I have lived in and around the Ortiz Mountains for some 20 years. The last seven have been spent on the south side in the mountains. I bought land and a fixer-upper home. It’s on a bluff, facing west. I watch the sunset over the Jemez Mountains every night and count my blessings. Then I go to bed and find the ear plugs, close the windows, check that my pets are all home and safe, put the phone, reading glasses and flashlight on the the bedside table, and try to go to sleep.
Every few nights, dogs bark. Dogs fight. It’s a nightmare. I can’t sleep. The earplugs only do so much. I use a flashlight and glasses to text a neighbor whose dogs are barking. Phone calls are ignored, so I text him to get his dogs in, to stop his pack of five from barking and fighting with the other dogs in the neighborhood.
I have lived in this hell for the last four of seven years. The first few years were fine but then three years ago, my neighbor was in an accident that sent him to hospital for months. He didn’t fully recover and now has a live-in caretaker. His dogs attacked me when I came home in my truck. They’ve cornered me on my motorcycle at my own gate. They chase my dogs when we walk. They bark for hours on end. This is what I live with.
In 2013, he appeared in court for his unrestrained and vicious dogs. He got rid of them shortly after, paid a fine. In April 2014, he was in court again for owning another pack of vicious dogs. He was given a fine. He got rid of all but one dog. Within a few months, he had another pack of five unfixed, untrained dogs. It never ends.
Over the years, I have contacted the Santa Fe animal shelter, Santa Fe County Animal Control, neighbors in the valley nearby, acquaintances in Madrid two miles away, and even called out the sheriff’s office. I fenced the land around my home and driveway. I walk my dogs before 7:30 a.m. only. This is not how I want to live.
What is Animal Control waiting for? Or rather, what can the legal system do with chronic problems like this? How many times do I have to ask for help? Is there a way to persuade my neighbor, to keep just one (fixed, healthy, happily trained) dog at a time?
Sarah Leamy is a local author and photographer.