Apr 15, 2008

Dogs and Mail Carriers

Left: Image of mail truck courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I am writing this post in large measure just to vent, as well as to hear some suggestions from folks in similar situations. Feel free to leave thoughts in the comments section.

Several months ago, my dog snuck out the front door and jumped on the mail carrier, who claimed that the dog bit her. She rolled up her government-issue winter coat and pointed to her forearm, but I did not see any marks. Still, I didn't want to get her any more agitated, so I apologized profusely and let the matter go rather than get into an argument about what constitutes a bite.

The dog in question is my 2-year-old Puggle, who is about 20 pounds. He has never bitten anyone before, though I do acknowledge he can be a bit hyper. On the occasions when he has gotten out, he stays right by the house, though I know this is no excuse and we need to be more vigilant about the dog.

Last week the same dog got out again while the carrier was two houses away. He just stood outside the fence and barked, but did not charge or jump on her. The carrier hollered at me for permitting the dog to get out.

Now, I understand that carriers have a right to expect owners to restrain dogs, and I also know that it is my responsibility to keep my dog under control. However, by the weekend the carrier made a unilateral decision to stop delivering my mail because the dog ran along the fence and barked.

Not "jumped." Not "bit." Just "ran along the fence and barked."

Of course, it takes a few days to figure out the mail has stopped, and we did not get any notice. I called the station yesterday, and the employees knew of no reason why my mail was not being delivered, nor was my mail at the station.

So I waited for the carrier today, and she took a few extra minutes to gossip with my neighbors about the "dog problem." When she showed across the street from my house, she was belligerent and informed me that she would not deliver mail to my house - or any house within an undefined area she called "your neighbors" - if the dog was outside. She was also pissed that I "called her boss and complained" the prior day, which was not the case. My call was of short duration, focused solely on the missing mail, and was conducted with the person who answered the main number.

Every word out of my mouth was met with a combative reply. After she brought up the "bite" and I asked if she had any medical bills (thinking I would do the honorable thing and pay them), she accused me of calling her a liar. Since she refused to cross the street to my house, I had to raise my voice to be heard, at which point she hollered: "Don't yell at me!"

It was like one of those pointless circular arguments with one of my drama-loving teenagers, except the stakes were a lot higher, and I can't send the carrier to her room.


Moreover, she absolutely refused to entertain suggestions I offered to solve the problem, such as having her give the dog treats, or letting me walk the dog on a harness to acclimate him to the carrier. Her ultimatum was clear: if the dog is outside, nobody gets mail, and she threatened to call the dog warden on us.

My dilemma is this: I believe that if I try to go over her head and complain, all I will wind up with is a carrier with an axe to grind. Yet the carrier is being unreasonable, and I am concerned that she will go ballistic and accuse me of being provocative if I happen to be walking the dog when she is in the neighborhood, or if I act in any other innoccuous manner that she decides puts her at risk from my dog.

And at no point did I receive the dreaded "dog letter" that the postmaster is supposed to send out when service is disrupted due to dog problems.

Then there is the issue of my missing mail: if it wasn't at my house, and it wasn't at the post office station, where the hell was it? Does the carrier take other customers' mail home with her when decides they have broken the rules? Does it sit in a truck? In her locker?

Thanks again for allowing me to vent, and I look forward to the opinions of readers.


dr-exmedic said...

When my wife was young, she heard the letter carrier (this was long enough ago that we still referred to them as "mailmen" back then) arrive, and the dog was barking in another room. As she opened up the door to get the mail (short enough at that age that she was still below the level of the screen in the storm door), she got blasted with the doggie mace that USPS carries. So while I can understand they don't like dogs, they do get a bit irrational over them.

It's weird, too, because as a paramedic, I went into people's houses constantly, and never developed the dog paranoia that seems to infect USPS.

Theft of mail, btw, is a federal offense. Are you sure things are missing, or did the carrier deliver them on the days you had the dog in?

historymike said...

I forgot to add that 4 days of mail were available to me when I went to the post office at 4:00 today. The carrier in question was in the back, and after a three-minute or so wait, the counter clerk handed me a neatly-bundled pile.

I decided against continuing the earlier argument in a federal building, lest I get shipped to Guantanamo Bay.


Carol said...

Mike - file a formal complaint with the Postmaster. Explain clearly (you won't have a problem with that :) what happened and the attitude with which you have been treated. Don't take no for an answer and ask for the carrier to be reassigned to another route.

Postal employees are no different than anyone else, but people walk circles around them for fear of retribution. Did this carrier file an incident report? Did this carrier see a doctor? Did this carrier provoke the dog?

Granted Eddie should not have been out, but sometimes that happens. Its not intentional, and I'm sure it's not every day. You have a right to have your mail delivered just like all your neighbors. The carrier is acting like a moron and you are allowing it. Don't.

Valerie said...

Our mail carrier has made an effort to get to know all of the dogs on the street. However, the idiots across the street, in trying to train their boxer to be a watchdog, were trying to antagonize it whenever our carrier showed up on their porch. And when I was younger and delivered newspapers, I was chased from a yard by a dog that was inside a screened-in porch - until he pushed on the door and it came flying open. I love dogs, but that single incident made me a tad paranoid for a while.

All that being said, I do not agree with the way your carrier is handling the situation. Clearly, she didn't go about reporting it correctly, so even though you weren't calling her a liar, I really have no problem believing she is. The question is... why?

Mad Jack said...

Your letter carrier is behaving in a violent, threatening and irrational manner. She may be a danger to herself or others.

Seriously, Mike, don't let this cretin get away with it. What she's doing to you she'll also do to an elderly couple (older than you, old man - Ok?) who won't be able to cope with her and her despicable actions nearly as easily as you can. Complain to the post master. Keep in mind that she might well have lied about being bitten, since there were no marks. The post master, by the way, is not necessarily her best friend and may well be inclined to take your part rather than hers.

Motivation? Maybe you flunked a friend of hers in class or something. Maybe she hates dogs. Maybe she's psychotic and the little voices in her head are telling her that you are one of them, and your mail contains secret messages from Communist China. Your eyes have always looked a little slanted to me... not that I care, mind you. It's probably only a vicious rumor.

You know, there isn't a thing stopping you from setting this moron up and getting her on tape. With a little goading she'd probably spray some pepper spray at you, maybe even take a swing at you. Then you could file charges and sue the post office for their back teeth, and we could all retire.

Mad Jack said...

And, by the way, I've never run across a letter carrier that wasn't anything but friendly. Many carry dog biscuits on their route and make friends with the dogs along the way.

Straight money, Mike, the lady does sound psychotic. Get her on tape and slam dunk her into treatment.

Hooda Thunkit said...

At the very least you should make her superior aware of the situation.

Until you do, she gets to resolve the solution to HER satisfaction.

I too, believe that she may be responding/reacting irrationally and is self-justified and therefore handling the situation HER way.

Her boss needs to know so that he can handle the situation in a more equitable manner, for all involved.

Tim Higgins said...


Isn't it great to know that the post office is doing so well that it can afford to antagonize its customer base. One can certainly see that a monopoly on mail delivery hasn't gone to their head.

I would love to tell you that I had an answer sir, but I am battling as well with a carrier who gets irate about delivering mail to my apartment every time I travel for more than 3 business days. My mail was not only held, but sent back from time to time; a situation with which I am still dealing.

Dealing with the staff can be interesting and frightening. After all, you don't want them to go "postal" on you.

Robin said...

Sounds to me that this person doesn't like her job and is looking for a lawsuit to pay her way out of it.

At my parent's house, the letter carrier will not deliver their mail if the next door neighbor's dog is out. The mail is usually delivered the next day with a note that says "dog was out" attached.

As for your missing mail, chances are it was delivered to someone else's house. I get mail for the wrong house quite often (which I usually just take to the post office and put in a box).

Mail carriers aren't the only people who seem to have problems with dogs. A couple years back, I had a guy from the phone company come out to check my phone line (it wasn't working). He called my parent's house (that was the contact number I gave them) to let me know that he couldn't come into my yard because the dog was out. I don't own a dog. Apparantly a neighbor dog was loose in the yard next door.

microdot said...

I find the most peculiar part of this thread is that a number of the commenters expect the Post Office to act in a responsive, fair manner.
I do sympathize with carriers and dog problems. That has been the gist of jokes for generations.
I live in a rural location and have my mail delivered by a carrier in a truck and I have a medium sized dog who is a good watch dog. I make sure he is on leash when the mail carrier,
le facteur, shows up...I can tell when she's coming as I hear all the dogs down the road barking as she makes her way to my house at the end of the road.
In the early 90's, in NYC, I had a post office box and I was spending time between America and France.
While I was gone for a month, the Post Office cancelled my P.O. Box and started to send all my mail back as undeliverable!
It was their clerical error and I had my reciepts and cancelled checks to prove my case. I was called a liar to my face by the office manager. She would not even look at my docuuments because she didn't want to admit she had made a gross error...I finally was able to go above her and prove I had paid for the box.
I had so much mail lost in the process. I demanded some sort of compensation....which dragged on for months, the Office Manager was never disciplined and always managed to disappear when I showed up.
Finally, 6 months later, I was offered 3 months free box rent as a settlement.
I cancelled the box and that was that....
Again, it's a fantasy to expect fair and responsible treatment from the Post Office!

historymike said...

Thanks for all the insightful comments, folks. I decided first to write the carrier a pointed letter and set her straight on some items, especially the manner in which she has treated me and my family.

If this does not clear the air, I will take it up with the Postmaster.