October Festival Guide

HOLMBERG: The lone howling of a crusader against dog barking

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) – Lyman Flinn has been on a relentless, dogged crusade against barking hounds in his West End neighborhood. For almost  40 years he has nipped at the heels of county leaders to get them to do something about it.

Now, he’s the one howling . . . howling mad that Henrico County’s board of supervisors voted Tuesday night to take the teeth out of the doggone tough-on-dogs noise ordinance that it passed just last year.

He knew they would do it Tuesday afternoon when we visited in his yard. He knew they would bow down to “political correctness” and the sheer weight of the dog-lovers lobby.

He was so frustrated and angry, if he had fur, it would be standing up on his back.

“I’ve had too much,” the 79-year-old retired state highway engineer and lifelong bachelor said. “Far too much. Far, far, far too much.”

We read over some of the comments he had prepared to read to the board of supervisors.

“Just one dog next door is an acoustical landmine, waiting to explode.”

He admits he hates the noise. And yes, he just doesn’t like dogs.

He said they aren’t made for suburban life – to be cooped up in houses and small yards. He believes they need rigorous and extensive daily exercise – preferably  a 10-mile run in a direction away from him.

He and others in a tiny but international group promoting dog-free communities believe dogs bark excessively because they’re imprisoned in a cruel and inhumane way.

He mimicked “uneducated” dog owners: “Let’s get a puppy and let’s have some fun with it. If it barks, that’s what they do, don’t they? If it bothers anybody, that’s just how it is. That’s just how it is!”

Yes, this guy is furious. And it’s been going on for 39 years, ever since a man moved into rental house right next door with a trio of spaniels.

Flinn has filed lawsuits and addressed the board of supervisors many times. He’s started petition drives. It’s possible that he’s  called animal control more times than any single citizen.

And, of course, there are the signs in his yard promoting a dog-free community and the stupidity of calling dogs burglar alarms. He says it’s just endless false calls.

“Bully is the best name for an uneducated canine owner,” he said.

All of which has made him less than popular in the neighborhood.

“He’s not a happy person,” said nearby resident Robert Adair, who in the past has posted opposing signs urging Flinn to get over it or move away. Now, Adair says, he just feels sorry for him.

“It’s not something I would trust, someone who hates that hard,” said neighbor and Pomeranian-lover Melissa Walters.

Dog-lover and regular walker Nancy Mars has the grudging respect of Flinn because her rigorously exercised dogs are largely quiet when they’re out for a stroll. She respects Flinn’s right to express himself and acknowledges he’s caught an awful lot of heat from neighbors.

“But I think it kind of goes both ways,” she added.

“What do you expect?” Flinn asks philosophically. “It’s an adversarial situation. There can be no friendship.”

I talked a little with him about his low tolerance for background noise. He said, as a young man, he was bothered significantly by the sounds of his college roommate’s radio, and his conversations. So much so that he was given a dorm room without a roommate.

He also said that his parents brought home a dog when he was a youngster, but it didn’t stay. He said he just can’t stand the sound of a dog barking.

He denies he hates animals. It’s just dogs.

Flinn said he reluctantly took in a persistent cat abandoned by a neighbor, a cat “that owned me” for 16 years, until it died. Cats don’t make much noise, he said. He doesn’t  mind them coming into his yard to drink from the birdbath.

Spending a warm afternoon with Lyman Flinn made me wonder if he’s unusually sensitive to some types of frequencies and volumes.

Millions of humans are. One very common medical condition is called hyperacusis. For example, they sound of rustling paper in the background might sound like an elephant stampede to you.

I think I may have it.

I, too,  don’t like the sound of barking dogs.

Unlike Flinn, I don’t hate dogs. But I find it quite irritating when I’m walking on the beach, listening to the soulful noise of the ocean, and someone’s dog on a leash just won’t stop barking.

I find it intolerable that someone will allow their dog to bark for hours in their yards or on their porches, or they bark at someone while walking past their yard.

Yes, yes, my dog-loving friends tell me, they’re just talking. They’re just figuring things out. They may be worried. Maybe it’s you.

Oh well.

As Lyman Flinn says with gritted teeth, “that’s just the way it is.”

23 comments

  • Rocky

    We are seeing an epidemic of irresponsible dog owners who are rude, uneducated and unsympathetic to the sanctity of their neighbor’s request for silence. Responsible dog owners slience their dogs during sleeping hours and correct (or corral) those incessant barking dogs that rattle windows. I love dogs. I own dogs. I hate to hear dogs’s barking consistently. Unfortunately the “me” generation cares as little for their neighbor’s peace and quiet as they do for picking up dog turds their dogs leave behind.

    • Reasonable Man

      Perfectly said Rocky, I agree with you totally. It is not the dogs fault – it is the owner’s responsibility 100%. Same as the way one’s children act in the neighborhood, it is the parent’s job to teach consideration and how ones actions should fit in well within a public environment. Some people just get it and some just don’t – there will always be a mix of both.

      However, there is hope that things can get better over time – just think back how few people picked up their dog’s turds 20-30 yrs ago – now I would say that the majority do.

    • clever

      I agree with you.I live in Pa and next to a Animal Rescue gone bad and over 12 dogs bark all day long non stop sick cats.So very sad cause the dogs never run locked up all day.I could not agree with you more!! Uneducated people and the lack of respect for other neighbors.

  • Steel Mill

    Can not agree more with Rocky. I am a dog owner and I dislike the continual barking of dogs. A bark now and then is not an issue. But at night or early in the morning that barking goes on and one.. that is the sign of an irresponsible owner.
    It is no coincidence that there is a high % of folks that own dogs and do not license them. While a license by itself is not going to stop barking, the responsible owner has one for the dog.
    Unfortunately anyone can buy a dog not realizing or caring that to provide for a dog takes time and patience. it is easier to just let them out to bark than to walk them and teach them not to do that.

  • me

    It is totally irresponsible that Country and City Administrators are totally
    inept to write an enforcable ordinance on Noise; it’s their JOB. It’s
    far easier for them Ignore the Problem and elliminates the enforcement
    role altogether; they both benefit from their negligence.
    The 24/7 penned dog next to me barks continually, incessantly, non-stop when owners are gone no matter what time of day, night, or length
    of time. There is no place in my home where you can get away from his resounding barking. When he starts barking, all the other penned dogs in the neighborhood start barking.
    The owners couldn’t care less and are very bellligerant, because they
    they know they can be, legally. Their dog is not their problem; it’s
    mine. My dog is more concerned for their dog than they are.
    Why buy a dogs to have it penned outside 24/7 with no interactions
    corrections, love, or socializing? It seems cruel and unusual.
    The dog is in jail, with solitary confinement, and no sanitation..

  • Carol D.

    Count me in with the dog owners/lovers who HATE to hear dogs barking barking barking! Mine are indoors at night, I don’t believe any dog owner should leave their dog out at night. Period. Even during the day I shush mine if they get to barking too much. However, I also understand that if my dogs only bark for a few minutes and the neighbors dogs bark for a few minutes and the dog two blocks over barks for a few minutes, it adds up. So, I do feel sympathy for this man.

  • C of B

    I do not feel sorry for this guy. It says in the article that he does not like dogs. He’s a bachelor…and there is a reason. Any person that does not care for an animal also doesnt care to understand an animal. I understand there are those who let their dogs out to bark all hours of the night but thats life. He appears to be just a plain old grumpy man. No one rants about something for nearly 40 years. Sorry that is my opinion.

    • Joe

      ” I understand there are those who let their dogs out to bark all hours of the night but thats life. ”

      That’s just trashy in general.

    • athynz

      While I understand his issue with constantly barking dogs at the same time I have to agree with you in that he is a grumpy old man who had held on to a vendetta for far too long. Personally I love dogs. I grew up with 3 dobermans and they were the most gentle dogs. Now we own a chihuahua who is one of the sweetest dogs but she will bark – when that happens we bring her in or do something to distract her from whatever she was barking at. I doubt she does much barking when we are not home – she’s more likely to curl in in one of her blankets and sleep.

  • Marcus

    Debarking, also known as devocalization, is most often done on dogs, but has also been performed on cats. Targeting the animal’s vocal cords either through the mouth or a throat incision near the larynx, a veterinarian severs the cords either partially or completely. Problem solved.

  • Belsma

    Wow! Dude needs another “hobby” or needs to move into a child free/animal free retirement community. I don’t like nuisance barking either and one of my dogs does it. Inside and outside, but we also don’t leave them out unless it’s a nice day and we are home. That way we can bring the stinker in if she just won’t stop after a few minutes. I usually can’t hear the other dogs in the hood going off when I am inside and I would say about 80 percent of the neighbors have a dog or dogs. If all barking dogs were eradicated I am sure he would find something else to complain about.

  • Clever

    I just came across this story.I am from Pa and live in a village near Red Rock,Pa.This story is just like where I live.over 12 dogs barking all day non stop ,and is a Animal Rescue GONE BAD.The dogs never get any run time locked up all day so sad.Yet the barking dogs all day is so affecting the quality of our lives here.Calls have been made to County and more.This reduce has over 70 cats which many are ill.I can relate to this neighbor and we the people here all have pets and love pets but hearing barking dogs all day is very exhausting.

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