I fear we may fall out with our neighbours. They are lovely people and we have always been very pleased to have them next door. However, they are not alone. They share their house with four dogs.
It is fair to say that I am not a dog person. When I was very small I was sent flying by a rather over-enthusiastic red setter. Being trampled to the ground by a creature that was at least three times my size and frothing at the mouth left an indelible mark on me. After this I was understandably reticent where dogs were concerned. My great uncle had two guard dogs that lived outside his house. They were on chains and if you walked round to the front door staying really close to the wall they could not reach you.I can still picture in my mind's eye the dogs jumping for my jugular only to be snapped back when they reached the extent of their chains. I was absolutely terrified despite the unconvincing reassurances that I was safe. It was clear that dogs and I would have a troubled relationship.
The years wore on. I avoided dogs and they kept trying to eat me. It's true they can smell fear. They certainly sniffed me out. When I was at university a dog jumped out at me from the undergrowth and took a chunk out of my thigh for no apparent reason. That led to years of sweaty palms and a racing heart whenever a dog came near.
Time heals and over the years my fear has evolved to a pure hatred of all things canine. There is no dog that I would save if I had a shotgun and could shoot without fear of repercussion. I have just alienated half the population of the UK but there it is.
And so back to next door. They first got a dog about ten years ago - a biscuit coloured lurcher called Benjy that barked non-stop for two night when he arrived and then was relatively harmless. We didn't really have much to do with Benjy until he came through our hedge and sank his teeth in to my beautiful maran hen, Mathilda. To make matters worse she had laid her very first egg that day. When I found her amongst a pile of feathers she was still alive but her breast resembled something you might expect to see in shrink wrap. We hot footed it to the vet's who sewed her up and she went on to lay another day.I was less keen on Benjy after that.
Benjy died last year and was quickly replaced with two rescue dogs, a miniature poodle and a dog that appears to be there during the day but is taken away by someone else at night.It's like living next door to Battersea Dogs' Home. The dogs bark all the time. They bark when someone comes to their house. They bark when someone comes to our house. They bark when anyone goes within 30 yards with another dog. They bark when I shout at my kids. They are barking as I type.
But what if I complain? The trouble with living in a semi is that you have no idea how you sound through the wall. We are not a quiet household. We play musical instruments. We often have music blaring from five different sound systems. We tend to communicate by shouting at each other. My eldest likes to make random noises to entertain herself and sings really loudly in the shower. So if I mention their unsatisfactory noise levels what might I be unleashing? We could end up with a full blown war including Environmental Health investigating complaints about us before I can say "shotgun".
So I will probably not do anything. If I see them in passing I might politely request that their dogs find somewhere else to defecate whilst apologising at the same time for mentioning it. But secretly I will know that when I rule the world owning a dog will be punishable by hideous torture and death !!!