You can have a direct impact on your neighbors' quality of life.
Since I began writing this column over two years ago, I have received hundreds of emails. Some columns have fathered a few, some more than a few and one generated a lot of emails. It was the column last month about my neighbor's dog, who can bark for hours.
I am not the only one with a problem. I heard from readers who are miserable, who have filed complaints and who have acrimonious relationships because they filed complaints. I received a number of suggestions.
One reader recommended a Sunbeam Ultrasonic Egg Dog Bark Control Device, which she placed on her fence. It solved the problem. Her neighbors don't know why Bingo no longer barks.
There's no paperwork with Douglas County, corroboration with another neighbor as required, no resentment, no retaliation.
My art studio extends into the back yard, and there is nothing between it and my neighbor's dog except a 20-year-old fence.
The barking ruins my studio time. Even if I turn up the music.
We all love our dogs. That might be a slight exaggeration, because some dogs and other pets are neglected, just as some children are. Between the two there is almost nothing that is worse.
Neglected children socialize poorly and may become bullies at school, or the targets of bullies. Neglected dogs, ones without supervision and discipline, can easily disrupt a neighborhood.
There are three little dogs across the street who are right on the greenbelt sidewalk, and blast off every time someone walks by, with or without a dog. They get out and run around the neighborhood. Smitty and I have been "engaged" 15 times by dogs on the loose. I take a sawed-off broomstick when we go for walks.
"Oh, it's OK," one woman said. "He's wearing an electronic collar." Memo: Douglas Country does not approve of an electronic dog collar as an alternative to a leash.
Unleashed dogs are all over. I wrote about one that charged at us. The owner acted like his dog was exempt. And used a profanity in front of his son when I picked up Smitty, and commented about his failure to follow county rules and laws.
Of course there is poop everywhere. Can't be bothered? Why do you own a dog?
As I said in the previous column, there are many more important issues to occupy our time, but a barking dog can really impact the quality of home life.
We do things that we shouldn't, like texting behind the wheel, running red lights, failing to use turn signals ("Turn signals? What are turn signals?"), speeding, tailgating, and it all seems to be OK. Allowing a dog to bark is a piece of that disregard for others.
So far, I have yet to hear from someone who defends barking. Usually I hear from the counterpoints. But how can you defend a nuisance?
If your sleep, your book time, your films, meals, and conversations are punctured and punctuated repeatedly by a backyard dog, then your home is no longer a sanctuary.
While I am at it, I dislike the Fourth of July, and the days before it and the days after it, because I have some schmuck neighbors who like to make loud noises. Is it cool? I think it is asinine and disrespectful.
Fireworks scare Smitty and other dogs, too. One jumped a fence and was run over and killed. The owner got an apology.
Chances are offenders are not reading this. That's just the way it is. But it's apparent from my in-box that they are being watched.
Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org