Sunday, July 27, 2008

Trips to the Mailbox

One day a few years ago a jogging neighbor paused at my mailbox while I was retrieving the mail.

"Doesn't that couple's barking dogs bother you?" she asked.

She meant the two dogs that sat on my next-door neighbor's back porch and saluted passers-by in lupine fashion. In point of that fact, the porch was on the same level as my family room, and the dogs routinely barked when they saw me moving around inside my house.

I shrugged my shoulders. "Sure," I said. "But the couple who lives there isn't married, so I've never really gotten to know them."

The jogger recoiled as if her leash had been yanked. "Oh, I don't care anything about that," she said as she turned. "I just don't like the dogs barking." So saying, she resumed her jog.

Quite literally, the person on the street is annoyed by barking dogs but inured to folks living in sin. Commenting on immoral lifestyles is beyond the pale; baying hounds is a matter of righteous indignation. Mentioning the injuriousness inherent in divorcing conjugal purpose from conjugal pleasure is a conversation-stopper; giving two healthy pets the run of the back yard lowers property values.

I wasn't indifferent to the dog-owning couple next door: I had, after all, met them. He was a coach for the now-defunct Atlanta women's soccer team; she was an attorney. My own dog Roscoe was a digger, and twice the couple had kindly brought my little rover home after he'd made his way under the fence to call on his canine neighbors. The couple did eventually marry; not long after they divorced when he was caught in an affair.* I moved a short time after and lost track of them.

* Couples who live together before marrying -- particularly those who intend to never have children -- are more likely to end up divorced than couples who wait until after marriage to share a bed. Thus, living together on a trial basis before marriage to test compatibility actually undermines and hinders marital permanence. It really is unhealthy and unwise.

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