Barking mad at Chihuahuas

March 08, 2009|By KEVIN COWHERD | KEVIN COWHERD,kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

A New York City woman files a $500,000 lawsuit that claims her neighbor's yappy dogs are driving her nuts, and your first thought is: Wow, way to overreact.

Then you find out the yappy dogs are Chihuahuas.

Your next thought is: Oh, she should sue for way more than that.

She should sue for 2 or 3 mil, easy. Maybe even more if she can prove lasting damage to her emotional well-being.

That should be a piece of cake when you live above two Chihuahuas.

Maybe you read about the plight of lawyer Paulette Taylor, 62, who lives in an apartment on the Upper West Side. Her recent lawsuit against neighbor Thomas Henderson claims his two Chihuahuas "bark in a manner that is offensive, constant, continuous and incessant."

This, of course, is simply everyday activity for a Chihuahua.

Dogs are bred for various qualities. Beagles were bred to pursue hare by the Norman French. Boxers were bred for bull-baiting and boar-hunting. Shih Tzus were bred as amiable companions for Chinese emperors.

Chihuahuas were bred to be annoying, and the breed has held true to that legacy for centuries.

Some historians have speculated that Chihuahuas were held sacred by the ancient Incas and Aztecs. But the idea that they would worship a jittery little dog with rodent features and bug eyes seems preposterous, given what we know about those once-great cultures.

Taylor claims in the lawsuit that Henderson's Chihuahuas have her so stressed she can't sleep, and that the lack of sleep is making her chronic back pain even worse.

She adds that her neighbor "may even be guilty of inciting his dogs to bark."

This, of course, is the only frivolous passage in the lawsuit. I say this because you don't have to incite a Chihuahua to bark. Are you kidding? A Chihuahua's default position is to yap, yap, yap day and night.

Oh, I'm told they sometimes shut up to take food and drink and slam themselves against screen doors. And there is evidence that all that yapping sometimes drives them to the point of exhaustion, after which they will collapse into sleep.

But they sleep only in brief, fitful intervals, probably to rest their vocal chords so they can gear up for another continuous 17 or 18 hours of yapping the next day.

In any event, Taylor has had it with all the yapping, stating in the suit that it's causing her "emotional and physical distress."

She's suing Henderson, the building's management company and the building's owners.

Of course, it looks like a slam-dunk for her with Chihuahuas being involved, since judges and juries everywhere are familiar with how irritating the breed can be.

"We're asking for a restraining order against the dogs, or some sort of soundproofing" of Henderson's apartment, Taylor's lawyer told the New York Post.

All I can say is good luck with the sound-proofing idea.

The fact is a Chihuahua's yapping is so loud and shrill that conventional sound-proofing measures are doomed to fail. In order not to hear the yapping, you would have to put the dog in a padded underground dungeon, such as the one used by the serial killer in Silence of the Lambs, or a high-tech acoustical chamber like they have at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.

I spent a summer working at the beach years ago and lived four doors down from a woman with a Chihuahua. This thing would start yapping at the crack of dawn. The woman would then close all her windows and turn on the air conditioning, and you could still hear the mutt from two blocks away.

Remember, this was only one Chihuahua. If it had been two Chihuahuas yapping in stereo, as is being alleged by Taylor, an angry mob would have descended on the woman's house and forced her out. I would have been holding one of the torches, too.

So good luck with your lawsuit, Ms. Taylor.

Actually, you won't need luck.

Play a tape of that yapping in court, and you're an absolute lock to win.

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