Remember that bit in 101 Dalmations when all the dalmations of the city spend the night barking to transmit vital information about Cruella De Ville's reign of terror? I can relate: for the last few months it's been dalmation night every night. Despite sleeping with heavy duty earplugs and often a pillow over my head, the howling from the neighbourhood street dogs is still so loud it's like they're in the room with me.
What makes it unbearable is that it's every single night, and for hours. One howls for a bit, then as their top notes decrescendo another picks up the baton and starts up. It's like they're trying to harmonise, like a canine Boyzone or Take That. I now feel like I know individual dogs by their respective howls.
All this is severely testing my otherwise love for dogs. Advice from friends has ranged from "why don't you get the night guard to shoo them away? That's their job isn't it?" (because durrr, I don't have a night guard) to helpful advice on where to buy an air rifle, to shoot in the air or at the dogs. I now know I can get one at my local childhood needs store, called Baby Walkers, where the rifle and ammo sit displayed next to the Fisher Price stuff. But I can't bring myself to do it, it's too cruel. Despite the howling I still love dogs.
Unfortunately, so do all the elderly people in the neighbourhood. Every morning around five am they gather in our street, outside our house - walking blocks to get here - to feed the local street dogs. The dogs are now used to it, so when their feeders are late, the howl-fest begins again. My landlords, who live downstairs, have unsuccessfully tried to wage a charm war on the local dog-feeding elderly: they've gone round, sipped tea, tried to implore them to feed the dogs in their own streets, to no avail.
My husband was somewhat less diplomatic.
There are noticeably less street dogs these days compared with what I remember from childhood visits; I think a sustained program of adoption and sterilization has had some effect. In the past there have been unsuccessful attempts to cull them, but there are too many, all having too much sex and too many litters. Those in the know say mass sterilization is the key to reducing street dog populations. Unfortunately for me, that's a long-term solution that won't help me sleep at night.