His boyfriend won’t stop. His neighbor’s dog won’t stop. Matthew needs everyone to stop. Enter the Dog-Dozer.
Inspired by a real product, “The Dog-Dozer” picks apart the noise - and quietude - that can threaten a couple’s shared life. (6 min. read)
The yap. The howl. That damn dog barking behind that door across the hall from Matthew's.
YAP YAP YAP!
Matthew lay in bed.
Bright phone screen: 2:40 AM.
YAP YAP YAP!
He could tell some things. Dog was likely tiny. Likely six months old or less. Likely crying for his mother—his real one, not his human one, who never seemed home.
From the name on the mailbox next to his, Matthew knew the owner was a woman, Polish or of Polish descent. That was it. He knew more about her dog's hopes and fears than he knew about hers.
This dog only barked at night, from nine to five. The hours of a vampire.
YAP YAP YAP!
Two months of this now. Seemed longer. Seemed years.
Mornings, previously serene. Now runny as the eggs in front of him.
“You all right?” his boyfriend asked, lifting coffee to his lips. The mug didn't have a handle. It had a built-in rubber sleeve, which made it cool to the touch. The two men had picked it out together, months ago. A housewarming gift of sorts. “Cool to the touch!” they read off the box in unison. Matthew and Scotty bursting into laughter, right there in Aisle 9. Simpler times.
Matthew stared past Scotty's face at the kitchen wall, canary yellow. Matthew's lids drooped. He sharply inhaled, forcing a chord of wakefulness that would sustain and decay soon enough.
Scotty sighed and put the mug down. “That dog is driving you nuts.”
“And how does it not drive you nuts?” Matthew asked.
“I could sleep through a tornado,” Scotty said. “Now, come on. We're gonna march across the hall and talk to her.”
Matthew shook his head. “It'd be no use. Dogs are dogs.”
Scotty chuckled. “I've owned six dogs in my lifetime. None like hers.”
“That's just it,” Matthew said. “We don't know what kind of person she is. What if she cries?” he implored. “What if she has a gun?”
Scotty raised a brow. “Don't you deal with unpleasant conversations every day?”
Matthew's business card read Termination Consultant. He fired people for other people.
He visited offices he'd never seen before and would never see again. He started conversations with “Nice to meet you,” and ended them with “I'm sure you'll land on your feet.” He did the dirty work of CEOs, managers, pizza parlor owners.
And he consoled those he fired. He absorbed their horror. Their pain. “She doesn't even have the guts to fire me herself?” they'd scream.
“Tell it to me, not to her,” he'd say like a wise, calm yoga instructor. He loved his job.
But this was different. The matter with the dog lady was different.
“What's so different?” Scotty asked.
“Being a third party is miles away from first or second, and you know it,” Matthew said as he bowed his head and rubbed his temples in circles that went nowhere.
“I don't know. Look at it logically,” Scotty began, and Matthew tuned him out after that.
Scotty and his logic. Scotty and his need to draft a forty-page battle plan when all Matthew needed was an ear.
It was charming at first. “Hey, I'm Scotty. I'll be your personal trainer.”
Then it became tolerable. “Give me five more! JUST FIVE MORE!”
Now, Matthew wasn't sure what it was.
“It makes sense,” Scotty concluded, “to just go over there and, you know, talk.”
Matthew grumbled. He didn't want to talk. He just wanted quiet.
A week later, Matthew bought a Dog-Dozer.
Bright phone screen: 11:42 PM.
YAP YAP YAP!
“What's a Dog-Dozer?” Scotty asked, sitting on the couch with a book. He wore eyeglasses and boxers.
From a desk drawer, Matthew removed the device. It fit in the palm of his hand, like a walkie-talkie. Like a detonator. It had a pull-out antenna and a spin dial that went to ten. It had a button on the side that said “DOZE.” It gleamed in the lamplight.
“Let's take it for a spin,” Matthew said with a grin. He scampered to the front door.
Scotty sipped chamomile.
YAP YAP YAP! the dog went, now in a higher pitch, as if it knew a human had stepped closer.
Matthew switched the device to ON. He pulled out the antenna. He spun the dial to four. No, five. He lifted the Dog-Dozer toward the door. He pressed and held the button marked “DOZE.”
Matthew and Scotty heard a prolonged, tiny squeal emanate from the device, but only because they knew to listen for it.
YAP YAP YAP!
Keeping his finger on the “DOZE” button, Matthew spun the dial with his free thumb. To six. To seven. To eight.
The squeal grew higher, pitchier.
Scotty put his book down. “Is this safe?” he asked.
“The website said 'safe,'” Matthew said.
YAP! YAP! YAP YAP YAP YAP YAP!
Nine. Ten. He spun it to ten.
The pitch disappeared into the highest realm of inaudibility. Yet Matthew and Scotty could feel the squeal in their skulls.
Scotty said, “Don't hurt the dog.”
“I won't hurt the dog.”
“I like dogs.”
“I know you like dogs,” Matthew said.
He pushed the dial against ten. Ten. An ultrasonic TEN.
YAP! YAP! YAP YAP YAP YAP!
Like a gunshot.
Like a body.
No more yaps.
Matthew's eyes went wide. He spun and looked at Scotty. His eyes were wide too.
Matthew cleared his throat, shut the Dog-Dozer off, and placed it on an end table. With the calm of a president, he headed toward the bedroom, stepping over the cracked, rubber-sleeve mug on the floor. Chamomile everywhere.
Scotty protested. “Do you think we should—?”
“But what if you—?”
Matthew shut the door, finding himself in a dark room, his heart speeding.
He felt his way toward the bed. He crawled under the covers. He curled into a ball. He stayed awake.
Minutes later, he felt Scotty's cold arm slip around his torso.
And the dog did not bark. For the first time in months, the dog did not bark. For the first time in months, Matthew was reunited with the unbroken sounds of nighttime. The wall clock ticking. The refrigerator humming. The streetlights buzzing. Scotty's deep breathing.
And no YAP. No YAP. No YAP no YAP no YAP.
“Matthew,” Scotty said. “We need to talk.”
Matthew's eyes were as still as the oncoming night. “I know.”