My best friend from childhood, C, moved across the country as a young woman and worked as an artificial inseminator of cows.
Go ahead, take a moment; it was honest work.
She settled east of Los Angeles, where the dusty Santa Ana winds scoured the shine off a chrome bumper some winters.
Where groves of eucalyptus filled empty riverbeds and rendered every sinus clear for that first, fierce, Vick's VapoRub-scented lung-full.
People in her rural-ish neighborhood had dogs and trucks, and some had ponies in their backyards.
Her next-door neighbor had a handful of Great Danes, huge spooky creatures that stood at the common fence and barked like earthquakes whenever anything moved in C's yard.
I visited shortly after the horrible day when C's cat, neatly running along the top of the fence, slipped and fell and was eaten alive by the Great Danes right in front of C's eyes.
On the flight back from C's, browsing the airplane catalog, I found an ultrasonic dog-training device for her. A little plastic remote-control-looking item.
"Ultra-effective" I think the catalog called it, "Humane." Probably a waste of $25, but I figured it was at least something.
A few weeks later, C told me how she used it: She'd point it right at the dogs whenever they showed their big ugly faces, channeling her anger into mashing that button.
And it seemed to work.
The big dogs would look around uneasily when she ray-gunned them with the device. Then they'd trot back into their house. The barking slowed down. The barking pretty much stopped.
"How did it affect the huskies?" I asked.
"They don't hear it," she reported. "It's pointed away from them, but I think they are kind of deaf to it."
A few weeks later, she happened to run into the neighbor. Perhaps they were both getting the mail.
"How's it going?"
"What's up?" C inquired, I imagine not particularly interested.
"It's the damn dogs. They won't go outside and they started crapping in the house."
I tell this story whenever someone complains about a neighbor's barking dog. I admit the details may have become less strictly factual after my having retold it so many times.
But recently, a sailing friend, Big A, moved into a cool house place on the water. He's an outdoorsy guy. He added a covered boat-slip and some dock acreage so that he can go out and fish from his lawn and enjoy the sunset on the water.
I told him the story about C and the Great Danes, and we laughed, but Big A is a man of action. He got himself an ultrasonic dog-training whistle.
The first time he used it, tuning it according to the directions, the dogs barked, tilted their heads sideways, and then stopped barking. The second time, they took a look at him and then hauled ass to the other side of their house.
A few days later, Big A ran into the neighbor. He likes the neighbor, despite her unneighborly dogs. She looked tired.
He asked how she was, and she said she was worried. Her dogs had been up all night, crapping in the house.