Why anyone (like me, for instance) would want to get into a dispute between two Leisure World neighbors is an issue unto itself. However, when one of the disputants is willing to evict a 78-year-old widow over a barking dog that other neighbors say isn't a problem, it stirs my damsel-in-distress impulse.
So, intrepidly I proceed. Our tale centers on Patricia Krauss' problem at Seal Beach Leisure World, where a community official says her dog's barking drives him nuts.
Krauss moved to Leisure World four years ago, a couple of years after her husband of 53 years died. Soon after his death, she got Abbey, a Westy terrier with the gift of gab.
The neighbor in the unit facing hers is Sandy Goldfarb, the director of the mutual -- the group of buildings in which Krauss and a few hundred other people live. Krauss says the two of them never quite clicked.
"One of the first things he ever said to me was, 'Your dog is peeing on your grass,' " Krauss says. "I said, 'Uh-huh'. He said, 'It's going to turn your grass brown and ugly.' I said, 'Fine, it's going to match yours.' "
In recalling that exchange, Krauss says she wishes she'd "kept my mouth shut." Their coolness persisted, Krauss says. She concedes that she never took him any of the baked items she shared with other neighbors.
Things worsened recently, Krauss says, as Goldfarb made vague references to how quiet it would be with her gone. Nine days ago, she received a 30-day eviction notice from a law firm representing the community's governing board. It cited complaints about Abbey's "constant" barking. She learned that the complaints came from Goldfarb and two other nearby residents.
Krauss says it's a put-up job. She acknowledges that Abbey barks at certain people but that it doesn't begin to approach nuisance levels. She says she has a dozen letters from other nearby residents who say essentially the same thing.
I didn't receive return calls from Goldfarb or the law firm that sent the eviction notice, but I did reach a couple of Krauss' allies.
Sandy Tappen has lived near Krauss for 16 months. At first, she thought Abbey barked too often but says that hasn't been the case for nearly a year.
"The dog only barks occasionally; she hushes it up right away, so it barks for less than a minute," Tappen says. "It's not a nuisance to me, and there's only one unit in between us."
Tappen says she thinks Goldfarb is "obsessed" with Krauss' dog and is abusing his power as a director to force Krauss out.
"I think he expects her dog not to bark, period," Tappen says. "It's unrealistic to expect a dog not to bark at all."
Neighbor Pauline Hamric thinks Goldfarb has a "vendetta" against Krauss.
"I used to hear her dog bark occasionally," Hamric says. "I live a couple carports away from her, but I could hear the dog, but not all the time. It will bark if someone comes up to the door, but he makes it sound like the dog is constantly barking. That's absolutely not true."
Hamric and Tappen say they'd be annoyed by a constantly barking dog and that people in close quarters are entitled to peace and quiet. They note that Goldfarb led a movement last year, since tabled, to prevent new residents from having pets and current residents from replacing pets that died.
When it comes to annoying dogs, we're talking about a subjective judgment. I can't vouch for Abbey's manners, but what bothers me is the prospect of evicting an elderly woman on clearly conflicting testimony. Not to mention that many Leisure World residents have complained over the years about heavy-handed management at the Seal Beach community.
Krauss is composed until I ask where she'll go if evicted. Then, her voice cracking, she says, "I'd go with my daughter, probably. I said the next time they take me, they'll take me out in a box .... I was used to a home, but I thought I'd make the best of it here. But the idea of being threatened and getting my stuff out in 30 days ... I don't know how I could do it."
Dana Parsons can be reached at (714) 966-7821 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.