A Letter to My Neighbors in Baldwin Park, Florida

Dear Neighbors of Baldwin Park:
(specifically those between Prospect Avenue and Meeting Place, near Grace Hopper Hall)

Hello, and happy holidays to you and your family! My name is Victoria, and my husband Carlos and I live in this collection of townhouses with you, on the corner nearest to the pool. We’ve been here since April 2012, but I apologize if we haven’t formally introduced ourselves before today.

That being said, you’ve probably seen us before – and I bet you’ve seen our puppies:

chihuahuas

These are our babies, Chiquita (on the left) and Taquito (right). We don’t have children, but these guys are the light of our lives, and they have a wardrobe and toy chest that would rival most toddlers. Seriously, it’s frightening.

You’ve likely seen my husband and/or I out walking them and, if you were out with your pet(s), may have noticed our tendency to turn away or avoid coming in direct contact with your dogs. While I never thought this required explanation – most people who own small breed dogs recognize how yippy/excited/aggressive they can be when meeting other dogs, and are just as eager to avoid that cacophonous interaction as we are – a recent negative interaction with a neighbor inspired me to explain why we so diligently avoid greetings when we have our pets.

Taquito has a very severe, very rare form of epilepsy. He has suffered from tonic-clonic (aka, grand mal) seizures so severe they’ve caused brain damage, injury, and, most recently, a tear in his anal wall that just had surgery on Monday night. As fur-parents, we do everything we can do to care for his health, as he is every bit as important to us as your children are to you.

What, do you ask, is the number one cause of his seizures?

Over-stimulation.

 

And, as you can imagine, Chihuahuas can definitely become nervous and overexcited when they come in contact with other dogs. The few times we’ve tried to let Taquito interact with our neighbors’ dogs, he has ended up having a seizure within 4-6 hours after the event. We now do everything in our power to avoid his contact with other puppies, even if it means we turn around when we encounter other pet owners coming down the sidewalk.

taco

My husband and I are both friendly people, but the health and welfare of our son – yes, we view him as our son – is so important to us, we will turn abruptly when we see another dog and do what we can to get him away from any unnecessary stimulus. It’s not personal – it’s literally a life or death matter for our dog, and his well being is more important to us than anything else in this world.

That being said, I am frequently out running and walking without my pets, and I have gone out of my way to chat with neighbors, greet their pets, and extend hospitality when he’s not with me. I’m sad to say I haven’t had a chance to do that with all of you, and that is my failure as your neighbor. I’m a full-time grad student at Rollins, I work 50+ hours per week in my career, and I try to spend time with family and friends in my limited spare time, so I may have neglected my responsibility as a good neighbor to introduce myself appropriately.

I learned Tuesday evening (in a very negative interaction with a male neighbor), I may have given the wrong impression to you based on my behavior and intentions to protect my puppy. In fact, I believe the neighbor said I was, “rude,” and “shouldn’t live in Baldwin Park” if I “wasn’t going to be nice to my neighbors.”

(Side note to this man: I was so stunned by your words ­–and the fact that you’ve obviously been feeling/thinking this way about a complete stranger for quite a while, which is both sad and disturbing– you admittedly left me a bit flabbergasted. Obviously, sir, you do not know me, and you do not know my situation, but I will take ownership for that fact due to my neglect in introducing myself. But now you do, as do all of the neighbors. I hope it’s OK I continue to live in Baldwin Park, friend, because I really like it here.)

So, hi. I’m Victoria!

If I’m out with my puppies for a walk and you have a dog with you, I will do ANYTHING (including Matrix-like maneuvers) to avoid you in order to protect my puppy from a life-threatening seizure. (Seriously, I’ve put Taquito in my sweater and jumped over a hedge before to avoid a Great Dane. It was really impressive, but you should’ve been there.)

It’s not personal, and I’m still a nice person. I would hope all of you would be just as protective of your children and do whatever is necessary to safeguard their well being, without worrying that a complete stranger might take offense to your behavior. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that when it comes to my family, there are no restrictions or limitations to the extent I will go to protect them, and given you’ve chosen to reside in Baldwin Park, a family-oriented community, I’m betting you feel the same way.

I will do my very best to extend greetings and show my true (friendly and genuine) nature the next time I see you without my “kids.” And, next time you see me and I’m not with my dogs, please know I’m always happy to chat and catch up, so just say hello! I’ll admit, sometimes I’m distracted with music on my iPhone or an article on HuffPost, but a greeting is always a welcomed interruption, so don’t hesitate to say hello if I’ve failed to do so first. The man who felt I was rude and “intentionally avoiding him for a year” must have forgotten that conversations and courtesy are a two-way street, and he could just have easily said hello on Tuesday evening, or any evening before, instead of berating me in a passive-aggressive fashion.

(Looking at you, Mr. Balding Man with the Adorable Long-Haired, Small, Gray Dog that might be a Miniature Schnauzer. I appreciate your attempt to school me with humility on Tuesday evening, but you really just made yourself look like a crotchety old jerk.)

I promise, I don’t bite.

Best wishes and happy holidays to you and yours,

family

Victoria, Carlos, Chiquita, & Taquito

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