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It was never my intention to review the Outdoor Bark Control Birdhouse. I didn’t even know what it was when I noticed it from my kitchen window a few weeks back. My eyes landed on this little birdhouse hanging from a nail tacked onto a tree on the other side of the backyard fence, on a hill that’s part of the property.

In fact, it wasn’t until the young police officer asked to borrow a screwdriver and started dissecting the birdhouse on my kitchen counter that he told me what he suspected it was. But he still wasn’t sure at that point. He needed to operate a bit more.

Above the hill there’s a lovely community filled with elderly residents. They’re a very quiet bunch, and the only noise that drifts down through my open windows is the tinkling from the little wind chimes that dangle from their patios. Each patio must have 85 small wind chimes.

Shortly after I moved in, a nice women who lives in one of the homes up there tried to talk to me while I was in the yard with the dogs. It’s hard to talk uphill. And I guess it’s difficult to hear downhill because no matter how many times she asked Luke and Dexter’s names, and no matter how many times I answered, she never quite got them right. So, Betty up the hill thinks the dogs are Duke and Chester. And sometimes I hear her thin voice making its way down the hill when she’s trying to get Duke and Chester to acknowledge her greetings. She’s not on their radar.

Luke at the lake 6 2010

    Luke, AKA Duke, resting after a swim at Jackson Lake, GA

 Dexter, or Chester, as he’s affectionately known to Betty, contemplating a strawberry.

During that same hazy conversation, she asked what I was doing because I guess she noticed a dishwasher, microwave and old kitchen cabinets in the backyard. I told her I was renovating. I said it several times. And she repeated it back. Sort of. Betty thinks that Duke, Chester and I are renting. Sometimes you just have to let things go.

Anyway, I didn’t give the birdhouse much thought, but I found that I kept looking at it and something about it was nagging at me. I figured that one of the residents had placed it there, but I found it strange that they would risk sliding down the hill or getting tangled in the brush just to hang a birdhouse. Why not place it near their fence? And then I started feeling a little weird about it because it suddenly made no sense that it would be facing my house and not theirs. From where it was hanging, I was the only one who could possibly see it.

And that’s when I went hunting for the binoculars.

When I finally zeroed in on the birdhouse, I noticed that the round entrance was tiny, far too small for a bird. Even if a hummingbird wanted to get in, it couldn’t because the hole was covered with what looked like something black. But the part that really freaked me out was the little blinking red light above the perch. And then I saw the bottom of the birdhouse and could easily make out a compartment for batteries, and an on/off switch.

2012-05-2617.36.54

Does this look like a standard birdhouse to you? You can’t see it in this photo, but that dot above the “2” is a light that blinks when the microphone detects sound. It sure looked suspicious to me.

My first thought was that someone placed a camera on my tree and was looking into my windows. I was incredulous. Actually, I was ticked off and gave the birdhouse a view of my middle finger before going  inside and Googling “birdhouse spy cams.”  I came across birdhouses equipped with Hawk Eye cameras. Incredulous and ticked quickly morphed into creeped out.

And that’s when I called the non-emergency police number and explained that there was no rush, but when they had a free officer, I’d like for him or her to please take a look at this camera.

I had a friend take the camera down and when it was in my house, I didn’t look at the lens because I imagined someone at a laptop looking at my face all distorted because I had the camera practically up my nose. Sometimes I imagine way too much. I placed the birdhouse on the kitchen counter, put a tea towel over it to cover the “lens,” and, then, because I didn’t want the laptop voyeur listening, I put my iPad next to the birdhouse, found a music station on I Heart Radio and cranked it up.

I had two hours to wait for the police and to think about who on earth would want to look into my kitchen and dining room windows. It really didn’t make sense, but there are plenty of weird people out there who do things that don’t make sense. I thought of those pervs who stick cameras in Walmart dressing rooms. Really? Walmart and not Nordstrom?

When the officer rolled up, I assured him that I wasn’t a nut and that this was the first time I had ever called the police. The latter was true, but even I was beginning to wonder about the former.

I unveiled the birdhouse and turned off I Heart Radio. He took a close look and said that he didn’t think it was a camera.

I was thrilled and relieved. I’d rather be a nut case than a victim of some weirdo with a dastardly birdhouse spy cam.

Then the officer said that he was pretty sure it was a microphone.

A microphone? For what? Goldfinch karaoke? And that’s when he asked for the screwdriver.

A few minutes later, the birdhouse was in several pieces. And the officer then had his epiphany. He said he thought that this was a bark control device that emitted an ultrasonic sound that irritated dogs when they barked.

Oh dear…

It was all starting to make sense to me now. I promptly Googled “bark control birdhouse” and my spy cam came right up.

Bark control

Outdoor Bark Control birdhouse sells for $24.95 at Improvements Catalog.

Clearly, Duke and Chester were bugging the neighbors on the hill. They’re not allowed to bark like maniacs, but they are dogs. And they’re big and, at times, they play loudly and bark when they see a rabbit on the hill or when one of the birds gets too close. And then there’s Dexter, AKA Chester, who sounds like a demented lab chimp when he’s excited.

I think the officer was as pleased as I was that there was nothing nefarious going on except that the person who put the birdhouse on the tree was trespassing. Personally, I think it was sort of nice of them to go with a passive approach like the bark control birdhouse rather than lobbing a couple of arsenic-laced T-bones into the yard.

I thanked the officer, who assured me that he didn’t think it was strange at all that I called this in. He even offered that it was the most interesting call he’d had in this neighborhood in years because nothing out of the ordinary ever happened around here. Clearly, all of that was before my band of merry mischief makers moved in.

So, with the drama out of the way, I now wondered if the Outdoor Bark Control birdhouse would really work on barking dogs. As soon as it was put back together, I hung it in the yard for a couple of weeks. I watched and listened. Unfortunately, whoever bought the thing chose a model with terrible reviews. The dogs went about their usual business, and the only bark control came from me.

Check out what a dog trainer and vet have to say about ultrasonic bark controls.

Oh, and I finally found out who put the birdhouse up in the first place. I was pleased that it wasn’t the friendly but hard of hearing Betty. A couple of days ago, I heard the dogs barking like mad. The way they bark when there’s something right under their noses that should be elsewhere. They are, after all, German shepherds, and keeping an eye on their territory is their job.

I rushed outside and saw a woman who was probably around 70-ish gingerly climbing up the hill and away from the tree where the useless bark controller once hung. I called to her and asked if she was looking for the birdhouse. She was. It belonged to her neighbor and she had looked for it once before and decided she was going to have to replace it.

I told her I was sorry that my dogs bothered her (and I am, sometimes they bother me) and I’d be glad to give her the birdhouse back and that it didn’t seem to work. But as I handed her the birdhouse over the back fence, I couldn’t resist telling her that I thought it was a camera and I had called the police. She seemed somewhat mortified. I was somewhat pleased.

She ambled back up the hill with her neighbor’s useless birdhouse, and my promise that I would try to keep the dogs as quiet as possible but that she shouldn’t expect them not to bark at all. It was a friendly enough exchange but I don’t think I’ll be invited up for cocktails anytime soon.

If anyone has tips on how to stop dogs from barking, please share. I can’t tell you how much I’d appreciate them.

And if you want to hear Dexter’s play voice, check out this video. Poor neighbors.

Dexter’s vocalizing.