So the Christmas decorations are down and the festivities are over for another year. Here the festive spirit and goodwill to all men did not last very long at all. It did not even stretch into Christmas night. For us December had been hectic and we had hoped for a quiet Christmas. As it was starting to get dark on Christmas Day we heard the dulcet tones of the neighbour's barking dog. And by dulcet I mean angry, aggressive and annoyed. The neighbours had gone out and left the dog home alone. By the time that they returned we had had seven hours of intermittent barking. Hardly Silent Night!
The next few days were peaceful, but we were keeping an eye on activities at the neighbours as they often go away at Christmas and have never spent a New Year's Eve at home. We had come to the conclusion that this year they were not going away when we noticed that the house was in darkness and there was a car missing from their drive. By now it was 30 December. All was quiet. Maybe they had put the dog in kennels or taken him with them. That was wishful thinking on our part. At 8.15 pm the dog started to bark and went on until twenty past midnight. We have given up trying to go to bed early when this happens, so that was not too bad. The next day, New Year's Eve, we were not sure what to expect. We were not even sure that the neighbours were away. They could just have been out.
Here December 31 was mild and dry. Husband and I spent an enjoyable couple of hours in the garden in the afternoon, totally forgetting the events of the previous evening. At 6.15 pm the evening's entertainment, of a barking dog, started. Obviously there was nobody next door except the dog. Usually it takes the dog five hours to bark himself to sleep, but not tonight, after all it was New Year's Eve and he was going to stay up late. In fact he was going to stay up very late! At 2.15 am on New Year's Day husband had had enough of the dog barking and phoned the police who are not able to do anything about a barking dog, which is technically a noise nuisance and comes under the remit of the Environmental Health Department (EHD) at the local council. However, the officer that he spoke to referred him to the dog warden service. This is a service that we had not heard of and based on our previous experiences, of trying to get someone in authority to take this problem of the neighbour's barking dog seriously, we were pleasantly surprised by the response that we got. After taking husband's details he confirmed that he could hear the dog barking and that the level of barking constituted a noise nuisance and the incident would be passed on to the EHD of the council after the bank holiday. The dog went on to bark until 3.45 am. Husband and I were a bit the worse for wear on New Year's Day and we would not have minded if we had seen the new year in at some fabulous party. As it was we had watched the fireworks on TV at midnight and had been in bed by 1.00 am. However, there was no time for me to mope around, the in laws were coming the following day and I had cooking to do. About 5.45 pm, despite having on both the extractor fan and the radio, I noticed that the dog was once again on song and barking. We left it until after 11.00 pm to phone the dog warden as the noise nuisance legislation does not come into effect until that time. As had happened the previous evening he took husband's details, confirmed that the barking dog constituted a noise nuisance and that the incident would be passed onto the EHD the after the bank holiday. That night the dog stopped barking about 1.30 pm.
neighbours leaving the dog home alone to bark, for three years now and we have been lent on four occasions the equipment, photographed right, known as 'The Matron' to record the dog barking. On three of the occasions that we had the equipment the dog was not there and on the fourth when we did manage to record it barking, we were told that it was not loud enough to constitute a noise nuisance. In January of last year the EHD closed our case after admitting that they were aware of a problem with our neighbour, but they were not going to do anything about it. That prompted several irate letters to the chief executive of the council as the problem continued and at one point our MP intervened on our behalf, but nothing changed. In a situation such as this I am like a dog with a bone and will not give up until I feel that justice has been done. We have now appealed to the Local Government Ombudsman.
At lunch time on January 3 the EHD of the local council phoned to ask for more information relating to these incidents. Now we have to wait and hope that they take action against our neighbour. They have buried their head in the sand for long enough.