Shaddup Already!


There is no Justis

Recently I overheard my backdoor neighbor complaining about somebody's dog. He was saying that they always let the dog out alone and never watch the poor thing. I listened at first, but then decided they weren't talking about me because I rarely let my dog out alone. Since the puppy has come, I never let the dogs out alone.

Night before last, I let the dogs out and I saw a man standing at the porch door behind my house. Cami saw him too. She barked at him, he took offense. Every time she barked, he yelled "SHUT UP!!" which caused her to bark again.

I got mad. My dog barks sometimes, when there are things to bark at. Mostly it's at other dogs that are barking. But she is an indoor dog, she isn't outside enough to bark enough to annoy people. To top that off, I really took exception to the fact that he is being so passively aggressive about it. What, you can't talk to your neighbor about it like a man?

I wasn't sure what I was going to do about it, but I was filled with a flood of memories. Memories of the scariest, meanest and most psychopathic person I've ever known. A man I never asked to meet. Someone I never invited into my life and never wanted there. He was another neighbor a lifetime ago when I lived in Gainesville. His name was Justis. I always thought it ironic that someone's name would describe him so clearly. He was always willing to mete out his own brand of drunken justice.

My memories don't follow a clear timeline, they have become jumbled, mostly because I try not to think about them.

Justis introducing himself to his new neighbor--seemingly very nice.

Justis yelling loudly, his voice filled with venom, because my dog barked at him.

Justis kicking his dog hard in the side for barking.

Being told that he has been known to tape his dog's muzzle shut because of barking and then hearing him threaten the dog with it.

Being too weak to speak out for his dog.

Having the elderly neighbor relate the story of when J's mother came over in a panic because J had threatened to kill her with the knife he held.

J's mom refusing to kick him out of her home because she was afraid of what he would do to her.

Hearing stories about the cat hunts over the weekend I spent with my family in Orlando.

The helpless feeling at meeting the new dog he had--a dog that would never be over 10 pounds--a delicate little thing that was defenseless.

Hearing that new puppy broke it's leg "falling down the steps."

Watching him talk to my dog and hand her dog cookies without asking my permission.

Seeing how trusting my dog was and realizing she would take anything from him.

Having him threaten my cat--should she ever escape from my house again--he's trained his dog to kill cats, you know.

Finding out how angry he is because I hired someone else to cut my lawn--not him. Claims I lied to him, told him I didn't have the money. Truth be told, if he had asked, I would have told him I refuse to support his beer habit.

Getting even more angry because the person cutting my lawn is black.

Secretly wishing I could follow through with the lawn guy's idea of having him kiss me passionately in front of Justis. But knowing I would never have the nerve.

Realizing how cowardly I am.

My housesitter calling me while I'm at my parents' house recuperating from surgery. She's in tears because Justis has verbally threatened her dogs--again.

Calling the police from five counties away.

Having the property management asking us to please call the police because they know how dangerous he is--they want him out of there--police reports will help.

Getting more phone calls, calling the police more often.

Nightmares haunting me each night starting a month before I'm to go back to Gainesville.

Remembering the fear that he could easily poison my dog or kill my cat. She's a house cat, but they get out sometimes.

Wondering what he might do to me for all the police reports.

Deciding not to move back to Gainesville after all.

So now the fear I felt for my animals floods back on me. I want to cuss the guy out. I want to encourage Cami to bark all she wants at this man. I want to send a nasty, accusatory note about how grown-ups solve problems by confronting them, not just by yelling and screaming at animals.

I fall asleep thinking about what to do in this situation. How will I handle this?

The next morning I take Cami outside, he is at his porch door. Cami barks at the perceived threat, he yells, I shush her.

I'm too scared to do anything other than keep her quiet. She is too trusting, she likes food too much. Retaliation would be too easy.

I try to remind myself that this isn't Justis, but I'm not willing to take the risk. Not when the cost is an innocent animal, even though he would probably never hurt her. He may be grumpy, but I've never seen or heard him mistreat his dog. . .or kids.

I know this isn't Justis, but I just can't take the risk.

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