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"Astray in Suburbia"

[Note: wrote this Feb. 13, 2001 or so, sent it to the Dallas Morning News, and needless to say, they didn't choose to publish it or write me...it's not positive enough! Oh well, I should've said more to this yahoo at 2914 Newburyport in Garland. :)]

As I often do, I went out late last night for a jog in my neighborhood, raggedly breathing in the moist, cool air and admiring the beauty of a park draped in fog. Along the way I jogged past a stray dog, a large collie of some sort, who immediately took me up as a companion on my run along the trail. The dog kept going with me, and eventually I worked my way back home and decided to stay with the dog and find out where he lived. Some poor family out there probably accidentally let him out, and was waiting for a phonecall or searching for him outside. I have a cat, and would know the feeling of a stray pet.

With the tags on his collar I found the owner's phone number and address. I stopped at my home to call his owner, but no one answered. I took him back to his owner's house around midnight, ringing the doorbell three times. Eventually a man came out, and very bluntly said, "It's midnight," hardly surprised or relieved at all when I showed him his dog. I said I found him stray in the park, and the man said, "Oh, he'd never hurt anything out there" without a hint of gratitude and almost insinuating that he regularly lets his dog loose. I responded, "We've had a cat killed by a stray dog in our neighborhood in the past," and he said nothing except to call his dog to his garage. There were no thank you's, no goodbye, just a sort of annoyed tone as though I were inconveniencing him by waking him up at midnight to return his stray dog. I turned around and left.

Not only did the unappreciative tone rub me the wrong way, but this is also the sort of neighborhood where people complain if their neighbors' lawns get too long, or have the city send a warning about another person's yard without talking to them first, or ignore you out of fright if your basketball bounces by them at the neighborhood basketball goal. (a goal which poses a significant risk to children, as it is built in a parking lot of all places) There is even a compartment on one of the signs in the park that contains bags for dog owners to wrap up their dogs' feces in, part of a program including fines to clean up the park.

Yet despite all of this, it is okay if this person's dog wanders around at night, potentially tearing up garbage bags, causing a traffic accident, or attacking a person or pet? Granted, those are extreme cases, but this is the kind of subtle hypocrisy you encounter in my suburban neighborhood. Hidden beneath the culture of cookie-cutter houses and conformity is a complete disorganization of principles, where the little things are exaggerated to the point of absurdity and the most important and civil things are thrown by the wayside, almost as though it were "American Beauty" incarnate.

And come to think of it, that is not a bad comparison to make, considering the only really newsworthy thing to happen in this suburban Richardson neighborhood was a triple domestic shotgun homicide one year ago.

Ben Turner

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