Lately, I’ve had to get used to a harsh-voiced woman standing outside my house at seven o’clock in the morning, screaming “KARMA!!!”
I suffer from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, among other things. When you have CFS, it’s very easy to drowse all day, but it’s difficult to actually sleep and get the rest you so desperately need. I go through regular cycles where lie awake until early morning, listening to my heart beat.
I’ve learned not to try to fight it by going to bed early. Early to bed and early to rise is an uniquely puritanical torture, when you have chronic fatigue syndrome. I go to bed whenever I feel as though I might finally be able to drift off, and I wake up as late as I can for my own safety. The past few nights, that’s been sometime after four in the morning. I go to bed clutching my favorite icon like a teddy bear and pray for rest; I drift off at first light of dawn, praying that I can sleep until ten or noon.
And then I wake up to the screaming of “KARMA!!!!”
It happened again today. “KARMA!!! KARMAAAAAAA!!!”
Up and down the block, back and forth, louder and softer. “KARMA!!! KAAAAAAArrrrrmaaaaaa, kaaaaaaAAAAARMAAAAAA!”
Her voice gets harsher as she gets exhausted, but she doesn’t stop. “KARMA!!! Karma, get over here! Karma, you b***h! Karma!!!”
Dogs bark at her from the apartment house across the road. “SHUT UP!!!” she screams. “KARMA!!!”
After an hour or so, she stops.
I am too exhausted to run to the old-fashioned window and fumble with the catch to open it. The window in my room falls out entirely when I open it, so I have to be poised like a goalie to catch the pane and lay it aside; and that’s usually how stray cats get in. If I did have the strength to open the window, I’d probably grab my copy of the Upanishads and read aloud to her to help her in her quest for Karma until the neighbors called the cops, so perhaps it’s best that I’m paralyzed with exhaustion at that point.
In any case, I’m pretty sure that this particular Karma is a dog.
Voices tend to sound alike when they shriek “Karma” at seven in the morning, but I think I recognize this woman as one of my neighbors in the apartment building across the street. There are about four people in a ground floor apartment, two couples, and they raise between three and six large dogs in there– I’ve never counted. My guess is three, due to the sheer physical size of the building, but it could be a hundred judging the amount of poop in the yard and sidewalk. These people do not believe in cleaning up after their dogs. They don’t believe in taking their dogs for walks, either; they just open the screen door and let them relieve themselves near the bus stop. Even with the torrential rains common to Steubenville, there’s never enough rain to wash the filth away. It just ages and ripens until it becomes one with the sidewalk. The whole neighborhood reeks when the wind blows in the right direction.And that’s not the only thing that these folks don’t believe in doing for their dogs. One day I noticed two very excited dogs chained up on the back patio; they were alternately scratching at the door and relieving themselves on the postage stamp of lawn behind the apartment, barking piteously for attention, for hours. Every time somebody came to the back door, the dogs desperately tried to squeeze past them into the apartment. The dogs owners forced the door shut, swearing and yanking chains, and the dogs went back to urinating on the grass.
Finally, one of the neighbors noticed me staring. They usually won’t talk to me or acknowledge my presence because they think I’m a snobby city woman, but they volunteered some information at that point.
“Have to keep these two in the yard,” they said, “Because the other dog’s in heat.”
These people will not spay or neuter their dogs; they will not take them for walks and they will not clean up the poo. They will not find the dogs an appropriate home with people who will, either. I’d like to call an animal welfare service of some sort, but there isn’t one in this town. If you call animal control they just re-route you to the police station, and the police are too busy to confiscate neglected pets.
Still, nature has her own way of punishing the guilty.
As far as I can tell from my spot in the upstairs bedroom, when one of the neglected and cooped up dogs is let out to foul the sidewalk, instead of just fouling the sidewalk near the building, she takes herself for a walk. She walks up and down my block, just out of reach of her harsh-voiced mistress, in and out of yards, in and out of sight. The dog’s mistress is afraid to trespass in anybody’s yard for fear of getting shot– this is the Ohio Valley, where it’s customary to be armed to the teeth and treat trespassers as invaders, after all. So the neglectful mistress is forced to wander around in the cold screaming like a fool until she’s hoarse, while the dog has a nice long outing and explores the neighborhood on her own. The mistress who never takes any care keeps screaming more and more frustratedly; the dog keeps exploring, fouling different patches of sidewalk and satisfying her wanderlust. Finally, when the dog’s good and ready, she goes back to the apartment building and the game is over. It begins again the next day.
I’m Catholic, myself. My study of Indian religions has been minimal. But from what little I know about Karma, that dog’s name is perfectly appropriate.
(image via Pixabay)