Animal Kingdom, or maybe Pet Semetary

I think there’s a robin’s nest in my neighbour’s spruce tree which grows beside our shared fence. All during the spring, I would see robins busily gathering dry grass and little bits of garden debris, and flying importantly towards the tree. Whenever I would walk to the garage – which is quite often, during the day – there would be any number of robins standing guard; some in my garden by the fence, some on the fence, and some in my nearby spirea shrub. They would chirp at me but I wouldn’t look at them or the tree; I’ve heard that if you see a robin’s nest, and the mother robin sees you seeing the nest, then they will abandon the nest and the little babies in it. I didn’t want to be responsible for the death of any baby birds.

I have enough on my plate; for example, I feel like my next-to-next door neighbour’s cat is going to meet his demise in my yard. Beeps the cat has long been part of my life. He is primarily a house cat who somehow is constantly escaping from his house and heading for my Barkley-filled yard. I think the cat has a death wish. There have been a few near misses, when I’ve let Barkley out only to notice that he’s taken off like a rocket after the hapless Beeps. Since Barkley has been known to catch and kill squirrels in the back yard, I’m fairly uneasy with our feline visitor.

On the weekend I was working in the garden and was alerted to Beeps-related danger by Barkley’s barking and growls, and my next-door neighbour – who is in the middle of our house and Beeps’ house – calling the cat in an alarmed voice. Sure enough, the cat was headed right for our fence, with Barkley snarling on the other side. Luckily my neighbour grabbed him and handed him off to Beeps’ owner, who didn’t realize the cat was gone. She came to talk to me and I knew what the conversation would be, because we’d had it before. Beeps’ owner is convinced – absolutely convinced – that Beeps and Barkley are the best of friends, and this is based on one incident several years ago when they sniffed each other through the fence. This, then, was the conversation, that Beeps and Barkley are friends, that she’s not at all worried that Barkley will do anything to Beeps, and she JUST doesn’t want Beeps to get lost in the neighbourhood, is all. No amount of me claiming that Barkley is a) territorial, b) a dog, or c) 55 pounds will convince her that this relationship is not one of inter-species friendship and love.

At this point, I think the only thing that I can do is take my mother-in-law’s advice that she gave me when I told her of this recurring issue: learn to use a spade and keep quiet about it.

I mean, I hope it doesn’t come to that. There’s enough weirdness going on in my neighbourhood lately. Last week I was working downstairs most of the day; shortly before school pick-up I was folding laundry and happened to look out the window at my neighbour’s place across the street.

There was a small grave dug in the front yard, complete with a giant wooden cross.

Alarmed is probably too mild a term for my reaction. I know with 100% certainty that their dearly-beloved dog died years ago, and yet I cannot imagine what else could be buried there. Since that time, the cross has been taken down and put up again several times, leading me to hope that perhaps it’s one big hilarious joke, the front-yard grave. Although, as my friend and neighbour said to me, why would you want an ornamental lawn grave? This is a good point. I keep waiting for flowers to be planted in the dirt rectangle, hoping that it’s just a strange looking flower bed, but so far, nothing. Oddly-placed rectangular flower bed is currently the best case scenario. If the mannequin shows up again after all this, I’m going to be tempted to call a real-estate agent.


  1. Yes: one weird recurring neighborhood thing = awesome. Two = “You know, I hear X school district is just GREAT.”

  2. Clearly I would love your mother-in-law.

  3. I do LOVE your MIL’s advice. Shovel and shut up. Poor neighbour and her rosy view of your dog.

  4. We have a cat who roams and I learned from a neighbor that he likes to go to her yard and engage in staring contests with her dog. He always wins, apparently.

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