Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Wisconsin 101: What do we owe our neighbor?

Here is the question: How much do we owe our neighbor?

How much do we owe our fellow human beings? What is our responsibility to each other?

Philosophers and clerics have debated this question. There doesn't seem to be a solid answer, although among the more respectable religions, there is a consensus on not doing things to your neighbor that you wouldn't want done to you.

Things like, don't leave dog poop in your yard for days and days until it starts to smell bad. I had neighbors like that in Memphis. I never would have done that to them, not the least because I have never owned and will never own a dog. I am firmly in Team Cat.

Take your trash can in from the sidewalk once the trash has been picked up. That's an easy one. Not hard to stick to that.

Cut your neighbor's grass when she is on vacation. Water her flowers. Shovel her sidewalk so she doesn't get a citation. These are the things we do for our neighbor and she does for us because we have very good neighbors.

Then we get into the tougher issues.

What is our responsibility to our neighbor with respect to the neighbor's dog and its actions?

Especially when we approve of the dog's actions?

I mean, what is our responsibility (=my husband's responsibility, because I was at work) to our neighbor when her dog catches a squirrel and almost kills it?

I am a huge fan of dead squirrels. The only good squirrel is a dead squirrel. Kill all the squirrels you want, Izzo.

But almost-dead squirrels and almost-dead varmints are another issue. I want them dead but I don't want to be the executioner. Which makes me a total hypocrite, I know. It's like those people who eat meat but get all squishy seeing an animal being butchered. You can't eat meat without being implicit in the process.

Laverne often catches chipmunks and mice. She will meow proudly and wait for me to go outside to congratulate her. I do so, then require that she release the animal. Usually, it's still alive because Laverne and I are on the catch and release program. But one time, she caught a baby possum and it looked like it was on the verge of death. A slow death. My husband and I realized we could not leave that baby possum to die a long death and that we had to do the necessary. He went upstairs to gird his loins. I went inside, because I did not want to watch. He went back outside to get a shovel and dispatch the possum - only to find it gone. It had looked like it was about dead, but it was tricking us. We were both relieved.

Yesterday, while I was at work, our neighbor came over. Her dog had caught and almost killed a squirrel. Almost. Our neighbor - we will call her Suzy - did not want the squirrel to die a slow, painful death, but she knew it was not going to recover. Suzy did not want to kill the squirrel herself. So she asked my husband to do it.

Do we owe squirrel killing to our neighbors? Is that part of the social compact? Is it part of my general approach that I will lend my husband out to do manly things like repair lawnmowers and carry heavy things so I gain status with my unmarried neighbors?

What do you think? Should the man be in charge of killing the almost-dead squirrels? Or is this something Hillel and Jesus would say we do not have to do?


MomQueenBee said...

The person most equipped to handle this should do it (i.e., the man or woman who will be least traumatized by this action). If no one is equipped to handle it, it is the responsibility of the dog owner. Get out the shovel, neighbor.

webb said...

Fortunately, my husband is fearless and would have done the deed for you. Oh, about that possum ... i think he played possom!

Gaylin said...

Augh, makes me happy I live in an apartment with screens on the windows!
I think it is the neighbours responsibility as well - your pet, your problem.

Hoya said...

I live in the country and am thrilled when neighbors who are awake earlier than I am are chainsawing the logs that a storm has dropped across the roads so I can get to work. I would offer my husband to kill anyone's almost dead squirrel if needed. But I'm pretty sure all my neighbors have their own guns, so....(I think it's nice to offer to do things for a neighbor if you are *willing* but I don't think the social compact requires the sort of thing you've asked about)