(Editor?s note: This is one in a series of monthly stories taking a close-up look at neighborhoods in Petaluma.)
Annette Thomason never has been a big fan of deer heads on house walls, so she didn?t particularly appreciate finding one mounted on her backyard fence, staring back at her, after she returned home from vacation with her family.
But Thomason couldn?t help from smiling, because she knew she was the victim of yet another good-natured prank in the Westridge Knolls neighborhood.
?A group of about six families in our area does things like that when one of us goes on vacation,? said Thomason, who lives with her husband, Mike, and two children on Black Oak Drive. ?We also get together for barbecues and carve Thanksgiving turkeys together. We?re a tight group.?
And although this group represents only a small part of the new Westridge Knolls neighborhood, it reflects the general spirit of camaraderie and fun.
This neighborhood, which sits adjacent to the old Westridge neighborhood, has been built in a series of home clusters since 1993, and now contains 167 houses.
?I grew up in the old Westridge. When these homes were being built, I walked through the neighborhood and thought that I would like to live here some day. Now I have my dream house,? said Eric Byous, who lives on Hash Court with her husband, Eric, and two young children.
And she absolutely loves the neighborhood.
?You know it?s special from the minute you drive in through the tree-lined entrance. You feel like you are in a nice place, and it is a perfect place to go walking,? she said.
Stephanie Dietrich, who has lived in Westridge Knolls with her husband, Craig, on Dogwood Court since 1993, remembers a particularly unappealing early aspect of the neighborhood, though.
?After we moved in here, every family ? and I mean every family ? with a dog found itself with a ?skunked? dog, and it?s possible ours was the first. We laughed that there was a skunk in the area, keeping tabs on all of the dogs it had sprayed,? she said.
One day, Craig, a veterinarian, encountered an animal of a different sort.
?While getting the newspaper early in the morning, he was startled by a large buck leaving our front yard. I don?t know who was more scared ... the deer or the man getting chased!? Dietrich said.
Dietrich enjoys the natural beauty of Westridge Knolls.
?It?s a pastoral, country setting with city amenities,? she said. ?Most of the time, the neighborhood is quiet. In the early morning, you can enjoy the chattering of birds, and sometimes hear wild turkeys in the distance. If you enjoy watching birds, this is the place to live ? we have seen an egret and blue heron fly into the area, as well as numerous turkey vultures and red-tail hawks.
?And it?s peaceful to sit outside in the evenings and view the many stars without competition from city lights.?
When Mac and Teresa Tillman and their two children moved to their home on Black Oak Drive, however, they felt as if they were in the middle of a loud jungle.
?We heard exotic animal cries, the type you might hear on a jungle soundtrack. Actually, they were coming from a peacock at a neighboring farm,? Mac Tillman said.