QUESTION: Our neighbor’s uncontrollable dogs recently attacked my dog and me when they ran an electronic fence. My dog suffered minor cuts and bite marks. I suffered a minor concussion as well as bruises when the dogs knocked me to the ground. We share an adjoining fence. Yet, over the last decade we have had little contact or conversation.
The couple also did not make any grand gesture to really apologize for their dog’s behavior other then a follow-up phone call. How do we move past this and maintain a civil relationship?
CALLIE’S ANSWER: HOW SCARY! Your neighbors should have done more than just a follow-up call, no matter how little contact you have had in the past. I know firsthand having an aggressive dog is hard on everyone involved. Once the dog has crossed the line and attacked someone, changes need to be made. I am hoping your neighbors realize this and are seeking the right help to stop this from happening again. If you would like to get more involved, research about personal training sessions for aggressive dogs. Although, keep in mind this might be seen as passive aggressive.
LILLIE-BETH’S ANSWER: What a horrible incident! I am glad you are mostly OK. It doesn’t sound like you can do much to repair an already chilly neighbor relationship after something like this happens. All you can do is protect yourself. It also depends on how you want to “move past this.” First, make sure your neighbor is aware of the full extent of the attack on your dog and your own injuries. Then ask what he or she is doing to prevent that from happening again, noting that you are now afraid of the dogs. (For peace of mind, you might end up being the one building the barrier to keep the dogs out of your yard.)
If you have medical bills, tell your neighbor, although if your neighbor didn’t already offer to help with them, don’t think you’ll get them paid without legal involvement. Most cities have rules guiding what to do after an unprovoked dog attack, whether they suggest that you report the dogs’ behavior to the local animal control office or they direct the owner of the offending dog to pay related medical bills. If you feel like you need to, call and talk to your city’s animal control division and see what they suggest. In any event, your report could flag the dogs as dangerous and offer some legal evidence about that should the dogs attack again. The more you can handle internally and calmly with your neighbor without getting the law involved, the better chance you have for a civil relationship in the future, but depending on the circumstance, that may not be possible.
HELEN’S ANSWER: It would be hard to be civil to the neighbors after they caused you to have a concussion and bruises and after they didn’t check to see if you, or your dog, needed medical attention. Maybe they thought the telephone call was enough.
It is important to be vigilant when you are outside. You might need a new fence.
As for the neighbors and the dogs, continue to keep your distance, unless they show some remorse, or kindness.
GUEST’S ANSWER: Matthew Price, The Oklahoman’s Features Editor: If you’ve had little contact or conversation over the past decade, your apprehension over the event hasn’t really affected your relationship with your neighbor, it seems. You still don’t have a good one.
But following the strategy of good fences making good neighbors, I would look at beefing up the fencing for your yard to keep your neighbors’ dogs out. The electric fence may not be enough of a deterrent.
Callie Gordon is 20-something, Lillie-Beth Brinkman is in her 40s, and social columnist Helen Ford Wallace is 60-plus.