We have a view from our building that looks into several backyards of houses lining the street parallel to our own. Toby Joe and I have spent many hours staring out over the city. It’s really a great view. I am lucky. I know this. We have a view overlooking the choppy rooftops that make up Northern Brooklyn, the bridge and finally Lower Manhattan. I love watching the world outside my window.
Several months ago, I noticed an cat living in one of those backyards. The cat wears a collar, so I know it’s a member of a family. I have watched this cat and I admit that I’ve felt a little sorry for it at times whenever it’s too cold or too hot, during snow or rain storms. I have voiced my empathy for this cat to Toby Joe who was quick to point out how happy and healthy he or she appears to be.
There’s a dog living there too. Although, I don’t see the dog nearly as often as the cat. I guess the dog is kept inside a lot. But sometimes he or she is let out for a bit.
One day I saw the man of the house hold the door open and call the dog to come back inside. It was at that moment, during that interaction, that I began to really question the situation.
Before I go on, I have to admit that I know very little about dogs, dog training, dog owners, and basically all things dog. There have been many times where I have seen an interaction take place between a human and a dog and that interaction seems abusive to me only to find out that the person is actually training the dog. I have been told that dog training can be a little aggressive. So I usually just try and look the other way.
But this dog? This dog cowered as it squeezed between the man and the door jam. It looked up at the man—tail between its legs, head down, then up again, then down again—as the man made stern gestures, seemingly aggressive ones. And the interaction bugged me.
But he did not touch the dog.
Still, I told Toby Joe about what I had seen and he suggested that some dogs are just like that sometimes. They like being told what to do sometimes and that it’s probably nothing. And we both wanted to believe that.
Then some time later I saw man of the house let the cat do figure eights around his legs and he bent down and patted the cat and then fed it some food and was off inside the house again. I figured: an abusive person would have probably kicked the cat away, right?
So, I finally stopped thinking terrible things about its life, the dog’s too.
But then yesterday something happened that sent me reeling.
The dog was out back again. This time a woman wearing a bathrobe stood in the doorway. She called the dog back into the house. The dog cowered. As the dog walked in through the doorway, she lifted her leg high and kicked it as one might kick open a locked door. This wasn’t something that seemed like a dominance kick or nudge (if there is such a thing in dog land?). This had intent. And even though she was barefoot, my mind raced with other scenarios.
I wrote on Twitter asking people what I should do and many people wrote telling me about the New York ASPCA. I hate getting too involved in the lives of those around me, but when an animal or child is potentially being harmed, I simply can’t bite my tongue. I know that this post may open me up to some backlash, suggesting that I should mind my own business as we New Yorkers often do, but this time I found it impossible not to intervene.
When Toby Joe began (justifiably) questioning what I had seen especially considering I had sought to take action, I started to question my initial reaction to the whole situation. (I’d make either an excellent juror or a terrible one, depending on which side you’re on.) I can’t help but wonder: am I making it out to be worse than it really is? Am I overreacting? What if I’m wrong? I could be wrong.
To be honest, I kind of hope that I am.