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Wild in the Streets

I often remind Xy that we don’t live in the ghetto. This is especially obvious when we can look out the window and see kids playing in the street. Black kids, white kids, Latino kids. Diversity. This is not a place “inhabited primarily by people of the same race, religion, or social background.” By definition, this is not the ghetto.

All the same we do have certain issues.

For example, our neighbors bought a puppy, a pit bull, which they named Money and which they let run wild in the street. He’s a cute dog, but I usually see him running around with no supervision whatsoever, and that bothers me. I just learned they’ve renamed the dog Killer.

Today, as I was examining the pomegranate tree in front of our house, Money/Killer ran up and started licking Persephone’s face before I even knew he was there. He was wearing a parka with a big gold skull on the back. It was a very sweet and harmless interaction, but who’s to say what will happen next time?

Also running wild in the street, often alongside Money/Killer, are those same kids I mentioned earlier. They may be of diverse races, but they have at least one thing in common: Their parents do not supervise them closely.

I recently observed some girls running around barefoot. Not a good idea in a neighborhood littered with debris, rusty nails and broken glass. Sure enough, they sliced their feet up, and who ended up providing first aid? Xy.

It’s fun to see the kids playing together, but I do worry about them. They play in the street and sometimes come perilously close to getting hit by cars. Recently they’ve taken to playing on Craig’s front porch. (Craig is our next door neighbor, who has for all practical purposes abandoned his house.) They’re climbing his trees and performing acrobatic tricks. Xy stopped them just before they turned Craig’s porch light into a piñata. And of course they’re playing with Money/Killer the pit bull.

Different people have different parenting styles. I can understand and celebrate that. I certainly would not let my daughter run wild in the street, but does that mean it’s wrong for others? The kids sometimes report on each others’ misdeeds to Xy or me. I responded yesterday, “I’m not your parent, so I’m not going to discipline you.” But that raises the question: What is my obligation here? Where does it begin and end?

Update: Shortly after I wrote this, the neighbors gave Money/Killer away. Not sure why — maybe they just realized living in a second story walk-up wasn’t good for a rambunctious dog, or maybe they decided he was too much work. Who knows? He was a cute animal but I was glad to see him go.

Published inNeighbors


  1. Robyn Robyn

    The dog thing would scare the bejeezus out of me–and not because I think that pit bulls are bad dogs. I don’t. I think pit bulls have the potential to be fantastic dogs. BUT. Untrained, unsupervised dogs–especially pit bulls–are bad news. Someone who calls a pit bull “killer” is very likely to be playing stupid games with it that encourage aggressive behavior as well.

    I know this is not your MO, but for the safety and well-being of my family, I would be very, very tempted to call animal control the next time I saw it running about unsupervised.

    I’m sorry you’re in this position, Bart. And I hope you can find a solution.

  2. Kent Kent

    I don’t know city ordinances there, but independently of it being a pit bull, should dogs run stray in the city? Our neighbors dog crossed our property line and mauled my daughter’s dog, who died from the wounds. This was no pit bull, and the act had no provocation. The neighbors were experienced pet owners. I recommend you look into this further, and call animal control.

    As for kids in the street, once again, I can’t know what it’s like to live in your neighborhood, but part of growing up is experiencing some danger, and the freedom to roam the streets, within reason, with your friends. My sense is that children are too constrained these days, and I was not a fan of the “play date” way of life that my children experienced growing up.

    Nonetheless, I confess that we kept a very close eye on our children, closer to the model you suggest. Having raised two kids to college age, I now realize that I still know nothing about being a parent. It’s a walk in the dark.

  3. lemming lemming

    I’d second the bit about the dog – that’s just not safe for a variety of reasons. Pit bulls are already seen as suspect by much of the world; no need to make it worse.

    re: supervision – I’ve been reading a memoir called “Glass Castles” which raises this issue. Certainly the writer was ignored by her parents to a degree which wasn’t safe – but which aspects and which degrees were the ones which made it that way?

  4. I appreciate these comments and thought I should add a couple more notes.

    1. Dog poop is now a ubiquitous hazard on the sidewalks near our house. Very uncool.

    2. I too was allowed to play unsupervised in our neighborhood as I grew up, and that was generally a good thing. So I have been mulling over why I feel this sense of disapproval. Is it pure classism? Is it the difference between suburbia and the inner city? Am I just a grumpy old man? Am I headed toward being an overprotective mollycoddler? Or are these children genuinely neglected?

  5. Garvey Garvey

    Man, whenever you post stuff like this, I so want to lay down 250 words of pure judgmentalism. But usually just say something about how you’re braver than I.

    You have made certain choices of what your life means and how you want that to play out for your child, too. Choices have consequences. (And we all hope they are not tragic ones.)

    Scorpion and the frog. Etc. As long as you live where you do, these things will recur. Dog poop. Loud parties. Hooker fights. Gunshots.

  6. mickey mickey

    This was a beautifully phrased, non-judgemental conundrum. I wish you would put in in the form of a letter to the editor – for a wide universe to ponder. Unsupervised dogs and children represent distinct dangers in this day and age – both to and from, e.g. untrained dogs behaving “one time” erratically, and children getting into mischief with porch lights. Then the reverse, a terrible accident or worse befalling children and me shooting the dog. I too roamed the neighborhood and Audubon Park unsupervised all day till sundown decades ago. This is a different time and a different place.

  7. Adam E Adam E

    Believe it or not, I think I can say the same thing about Bloomington, Indiana. I suppose my neighborhood probably isn’t as diverse…but there are latinos, whites, blacks, and lesbians. Kids of different races run around together in my neighborhood, and usually don’t cause too much trouble. The biggest problems seem to be when dogs are loose. Although I haven’t done anything about it, many of my neighbors have called animal control. It seems to help for a few days-the dogs will be on leashes, but then a few days later they just roam free.

  8. Moishe Moishe

    I too was allowed to roam the streets of New Orleans and got into my share of trouble. We started fires, made Molotov cocktails, broke into an abandoned house. I sold drugs to the guy that worked at the gas station. But somehow I always knew right from wrong. Weird, huh. Now I’m Master’s degreed and considered upstanding. Yea, for all the shit I did I do believe the world is different now and more dangerous. I’m a grumpy old man now, too. I would shoot that fucking dog if it came near my child. Of course then you’d be targeted by the gangsters that owned it. I’m afraid that what it comes down to is deciding where and how you want to live. The inner city of New Orleans, from whence I hail, is now worse than ever. Your only options are to move or to live with all this shit, both literal and figurative.

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