Righteousness Awry?

I wonder how the person felt after placing the call.

Had they satisfied their ego?
Did they feel they’d done the right thing?
Did they think about cause and effect?
Ripples radiating?


Henrietta was scarfing choke cherries on the driveway. I pumped my legs in place, imitating a jog to get her attention and coax her away from the plump, fallen fruits. Is there anything that grows in our yard that’s not toxic? Online sources tell me the cherries contain cyanide.

Well, I reason to myself every morning when I see the pit laden piles of coyote poop, the coyotes eat them without trouble, she’ll be fine if she only eats a few.

Was the sheriff’s Tahoe in the cul de sac running?

My thoughts started their game of ping pong: What neighbor is getting a visit from the sheriff? Why? Something stolen? Rabid raccoon? (That actually happened once. Then, after the sheriff shot the erratic animal and pulled away in his truck, the creature got up in the midday sun and started wandering around again!) The only other time I recall a sheriff stopped was when a neighbor committed suicide in his backyard….Oh, I see the uniform in the driver’s seat…maybe he just found a quiet spot to wrap up some of his paperwork.

My neighbor was exiting his garage. Was he wondering about the Tahoe with lights on top, too?

“Hello,” I called. “How are you?”

As he approached me he gestured to the sheriff and said, “One of the neighbors called the cops about Louis’ barking. Said he can’t tell me who it was…maybe it was the people from the corner house.”

“It wasn’t me,” I said.

Turning back toward his house while Louis continued to bark he said, “Well, I better get back in and close the front door.”

Louis is a twelve year old cocker spaniel. He’s lived in the neighborhood since he was a young pup like Henri. Always vocal, his barking has picked up in intensity as he’s aged.

Sure, I’ve noticed, but the barking is white noise to me, like the recurring train whistle or cicadas buzzing, crickets chirping. If I really found the noise annoying, I’d mention something to Louis’ owners when I see them out for the morning walk. I would not call the cops on my neighbor of almost twenty years.

The neighbor Louis’ owner suspects—I’m certain they would not call the cops either. I suspect somebody else. Perhaps we’re both wrong…

I know this is small scale, petty neighborhood drama, but isn’t this how wars start?

What if humans were a tad more tolerant, and learned how to communicate with each other?

Would you call the sheriff over a barking dog?


If you found this story interesting, you might enjoy this Aeon article: Righteous Incivility