Dear PoPville – Dog/Neighbor Dilemma

Photo by PoPville flickr user Flicker Clicker

“Dear PoPville,

I’ve got a bit of a dilemma and I really don’t know how to handle it. I live in a row house with a tiny yard and have a small dog that I walk around the neighborhood. There’s an apartment building directly across the street from my house and a woman has been harassing me for walking my dog – she can see me and yells profanity at me, but I can’t see her. It’s unnerving, especially since she’ll be yelling at me as I walk into my front door, so she knows where I live. I’m a responsible pet owner – I clean up after my dog. Not to mention there’s no yard to her apartment building – just grass between the sidewalk and the street which is public space.

This evening I watched an older man walk two large dogs walk right by the building but as I walked by she started yelling at me about my f*** dog, and how would I like it if she let her dog s*** and p*** in my d*** yard. My husband has told her to shove it, I’ve responded that I picked up the poop and have a right to walk the dog along the street. I’ve now started to ignore it but it continues. What do I do to get this to stop? I’m pretty sure this is anti-gentrification blowback. Maybe I should just stop scooping the poop so at least her yelling is valid…”

I def. feel your frustration but I don’t think this situation is “anti-gentrification blowback”. I think it is more likely that the neighbor could be mentally ill. Or the neighbor may have simply been pushed over the edge by others not scooping that she is venting her anger on you. Though the fact she yells only at you and not others with dogs is of great concern. It sounds like a rational discussion is not gonna work here. How would you guys deal with this situation – alert the authorities or try to ignore it? Something else?

65 Comment

  • The woman is clearly nutty. Maybe you’ve done other stuff that has sent her over the edge, like you had the audacity to park on her side of the street. Who knows why she is targeting you. If she never comes out after you, I wouldnt worry about it. Crazy shit happens sometimes, and this one is definitely outside the realm of your control. You could call the cops, but they wont be able to do much unless there’s a warrant for mental health issues. I think the best course of action would be to stop engaging her, she’ll eventually stop.

    As for the anti-gentrification thing, in my experience, the folks who are the most aggressive “anti-gentrification” folks, those who are outspoken on the street and at community meetings are likely imbalanced as well. The people who are rational, even-headed, and have legitimate concerns and fears aren’t yelling and cursing at 105dB. Unfortunately, a lot of people dont understand this dynamic and so the entire issue gets mischaracterized, generalized, and stereotyped based on the loudest most obnoxious and likely crazy people out there.

  • It’s Halloween weekend. Maybe it’s time to try the old flaming bag of crap trick! (but don’t burn her building down.)

  • Just ignore it. It is obvious she is off her rocker and even if she wasn’t and it was gentrification blowback, do you really care?

    Don’t even respond, she is looking for a reaction from you. Don’t give her the satisfaction.

    Her delusions will get hte better of her soon enough and she will start yelling at the voices in her head and move on from you.

  • houseintherear

    I had a neighbor do this to me and my dog when I first moved to my house. I always tried to reason with her, and then ignore her, but it continued. And she would walk down the street after me screaming. It wasn’t pleasant. One day I finally pulled the roll of poop bags out of my pocked and unrolled them all and counted them one by one and flailed them around while she watched, then I yelled something like, “I HAVE 31 POOP BAGS IN MY POCKET.” She left me alone after that, probably because she thought I was nuts.

    Anyway, I’d ignore her if I were you.

    • That’s fantastic! I wish I had seen it.

    • Lol something about that phrase sent me cracking up; probably looked even more confusing to someone who didn’t know why you were yelling that at this lady. Thanks for making me disturb everyone in the library!

  • Honestly, I’d just tell her to f*ck off or otherwise pretend like she doesn’t exist. I have gotten heckled quite a few times in this city and have eventually learned to just block it out completely. I barely notice it anymore. Also, take pride in the fact that you are the bane of some idiot’s existence for doing absolutely nothing!!

  • Does her apartment building have a manager? Could you go to the front desk and ask to speak with that person? Hopefully they will have an idea who the resident is and may be able to reassure you that it’s just a neighborhood nutcase who you can ignore.

    When I lived in a large apartment building in Northwest we had a couple or three “nuts”. One old man thought he was a building security guy and harassed me and my moving crew when I was moving in. The building manager, who knew all about him, apologized that day and actually slipped a $25 gift certificate for a neighborhood restaurant under my door to make up for the harassment.

  • Do not feed the nutjob. Ignore her.

    On a not-quite-related note, my neighbor’s cat has started pooping on my front steps (I assume he’s the culprit). Perhaps I should post this in the Rant/Rave thread.

  • We have a woman on our street who is a bit idiosyncratic like that. She yells at people walking their dogs. Painted lines on the street and posted no parking signed to make sure noone parks in “her” spot. If you stop and talk with her about it she calms down so people pretty much just humour her.

  • she’s obviously not going to stop if you keep reacting like you do. you have to tell her to shut the fuck up and leave you alone.

  • I agree with those who say ignore her. Your reaction may be the only attention she gets. Unfortunately, she probably does have a mental illness and probably one that isn’t being treated.

  • I’ve definitely been yelled at about my dog on my own block. The guy said “Now why the fuck didn’t you pick that shit up?!!!” But when I explained that my dog was peeing and not popping (and it was on the public space median near the street) the guy felt pretty stupid after that, but didn’t want to admit it. “I was just checkin’ “. He has since left me alone.

    Some people are definitely crazy though. I once got attacked by a crazy guy on the street while living in Richmond once, he litterly was drooling from the mouth and tried to hit me…Just beware of those crazies…other than that I would ignore them.

  • I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss “anti-gentrification blowback” without more information.

  • Ignore it.

    A little drama goes a long way. Crazy people already know this.

  • I had exactly this happen to me, from a handful of residents in an apartment building across from my rowhouse in CH. One of them (a middle-age man who was big enough that, even as a pretty big dude myself, I was worrying about how I’d fare if he actually did anything) actually came at me with fists raised and cursing at the top of his lungs, even though I was in publc space and always picked up after my dog.

    Anyway, I think PoP hits the nail on the head: it is anti-gentrification blowback. This woman isn’t crazy or mentally ill, she’s just pissed off at change in her neighborhood and inappropriately taking it out on OP. I usually would say that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, especially with your neighbors, but the reality is that you’ve probably passed the point of no return with this woman. She starts yelling again, I’d go right up to her window, yell back, tell her to f*** herself, and assure her that you can have the same conversation every night until she learns to be a decent neighbor.

  • +1 for ignoring this craziness, whatever her motivation.

  • A few years ago when my neighborhood was less gentificky, some drunk a-hole threatened to kick my dog. Rather than walk away (the smart thing to do), or call the cops (also the smart thing to do) i tied the leash to a fence and said “okay, he’s right there. go ahead and kick him and see what i do to your f**ing face”. He left.

    You can take the kid out of new york, but you can’t take new york out of the kid…

    • haha! Now that is something I would love to do. But alas, as a petite woman, it probably wouldn’t work out as well.

      • Nope. As a petite (white) woman, you say something back and you get the guy threatening to kill your dog and telling you you’d better keep your doors locked and watch your back. Which is particularly awesome when all this happens in your own front yard. If you’re really lucky, your crazy neighbor will be around to encourage the guy(s) who just threatened your dog, you, and your home. Sadly, I speak from experience on this.

    • Adjective of the day: “gentificky” Love it!

  • Respond with “You have a wonderful night/morning too – isn’t it just a great day out!?”

    don’t respond to her nastiness but let her know you listend to her. If she’s crazy nothign will work but not being a jerk is the right thing to do.

  • I am going to with the above posters and guess that that for whatever reason she has focused on you and she is a bit “odd”. It likely has nothing whatsoever to do with the dog since from what you wrote she doesn’t yell as all dogs/owners walking by. I honestly don’t know that there is anything that you can do except ignore/be nice.

  • Does OP have an iPod? Listen to some tunes while you’re out walking your dog and then you can’t hear her. Plus, maybe she will even see you have earbuds in and get annoyed because she knows you can’t hear her. Win win.

  • Buy an RPG launcher. Use it.

    • In my dreams I have erected a trebuchet on the roof of my apartment building for use on noisy teenagers who hang out on the sidewalk… It launches whatever I’m in the mood for that night.

  • I was walking my dogs by an apartment building once when I was hit in the head by a very very stale corn muffin. A women about 3 stories up leaned out the window and said “Sorry, I wasn’t trying to hit you, I was aiming for your dogs”. I spoke to a neighbor who informed me that the muffin lady really doesn’t like dogs and will often respond to them by throwing things and that I was lucky I only got a muffin. I think she had a screw loose, so I ignored it and just avoided the area. As for the OP’s problem, I’d ignore her and if a police car happens to be driving past anytime you’re out, flag them down and ask them to tell her to shut up.

  • This woman yells profanity at you each and every day? And PoP commenters are suggesting you either ignore it or tell her kindly to have an enjoyable day?

    Look, despite what the majority of PoP commenters might believe, human nature is unchanging and tragic. Sometimes confrontation is necessary and useful. You shouldn’t be intimidated where you live. Stand up tall, put your shoulders back, and throw this woman the finger. Or yell at her to come down so you can put your foot up her ass. Go try to find her and knock on her door and ask her what her problem is. Or have your husband do it.

    Sometimes, it’s OK not to be nice. You don’t have to feel this way in your own neighborhood, and you sure don’t have to take someone yelling profanity at you with a smile on your face. If standing up doesn’t work or is unappealing, call the police and file a complaint for assault. Don’t listen to these people that tell you to smile and move along. We shouldn’t be intimidated to live in our own city.

    • I’m with Mr. Poon on this one. I’d yell back at her that I couldn’t hear what she’s saying and she’s going to need to come outside and say it to me face to face. Odds are she’ll shut the f up and leave you alone. She’s probably just harassing you because she’s learned that you’ll take it.

    • I’m astounded by the number of people who think that ignoring harassment is the best way to deal with it. Maybe she’s seriously mentally ill; maybe she’s just a witch who has zeroed in on the OP as a weak person who won’t stand up for herself.

      Sometimes you can respond and the harassment will stop. Sometimes it will escalate. You roll the dice when you decide to fight back, but at least you won’t walk around your own neighborhood feeling constantly belittled, and having that feeling multiplied exponentially because you are scared to respond. It can poison your enjoyment of your community.

  • andy

    talk to the cops.

  • I had this happen to me walking my dog up on Jefferson St. Some guy on his porch was yelling obscenities at me and telling me to get my dog and its s*#@ off his lawn (we were on the sidewalk). I ignored him, but there was a family getting out of their car who pointed out to him that my dog’s #$*& was in the bag I was carrying. It totally made my day that they had my back like that when I didn’t know them at all. Hasn’t happened since, thank goodness.

  • I’d definitely complain to the apartment building management. She’s harassing you.

  • Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
    And sometimes a woman yelling crazily at you is just a crazy woman yelling at you, as opposed to someone trying to make a political statement about gentrification.

  • Video tape it if your phone has the capabilities. Then speak to your ANC Commissioner and/or police. Don’t call 911, but contact one of the community outreach folks.

    The police will likely stop by and tell her this is inappropriate.

  • You will be glad you have your dog when the zombie apocalypse happens.

  • I had some old lady yell at me while I was walking my dog. She yelled about me not picking up poop blah blah blah. This was the first time I had ever seen her! I guess I was having a bad day because I was like “What the f*** is your problem?” She just hobbled away.

    Then I felt bad for the rest of the day that I yelled at an old lady AND dropped the f-bomb on her ass.

    Obviously, I’m most likely to lose my shit on this lady that keeps yelling out the window. I would do what Mr. Poon says.

  • If OP is on the unit block of U st NW–that lady yells at lots of folks, with differing types of dogs, all from the comfort of her top-floor window. I don’t know what her problem is, but sometimes I ignore her and sometimes I tell her to eff off. She really upset one of my friends.

    Normally, I just remind people that public property is, um, public; point out my full roll of poop bags, and tell them to plant or fence off tree boxes if they don’t want my dog there. Overgrown/unplanted and unfenced tree boxes are fair game.

  • Standing up for yourself with crazy people is awesome and such a great idea until you get shot or stabbed.

  • bfinpetworth

    My partner and I were walking our three dogs in Petworth and this older guy walking towards us yelling “ALL THOSE DOGS! WHO’S GOING TO TAKE CARE OF YOU WHEN YOU GET OLD?! THAT’S THE TROUBLE WITH YOU PEOPLE!” My partner, who is small and petite but a bit fiery and has three grown kids from a previous marriage, starts yelling at him “YOU’RE MAKING A LOT OF PRESUMPTIONS MISTER!”

    Anyway, different issue but still a crazy guy taking out his crap on us for no good reason (other than possible homophobia). We laughed for a few days about that one.

  • I found it interesting that you observed a dog-walking man pass by her place with no problem, only to be harassed immediately afterwards. I don’t know if it is a race/gender/size of dog issue – but it seems she sees you/your dog as less threatening, so unfortunately I’d agree that now that she’s found you she probably won’t stop.

    Lots of posters had good ideas:
    1. If there is a building manager/super/some reasonable-looking residents in the same building, I’d start by asking if they know what is up with her or if they have any advice on how to respond to her. (If nothing else, it might at least help you figure out if it is a mental health v dog-hating v “She just likes to pick on ____.”)

    2. As a variant on the above: do you ever see her outside of the confrontation zone? Is she walking with friends? Going to church? Does she shop anywhere locally? Maybe there’s another person you could (politely) explain your dilemma to – not to pass the buck but to ask advice from someone who knows What Is Up with her. I learn a lot about my neighbors from our local convenience store cashiers. 🙂

    3. I also really like the suggestion to fight fire with Sunshine and Happiness (“you have a good day, too!” “your hair looks LOVELY today!”) You might even be able to amuse yourself with coming up with new Bluebird of Happiness responses to her rants each time you walk by. I have tried this tactic a few times myself – altho I’ll admit I ultimately fall back into the black pit of rage and frustration pretty quickly.

    4. Any cops ever doing foot or bike patrol in your ‘hood? I’d take this as a LAST ditch effort – officially, I don’t think they can do anything, but a cop with a good attitude might be willing to try and engage your harasser in a conversation or have some advice about how to defuse the situation. Since it doesn’t sound like she ever leaves the building to confront you, I don’t think she is going to do anything – but given @dreas (12:50) experience if the situation goes on and on you might want to start filing incident reports so there is some record of her behavior if she ever does escalate.

    Finally, this isn’t fair but – anyway you can change your walking routine so you don’t pass by the crazy vantage point?

  • Maybe you should bark back at her and poop on her lawn.

  • Tell her (yell) if she doesn’t shut up, you’re going to have her institutionalized so fast it will make her head spin. Tell her you are going to have her sent to the loony bin if she doesn’t shut the f- up. People with mental problems are usually a little aware that they are off somehow, and they are frightened of being locked up. It’s cruel but effective. We had a crazy neighbor like this and this approach is what finally worked.

  • How about going over taking a unique route? Go over for a visit and a plate of cookies with your husband and kindly inquire what the problem is?

    This might throw her off a bit and might also give a good sense of what TRULY is the issue….gentrification/prejudice/insanity/etc.

  • I tend to lean towards it being “gentrification blowback”. I’ve been harassed numerous times and told “A dog park was built for YOU PEOPLE on 11th Street yet you still bring your dog up here to sh*t & p*ss”.

  • ..This is ridiculous. Do you know how many displaced, mentally ill people there are in the district? I was born and raised in Dupont, and it just gets worse and worse by the year- I mean look at our economy- no jobs, no money- who do you think is taking care of these old crazies.

    And ha! Anti-Gentrification backlash.. don’t flatter yourself. Its all over this city. And if she’s yelling at you about your dog and not others maybe you should look at related causes screaming “anti Gentrification” is so, for lack of better words, predictable of you. Anytime a white person gets harassed in DC they wanna blame it on Gentrification or racism. Ever just think people might not like you? It’s plausible. Us “colored” people can dislike you just because your lame. Its not always color related, maam. In fact people often dislike others of all races simply because they’re lame. It doesnt necessarily have to do with the fact that you live in an overpriced home that used to be a chicken and beer stand. ..We don’t care that much, nice to see stuff not boarded up, the hookers and bums were getting too comfy after all these years.. – maybe, and you might not want to admit it to yourself- she/he might have seen you NOT pick up the dogs waste one time and is carrying the animosity.. or maybe she/he has heard you say something on your cellphone or out loud- or just plain doesn’t like you. or they’re just crazy. Spending 5 years as a DC bartender I know for a fact there are way to many “sane” whack jobs to cover this small town twice over.Go to the building and ask the manager, or call the police. No matter what you do you should be an adult and confront it and not cower to your house if it bothers you that much. Otherwise, let it go. If she hasn’t shot you yet, your probably good. People here are aggressive and rightfully so, Dc was once a poor, run down city dependent on its politics. Now it’s just a bunch of rich assholes working for some bs non profit or law firm gentrification hasn’t changed shit, it just has more dumb people only they’re rich, not from here, and passive aggressive. She’ll continue to yell at you cause your not responding and she sees it gets to you. People do that, welcome to DC.

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