Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Neighbour

When people ask if there were any nasty surprises as we started to rip things out, I say yes, there was one. But it wasn't anything like 5 layers of drywall or an unexpected supporting wall. Worse, actually. Something that is far more difficult to change.

We have a nasty neighbour.

In fact, he is the nasty neighbour, the stereotypical grumpy old man, known by everyone in the neighbourhood.

So far, our interaction with him is minimal, but very unpleasant.The Husband was emptying a bin of demo waste into our dumpster when the neighbour approached him.

"You're dog is digging in my property," he said. He started to walk away, but growled over his shoulder, "Fix it."

The Husband told me what he said when he came in. I headed with Mocha to the backyard. Had she found another hole in the fence, other than the one we had already blocked, and gotten into his backyard?

I stepped outside and he was right there, leaning over the fence, yelling at me.

"Your dog has been digging holes here on my property," he said, pointing to a thin strip of sandy ground right next to his back shed on our side of the fence. "Right here. This is mine. You don't let your dog dig there. You fix it! Fix it! I don't touch you property, so you don't touch mine."

I'll admit. I didn't react well. I snapped back. I was snarky. I'm not proud of it. I filled the holes and complained a little too loudly about the miserable neighbour to the Husband. Almost immediately, I regretted it.

See, we have to be careful. We're trying to get through a pretty big reno here. We might be a little noisy. A little messy. If this guy decides to get his nose out of joint, he could probably make our lives pretty tough while we try to get this all done. And, on top of that, we have to live next to him for as long as we own the house. We have to smile, say hello, keep our dog off his property and respect his space. But once we've got the time and the money, there is a solid fence going up, high enough that he can't even see into our back yard.

We hear a good fence makes good neighbours.

(Just a note to anyone who might drop by to visit or help us out ever: make sure you park a good 3 feet from his driveway. Today, we witnessed one of his infamous habits of calling the parking enforcement guys when a car was parked with the bumper mere inches over the top of the dip of his driveway -- apparently there's a bylaw that you must be at least 3 feet from the start of driveway opening. Some friendly neighbours warned us about this and now we've seen it!)


  1. He has to right to have his property undisturbed by your dog; he's right. Unless you went over and fixed it without him having to ask you too, you are being inconsiderate to him. You snapped at him; next time maybe he'll just take you to court for damages to his property.

    As for parking, it's the same thing. He has the right to park in his driveway without being obstructed. I'm sure he had asked (maybe not to you or the others) at one time and had something nasty said to him. So he just calls the police.

    He's grumpy because people screwed him over in the past. And from his experience with you and your dog, obviously he still feels offended. You've done nothing but give him more reason to be upset and will continue to snap. You should have apologized for your dogs actions, and immediately fixed the problem and asked him if was done to his satisfaction. Once he said yes, just say sorry again and you will do all that you can to prevent it from happening again.

    I had a neighbor who's dog would poop in my hard daily. He refused to believe it was his dog. I had PICTURES of his dog doing it and he STILL denied it. Yeah, I had to right to be damn grumpy then. His dog stopped only after I loudly complained to my wife that the next time I catch the dog, it's dead.

    My other neighbor often parked 2 to 3 FEET into my driveway. They never would move. Even after asking them to stop, they said, "No." Selfish bastards. Yeah, I was grumpy as well.

    Want to make him less grumpy and happy with you? Do as I said and make sure your dog stays out of his yard; but when it does get in there, make sure you immediately repair any damage. The problem you have is that you've already shown him that you can be inconsiderate.

  2. @Anonymous

    You are absolutely right. What bothered me was not his request, but his delivery. We're new to the neighbourhood, so this was our very first interaction with him. I don't even know his name. And, when someone is yelling at you, it's very difficult not to become defensive back. I may have snapped -- though I have a feeling he may have not even recognized my snarkiness for what it was, considering his own state of mind -- but I did apologize and I did immediately fix the damage. Inconsideration? I don't think so, especially since I have been very careful to keep an eye on the dog and fix any issues immediately since.

    The piece of property in question? I didn't even realize it wasn't part of our property. It's a very narrow strip of sandy ground right up next to his garage and the fence on our property is built up to the building -- he doesn't even have access to the narrow strip. I'm surprised he even let the fence be built in such a way but because of it, in every way, it looks like our property. Our dog WAS NOT in his back yard.

    But, you're right: he has a right to not have his property damaged by our dog. But does that give him a right to yell at us when it is very clear that we are completely unaware of the wrong doing? He would have gotten a lot farther in developing a healthy neighbourly relationship if he had civilly informed us that the piece of property belonged to him and asked if we could please prevent our dog from digging in it. I would have been quite happy to apologize profusely and fix the holes.

    As for the cars: it's one thing to block a driveway by 2 to 3 feet. It's quite another to block a driveway by 2 to 3 inches, especially when street parking is limited.

    You can always, ALWAYS choose how you interact with the people around you. People will be far less likely to try to screw you if you put a positive spin on your interactions. I'm not saying you should never stand up for things like your driveway access and your backyard, but there is a way to deal with these things that will lead to positive results and happy neighbours. Pettiness and verbal attacks are not the way to go.

  3. I am with you, completely. The man obviously has problems way beyond you snapping back at him for being rude--your neighbors have already warned you, so it's clear he has a pattern of being ultra-picky and crabby. I live in an apartment, so it isn't quite the same (I'm not really stuck the way you are), but I lived next to someone who was very much like that. We lived in total and complete paranoia. I used to literally tiptoe past her place every day to avoid getting yelled at.
    Here is what finally happened--she died alone in her apartment. No one found her for days--about 10 days before our wedding, we just noticed an odor and I called the police. I even called anonymously and told them that I did NOT want her to know that I had called, because she would have been furious.
    When her family came to go through her things, they said that they had not seen her for FIFTY years. She wouldn't even give them her real address and phone number--they were given a PO box to write to if they needed to contact her. They were certain that she was basically mentally ill.
    It was SO VERY sad.
    I wish I had advice to give you on how to handle it--I just lived like a coward until she died. We tiptoed past her place, told guests not to smoke or talk or spend time on the balcony, stopped using our barbecue, warned people about her, etc. Honestly, it has been WONDERFUL feeling comfortable reading on my balcony, growing plants, etc. without getting yelled at by someone.
    I really wish you the best of luck--I hope he is more rational than my neighbor was. Try to be as compassionate as possible, because he probably lives a very unhappy life.

  4. @Anonymous

    Wow. That is a sad story. It's difficult to reach out to someone who is just yelling at you all the time in order to make someone's life a little happier.

    We met our neighbour's son-in-law a few days ago -- a chatty, friendly guy -- so we know that he's not being pushed away by/pushing away his family. Hopefully our neighbour's story will not be as sad and lonely as your neighbour's story. We've been doing our best to be friendly, say hello when we see him (though he ignores it completely), and just stay out of his way. Once we settle in, I might bake him a plate of cookies and drop by to properly introduce us to him. We'll just have to wait and see how things play out.

    Thanks for your comment!

  5. To clarify, our dog was not in his back yard. The strip of land in question runs along his garage which sits against the property line, since previous owners decided not to put up a proper fence along this part of the property line, possibly due to his demands. So, along the property line, there's fence, garage wall, fence. He owns maybe 2-4 inches of this land.

    And, as for parking, nope, not the same thing. His driveway is never obstructed, and I'm fairly certain this man has never tried to ask people to move.