June 28, 2004

Excuse me, do you have a pig?

Good fences make good neighbors. That's been my personal mantra of homeownership since I first home-owned in 1988.

Strange thing about fences here in Georgia, at least in our county, is that there are no ordinances about which way a fence must face. In other words, when we built a fence in New York (and I think in any other state in the union), we would of course build our fence with the posts and rails facing INTO our yard.

For lack of a photo here--the pretty side faces out; the ugly side faces in.

There's no such rule in our county. Although our back fence faces into our property, it belongs to our backyard neighbor. In fact, he once got an insurance settlement on the fence, when a tree fell on it, but unfortunately had better things to spend the money on (aka his new hot tub). That was not good news for the fence, or for us. During the last decade, the six-foot stockade fence has been eroding away, slowly but surely.

We've done the things you do when your fence is falling apart. Even when it's not yours. Especially when there are dogs on both sides of the fence who, on most days, hate one another. We chickenwired, we rigged, we tied, we leaned. Those tricks definitely bought the structure another couple of years. But the fence is dying. Decaying, rotting, falling.

And we're stuck with a cheap, unfriendly backyard neighbor who has displayed zero interest in addressing the fence.

But these things--they have a way of a-changin'.

It's a southern thang.


Let me go backwards for a moment. Clarify things. We don't live in the country. In fact, we live in an old (by Atlanta standards) subdivision, nothing fancy, no neighborhood pool, where the houses are about 20-25 years old. 3/4 acre lots, a good size yard, lots of trees, but we're not in the sticks. Okay? I can hear I-75 from my porch at night. Are you with me? Good.

Imagine my surprise, then, when George mentioned two weeks ago that he saw a pig in our backyard neighbor's yard. Disbelief is a better word, I think.

I explained it away--it was probably one of their retrievers gone fat, or it was one of their friend's dogs, or he'd had a dream about a neighborhood pig.

He insisted that he saw a pig. And I quote: "With my own two eyes."

My thoughts turned to those interesting pot-belly pigs I'd seen on television specials running through people's living rooms, over their oriental carpets. Always the t-shirt wearing wife in the fancy pants home flapping her lips about what great pets pigs make.

I asked George, "Could it be one of those pot-belly pigs?"

He licked his lips. "No, it's a pig. And I mean a pig."

"Like a p-i-g hog?"

"I know what I saw. It was a pig."

We can see our neighbor's back yard from our kitchen window. The lush trees outside our window, heavy with the summer rain that won't quit, block all but a slice of the corner of our neighbor's backyard.

For two weeks I glanced out the window, with mock wide eyes. Poked fun at my husband. "Yah, you saw a pig. Uh-huh." "Ooooo where's you're little piggy-wiggy?" and the obligatory "oink oink oink--I wants some ribs!"

And then late last week I saw it.

No doubt. No way. No how. A big fat pig. Right behind the fence that separates our dogs from their dinner.

No potbelly. A P-I-G hog.

And of course, the question weighing on everyone's mind: Why?


The rain won't stop here. It won't let up. Late at night the moon comes out from behind the clouds, the stars decide to shine, and I want to slap the sky for these days filled with storms and nights filled with quiet.

Yesterday, it was pouring. Relentless. I decided to let our mutt Bando in, and as I opened the door on the deck, I noticed that in addition to our boxer mix, we had somehow inherited a purebred boxer in our fenced yard. Huh?

I ushered Bando in and went to step out on the deck, where miss lady boxer had decided to greet me with a snarl and a bark.

"Who are you?"


I see heads behind the back fence, examining the dilapidated, half-hanging structure that belongs to them. Yes, the pig people.

"Is this your dog?" I shout through the rain. We aren't on friendly terms since they emptied their inground pool into our yard at the end of last summer.

"Yes--can you chase her this way? She won't bite."


"Uh, well, go on now girl! go home!"

Like I'm going to step out on the deck with a full-grown boxer growling at me. Not.

"Look, why don't you drive around to our street and get her out the front gate?"

"Okay--we'll be right there."

Hmmmm. My mind is working already.

The Lincoln SUV pulls into our driveway about 60 seconds later, and the lady neighbor gets out. I tell her go on through the gate and get her boxer--that our dogs are inside.

Then I plot. I weigh the right way to ask it, to subtly remind her that I remember her chlorine-water dumping crimes of the past, and that I'm on to her new addition.

As she walks her boxer to the car, I say, as loudly as possible: "Excuse me, do you have a PIG?"

She ignores me. I could let it go. We'd all be more comfortable. The car's running. It's raining. She's got the dumbest boxer I've ever seen trying to figure out what exactly an automobile is for.

No way, baby. I've gotcha.

"Hello--I'm wondering, do you have a PIG?"

Still no response. I stare. She has to acknowledge me now--the dog is in the back seat and I'm looking her face on as she comes around to the driver's side.

"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you," she lies, looking for the door handle.

"I asked if you have a PIG."

She's defeated. She's busted. Her shoulders hang. I smile.

"Well. yes. it's my daughter's pet."

She looks up at me exasperated.

"I see. Interesting," I say. "We're going to have to talk about that fence,"

She agrees. Says they will get estimates. We'll talk next week.

You better believe we will.

The moral of the story is: Never look a gift pig in the snout.