Dear Ms. Vicki,
I have a problem and could use some advice. My husband and I live on post, and we have a bit of an issue with our neighbors. I know everyone has neighbor troubles at times, but this is kind of a delicate situation and I'm not sure what to do about it.
The family we share the duplex with has a young toddler who delights in shoving things through the gap between the fence that separates our backyard from theirs. When this first started, it wasn't that big of a deal. He would shove some fruit loops through the fence and laugh when our dog would eat them. Fun for the dog, fun for the baby, no biggie. We didn't encourage this behavior, but we did try to keep a closer eye on our dog.
Now the baby is shoving anything and everything through that gap in the fence. Most of the stuff our dog will chew up, but some stuff she will eat. So now that it isn't just Fruit Loops, I am concerned. I watch my dog like a hawk but can't keep her inside all day long.
I've tried to block off the gap, but that hasn't helped much because it's in an awkward position. So far, I have picked up about two packs worth of cigarettes, four lighters, some broken glass bottles, various amounts of junk mail, magazines, cards, tiny colorful dice, small plastic toys, silverware and a lot of other trash that the baby has stuffed through the fence.
Not only is it extremely irritating to pick up all this garbage, I worry about my dog because whatever is in the yard she will chew up. I worry about that baby too. Little toddlers shouldn't be playing with broken glass, cigarettes and tiny things they can swallow and choke on.
We haven't said anything to our neighbors, but I am nearly 100 percent positive they are aware of the situation. We don't need any drama, and it's been my observation that when you say anything about a person's parenting or their messiness, drama is what you get.
Ms. Vicki, what should we do? We don't want to cause anyone a headache, but this is getting frustrating and I worry about that baby.
Sincerely, Frustrated Clean Freak in Texas
Dear Clean Freak,
Well, I'm worried about the baby, your dog, your sanity and their lack of parenting too! This is a safety hazard for their baby. That child is subject to put anything in his mouth. As you said, he could choke or get poisoned.
Also, if this is going on outside, who knows what this child is playing around with inside? Your dog could face the same fate. Your pet could chew and swallow something that could tear up her intestines. I really don't want your pet harmed either.
I'm not getting onto you, but it should have been stopped with the Fruit Loops. But now, you really have to say something. From the tone and explanation in your letter, I think you could do a good job of talking to the child's mother, woman to woman. Just start the conversation by saying that neighbors stick together, tell her you are not trying to make any disparaging remarks about her or her child, but simply name all of the items their child is pushing through the fence.
In addition, ask her not to allow the child to give food to your dog. Simply put, many of these things are dangerous for their child and your pet too.
Now that I've been diplomatic, I will say this: Their behavior is inappropriate. Their child shouldn't be allowed to play with those things and to litter their neighbors' yard with them. It's not good.
We are animal lovers too, but our neighbors have some yapping dachshunds. It can get pretty annoying. We figure at this point their animals should know who we are without all of the barking that makes us feel like we are criminals coming in and out of our own home. We asked our neighbors to be more mindful, and now the situation is better. Please keep in touch.
Sincerely, Ms. Vicki