it’s the 99% of the time that kindness counts

When we first moved into our Montana neighborhood, on a cul de sac, I was so excited. Families, children, dogs, close to schools, neighbors to chat with at the mail box, all of the good stuff.

You see, we moved to Montana from Wyoming. You might say, yeah, big deal, it’s pretty much the same. Oh no it’s not. Wyoming is a bit rough around the edges and a bit lawless. We were 75 miles from an interstate, and had lots of sage brush in pretty much every direction.

Everything there is extreme. The summers are roasting hot, the winters are freaking cold and frozen, the wind lifts roofs, and the perfect days are just so perfect that it’s hard for the mind to comprehend. But our neighbors were good people, to the bone good. They may not have been chatty, or super social, but they were kind and hard working. If I ever needed help, real help, they were there for me every time, and visa versa. We all looked out for each other, and not in a nosy neighborhood way. There was a sincere kindness, and realness to our life there, rough but very real.

When we arrived on our cul de sac, there were 19 children and 13 dogs. I thought that for sure this was going to be it! We were told that the dogs could be off leash and the children could play safely, everyone looked out for everyone else. Wow! Happy Valley.

Well it was a nightmare with dogs off leash everywhere, so we built a fence, planted a hedge, and built a garden. So did a few of the other homes. Things became a bit more peaceful and a bit kinder. Not so many neighborly conflicts. Our dogs were happier, and I was happier having them safe from some of the other dogs in the neighborhood.

Then we found that kindness was subjective. We were only one of two homes on our circle that didn’t go to the same church. Kindness was reserved for church friends, cold shoulders for the rest. This was actually OK with me, I was learning that things weren’t very ‘real’ after all, so doing my own thing was not a loss really. I had my kids, dogs and garden, life was good.

But this is also when the ‘sand box’ wars started. That oh so precious moment when a parents point of view slips out of a four year olds mouth, and you learn that kindness is really masked contempt and judgement. These little people spewing their parents hatred at my children because they didn’t go to the same church.

At one point I was told that ‘cleanliness was next to godliness’ by one of these charming four year olds. She didn’t even know what it meant, other than she was pointing to my laundry on the couch. So I told her to fold it if it bothered her so much. Funny, she never came down again.

Then years went by, everyone kind of fell into their own groove, and only minor neighborhood conflicts. There have been births, deaths, marriages, and two new families. Our dogs and children live a good life, my garden has continued to grow.

And it only took one trigger, just one the other night, to bring me back to that feeling I had when we first moved here.

We have four dogs, two are seniors. They are never off leash in our neighborhood, and we respect others properties. We still have to look out our driveway each time we take them for a walk to make sure our neighbors dogs aren’t cruising around.

Our one neighbor four houses down stood in the middle of the street and was throwing a tennis ball for his dog, right at our home and onto our property. You see we are the home at the back of the circle, it was a direct throw. So his dog came running down the street and right at our home. You can imagine four herding dogs watching another dog charge their home, it didn’t go well.

I went outside and started walking into the street and put my arms up in that universal questioning gesture. Any person from anyplace in the world, except my neighbor apparently, understands this gesture, everyone! He looked right at me, and thru the ball in my direction, and his dog came running at me to get to the ball. Again my dogs were going nuts watching this all go down. His action was intentional, disrespectful, and adolescent, and he is a grown man, my senior.

We exchanged words.

Everyday for the past four days his dog has been cruising around the neighborhood, he has been walking his dog off leash, and throwing the ball in the street, oh but only half way down now. He is actually making a concerted effort to be disrespectful and unkind. And he continues.

I know that some of the kids in our neighborhood read my blog. Thank you, I appreciate you checking in, truly.

So here are my thoughts.

It is important for every family to be kind and loving to their children and animals. It is also important to be respectful and kind to your neighbors. This doesn’t mean you need to be buddy buddy, but rather to honor their existence on this planet and be kind, be real. Going to church and learning about kindness is not necessarily ‘living’ that same kindness.

When you are out in the world, and amongst people and animals of all walks of life, this is truly where kindness counts the most, this is the 99% part of your life, the part that truly counts. Doing it, not just talking about it.

My friend has talked about home re model ideas like moats, turrets, and draw bridges. I think I might take him up on his offer sometime soon!

Be kind, be respectful, and most of all be real … Nancy

13 thoughts on “it’s the 99% of the time that kindness counts

  1. Reminds me of sitting around your kitchen table oh about a year and a half ago talking about those same things…..Have dealt with same “crap” even in my neighborhood (where all homes are on acreages). Luckily, things have settled for now and everyone is respectful. A LOT less people though but that didn’t stop me from building my fences for me and for my dogs…they do indeed make good neighbors.

    Be kind, be respectful, BE NICE, and be real! 🙂 You and your family and pups are all of those!

  2. Living in the countryside isn’t always the wonderful place it could have been. Be kind, nice, respectful and real goes for everybody, everywere, the world would have been a better place. And without prejudice. And it should easy too, with no effort.

  3. My dogs are both reactive herding dogs. They are both being actively trained for their particular issues. My rescue, Panzer, has a neurological issue that makes him somewhat…unpredictable, but we’re working through it, medically and behaviorally. As herding dogs, I believe our dogs do need time to be off leash, I simply can’t run as fast as they want to and need to. So…I got my dog Shelby involved in herding (Panzer can’t be involved in much of anything with his spine). Well, we work, you know, so Shelby can’t herd every day. For all their reactivity, my dogs are actually boundary trained very well, and won’t leave the confines of our yard, so I feel very safe and comfortable letting them run around our backyard off leash. They both have superb recalls and I make sure to let them out when no one is outside, purposely getting up very early and taking them out very late so they can get in their exercise and no one has to be concerned about safety. Except that all the kids in the neighborhood and all the dogs in the neighborhood are constantly off leash (and yes, I believe some of the KIDS could use leashes). Where do they congregate? In our backyard, because we have the biggest yard, which would be totally fine, except that our dogs are in the house going crazy the whole time. And when we come home from work and a dodge ball game is going on in the back, it’s rather hard to walk our dogs (even on leash) to go to the bathroom. Needless to say…it’s irritating, and exhausting. It’s hard enough trying to manage two reactive dogs, one of which is terminally ill, without all the noise and confusion of the neighborhood. I pride myself on safety being key in my training with my dogs, and this morning, while I was playing ball with Panzer (for the 10 minutes in the morning he’s allowed by his physical therapist), my neighbor (who knows Panzer is reactive) came strolling across the yard to talk with me. She’s very nice and had the best of intentions, but I immediately recalled Panzer, who came, and she kept walking, while he was reacting and then proceeded to tell me that “I just won’t show fear and he’ll be fine”. Sigh. As I drove to work today, I contemplated putting muzzles on them both when I let them outside to play, just in case, which makes me sad. They won’t even leave our yard and yet I feel I need to put muzzles on them? We need a fence…but have no money to build one 😦

    1. You know I read and re read your comment, and it is unbelievable how similar things can be around the world. We have a wooden fence for our back yard, and welded wire and metal T posts for the front so our garden shows thru. If your dogs just need a barrier and they have great recalls, you don’t need the bomb proof fence, just something that says, my space, not yours. Welded wire and T posts are super affordable for large spaces, and it is SO WORTH the peace of mind. Sometimes when you can let your dogs have that space, and you know that they are safe and you can work freely, great changes can happen.

      I would put boundaries on your neighbors, not more on your dogs.

      I might have to introduce you to my friend, the moat builder 😉

      1. Hahaha! Thank you for that! I need a little chuckle today! I will have to look into the welded wire and T-posts, I didn’t even think of that as an option. I am more with the moat builder friend. When I think fence I’m like I want an 8 foot tall stone monster that’s hideous but has battle slits! lol j/k, I really do like my neighbors…most days 😉 I agree though, sometimes the neighborhood gets a little too close.

  4. I feel lucky where my house is located in White Sulphur. Though I wish to live someday in the country with my horses, dogs and cats it hasn’t happened yet. I am on a corner with only sharing a border with 2 neighbors. To the south are a retired couple and Shirley LOVES animals and watching mine. She keeps a close eye on things (sometimes this concerns me, but it’s all from the kindness of her heart). She often offers to critter sit. When they moved here she had a cat and 2 dogs, but they have all past. To the east a share a fence line with a couple who are not animal fans. I was told once that they really hated cats because their daughter was very allergic. They toloerate the presents of my dogs. Actaully they might like them more than they admit because I do hear them talking to them. We have a good relationship and havemany across the fence conversations. My raspberry bushes have migrated into their yard and they love it! I think they now have more bushes then I do. I guess thinks balance out. Now as long as no one builts on the empty lots north of my house life reminds good!

  5. I’m with your “build a moat” friend! I commend you for even living in a neighborhood to begin with. In all your years in this neighborhood, have you ever been tempted to sell and get out of neighborhood life again?

    I feel so lucky to still be living rural…my biggest problems have been bad renters in the house next door, ground squirrels, deer, coyotes, lions and bears. That said, nearby land owners are now subdividing their 120 acres into many, many lots. And an adjacent hillside has already been subdivided and has 37 lots on it. I guess there goes my ‘not living in a neighborhood’!

    1. 😉 Kim you crack me up! Your are going to have an out int eh middle of no place neighborhood!

      I have wanted to move to a different location about once a year. I don’t think I was ever made to live in suburbia, but for now it works for our children and their schools and activities. I love our home and garden, it would be awesome to pick up and move it!

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