Friday, August 31, 2012

The Futility of Mediation

Introduction: In many areas, mediation is offered to people who are dealing with chronic barking. This means that you're supposed to take time out of your busy, barking-interrupted existence to sit down with the dog owner and work out some sort of agreement.

Or, maybe-just-maybe, the mediation session will uncover the real issue that underlies your problem with that barking dog. Perhaps the neighbor is of a different ethnic group. A different religion. A follower of different sports teams. Or something like that.

The following story recounts my one and only experience with mediation in the city of Tucson. The mediation took place on July 14, 2005. At that time, mediation was a mandatory step in the animal noise complaint process. There was no personal safety exemption. Which meant that if your neighbor was a gang-banger, a drug trafficker, a motorcycle gang member, or some other form of lowlife, you had to show your face in a mediation with him or her.

The animal noise complaint process was changed in 2010. These days, mediation is no longer mandatory. As you can see from this page, mediation is now optional. But I doubt that barking noise mediation is any more effective than it was when I experienced it.

Here's my morning-after-mediation story:

Among other things, my neighbor tried to suggest that it wasn't his dog that was engaging in the multi-hour barkathons that I find so annoying.

The most recent barkathon took place this past Sunday evening between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., and the barking was so loud and persistent that I had to resort to wearing earmuffs and earplugs in my house -- with all the doors and windows closed -- in order to fall asleep.

Every time he offered that "not my dog" argument, I took him and the mediators on a quick verbal tour of the houses around me, pointing out which ones had dogs and which ones didn't, and describing the behavior of the other dogs in the area. The other dogs are not chronic barkers, and, therefore, whose dog could it possibly be?

He had no answer to that question.

He also tried to paint me as a newcomer who wasn't used to the ways of this neighborhood, and hey, he and his parents had lived here for more than a decade and had never had anyone complain about their dogs. (They have two, a female pug, which is the chronic barker, and a male puppy of this dog.)

Furthermore, he insisted that the dogs are kept inside the house from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. But that still did not explain why the barking was so loud that I have to resort to wearing earmuffs and earplugs inside my house -- with all the doors and windows closed.

In addition, he implied that my making a barking dog complaint had to do with racial discrimination. One of the mediators was very quick to point out that she had observed nothing in my demeanor or manner of speaking that would indicate such a thing.

If anything, I tried very hard to keep my presentation focused on the use of facts and logic, rather than on the use of emotion.

  1. He gave me his land and cell numbers and advised me to call whenever I'm bothered by the barking. I fully intend to do that.
  2. There are quite a few feral cats in this area, and none of the local dogs are happy about that. I've found that using Shake Away cat repellant has been quite effective in keeping cats off my property. I suggested that he also start using this product, in hopes that it will repel feline visitors from his place, and give his dogs one less thing to bark about.
  3. Since the dog seems to go into these barkathons when no one is home over there, I suggested that they provide some human sounds for the dogs. I told him and the mediators that I used to house-sit for a lady who told me to put the radio on whenever I left the house. She said that having music playing soothed the dog when all of his humans were gone.
So, here we are, seven years later. How effective were those three solutions?
  1. In the three years after the mediation, I called this man's land and cell phone numbers many times. During the day. During the evening. At midnight when the dog was left outside in the freezing cold. And during the wee hours of the morning. I'll never forget being rousted out of a sound sleep at 4:45 a.m. on an Easter Sunday. More than one call turned into a shouting match. Finally, on April 13, 2008, my call was met with a curt "I don't live there anymore!" response. So much for trying the telephone route.
  2. This neighborhood still has feral cats. I've tried all sorts of ways to keep them off this property, including Shake Away. Nothing has worked. And the cats are but one of many things that causes that pug to launch into a yapping frenzy.
  3. Music for the dog? I don't think they ever tried that. I've never been convinced that they have this dog for any other reason than making money from its puppies.
So much for mediation as a solution. The only thing it did was waste my time. But dealing with this neighbor face to face just added to the suspicions I had about him and his family. And, guess what, I wasn't the only one. I think you'll enjoy the story I told in a previous post on this blog. The federal raid is especially delicious.

The Department of Shameless Self-Promotion. To my lovely, pug-neglecting neighbors, I have this to say: You have provided me with inspiration. Which I am now sharing with the world through this blog and the QuietBarkingDogs store. Thanks again, neighbor-jerks. I couldn't have done it without you.


  1. There is nothing to mediate. Their freedom to have a dog translates into your freedom FROM the dog. That means you do not have to listen to it EVER. Mediation is nothing but a cruel trick to further torment the victim!

    When authorities demand mediation, what they are really doing is forcing you to bow down to the dog-owning entitlement overclass. You must beg mercy from your Betters!

    How about this for a deal: Shut your dog up or its gone!

  2. How do we barking victims, tormented every day and night of our lives, make a dog "gone" - and ideally its damn fool, selfish moronic owner, too ?

  3. Mediation is based on a flawed theory. The theory is that human beings can work together to find a mutually agreeable solution to a problem. This would entail good will on both parties. It would mean that (inflated) egos be left at home, and each party believe that the other is basically good.

    Human nature has a nasty habit of not living up to the aforementioned guidelines! We as a species never seem to think we are ever wrong. We tend to be suspicious of the other. We have huge, but tender egos to protect at all costs. Since I'm right, then, YOU must be wrong, so why are we mediating? Just do what I want, damn it!!

    We also tend to be competitive. Not a good trait at a mediation table. So, yes, I agree, mediation is exactly what you've called it - futile.