My roommate prefers her cat to yours truly.

Granted, she's known him far longer than she's known me. But does that mean she should attend to him before cleaning up after herself? How about her leaving the window open for the little guy, leaving me a freezing house to wake up to?

She'll giddily talk on her cell phone during my obscure French movie, yet when the cat watches his reruns of "The West Wing," my roommate's as quiet as a mouse.

She even talks to the furry fellow, and more often than not... he talks back. It's weird, but I've grown used to their effusive conversations that last long into the night. Then again, at least the friendly feline isn't an incessantly barking dog like the one who lives a few doors down from us.

Boulder city ordinance section 6-1-19(a) clearly states, "No person owning or keeping any animal shall fail to prevent such animal from disturbing the peace of any other person by loud and persistent or loud and habitual barking... whether the animal is on or off the guardian's or keeper's premises."

Boulder County Animal Control Specialist Brandy Perkins, who says that complaints about barking dogs can rise during the Summer when people are more inclined to leave doors and windows open, confesses that such vagaries as "loud," "persistent" and "habitual" can "make cases very tough."

The City of Boulder prohibits any noise in a residential area of more than 55 decibels between the hours of 7 a.m. and 11 p.m. An average dog's bark can be as loud as 50 decibels. That's pretty darn close. Especially when, between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., the decibel limit is lowered to 50 decibels.

"Habitual" and "persistent" are more a determination for specialists like Perkins. This is why she suggests that the first step for anyone with a complaint is to speak politely with the offending neighbor. Perkins admits that some of us might be afraid of confrontation or retaliation, so the next step is calling the Sheriff's Department's non-emergency line, 303-441-4444.

An anonymous courtesy warning will be submitted to the neighbor, which -- according to Perkins -- results in rectification 93 percent of the time. If the barking persists, a mediation between the owner of the dog, the complainant (who must now come forward) and other affected parties can take place in lieu of a ticket.

A "plan" is then devised for helping the owner to keep his dog from barking so often. "Education is key," says Perkins who suggests that owners can look into information granted online by the unfortunately named Denver Dumb Friends League (ddfl.org).

Perkins says it's rare for a barking issue to go to court, but a particularly recalcitrant owner can be court-ordered to remedy the situation by building a fence, placing a bark collar on the dog, etc.

It's important to remember that the burden of proof is on the complainant and thus video footage and "a lot of documentation" must be presented. An alternative is for two different neighbors to formally complain about the same dog.

Now, if only I could do something about my nutty Naropa neighbors upstairs who, despite my pleas, insist on practicing their salsa dancing at 11:30 every night...