush-faced variety of bulldog or other whose breathing problems were the result of generations of carefully orchestrated dog incest. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the dog start urinating on my mailbox post. I looked up, and the owner smiled and waved at me, as if she and her dog were doing me some favor.
    "Howdy neighbor! Your mailbox post was looking a little dry, so I thought I'd let my sweet baby schnookums here give it a drink. No need to thank me -- what are neighbors for?"
    And as an extra special favor, when my wife and I aren't around, they let their dogs leave turds the size of knockwurst all over our lawn.
    The gall of most urban and suburban dog owners never ceases to amaze me. Yes, you have a dog, good for you. Understandably, you don't want your lawn to die from dog urine, so you spread it around a little. Let the dog stake its territory on the neighbors' property. Then another dog comes along and does the same. Most owners exist in cheerful denial; they let the dog out, it comes back, no questions asked.
    But this woman takes her dog to pee on all her neighbors' yards. And not all in one trip, mind you. The dog gets to ration out its urine, a little at a time, lest anyone feel excluded. She's blessing the neighborhood, and her dog is her holy water sprinkler.     If only it made a noise like a leaf blower, she'd be set.

© 2000 Randel Shard