Man’s Best Friend Is Not 

Dogs have always been attracted to my mailman husband, but not in a “man’s best friend” kind of way.  It’s been more along the lines of them thinking he was a giant chew toy, waiting to be pulled apart.  There is a reason that the top-selling bumper sticker among letter carriers is one that announces, “I hate your dog!”

Anyone who has delivered mail for any length of time accumulates mutt stories, and Paul is no exception. There was the beast that took Paul’s daily appearance on the scene as his cue to tone his muscles by doing body slams against the picture window.  The day came when it shattered.  Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle.  How melodic falling glass shards sound!  Fortunately for Paul, the window was double-paned, and Pooch must have decided that was enough exercise for one day.

Then there was the pit bull that was tied to the front porch pillar — and ripped the pillar off the porch in his frenzy to devour the mailman.  He made his dash for the kill, but Paul, not having time to grab his mace can, called out, “Help me, Jesus!” and the dog swerved past him and kept running.

Just like with people, some dogs are sneaky types.  Paul experienced one that seemed to be the model of comportment while his owner was standing nearby, but the moment the man’s back was turned, the dog took a quick look to make sure he would not be discovered, and then wrapped his teeth around Paul’s kneecap.

Letter carriers keep mace handy for the emergency cases, but putting their mailbag between themselves and the aggressive dog is usually the first line of defense.  Mace is generally a last resort, since dogs who have been treated to mace are not forgiving.  If they merely wanted a little snack of flesh to entertain themselves with before, once maced, their intent is murder and a full course meal.  Most people probably don’t know, but before mace was invented, mailmen packed guns to dispatch any troublesome canines.  Bizarre, but true.

Dog owners are mighty defensive about their darlings, and generally have the notion that Fido wouldn’t harm a flea.  Maybe Fido leaves his fleas alone, but the mailman is another story.  Paul has had the beasties growling and lunging, their lips curled back over their teeth, while the owners stood by doing nothing, except to assure him from a distance that their baby wouldn’t hurt anybody, and is just playing.

On one occasion, when Paul resorted to his can of mace, the dog’s owner suddenly appeared from out of the bushes, and snarled at him that if he ever did that again, she would bite him herself.  Paul’s eyes got wide, but he wisely refrained from saying anything, and just kept movin’ on down the street.

Paul has never had hand-to-hand combat (or shall we say, mouth-to-mouth combat?) with any critter, but one of the other carriers did.  The dog bit him — and he bit back.  It must have been one of those moments when survival instincts rise to the surface and dignity takes a leap off the cliff.  I wonder what dog ear tastes like?

As retirement drew near, Paul began to fantasize about farewell messages he would like to leave for several of his favorite pooches.  He talked about how much fun it would be to finally get back at all the mutts who had tried to nibble his fingers through those mail slots that are on the doors of some homes.  He could just squirt a little mace through the slot and go on his merry way, whistling Dixie, a satisified smirk plastered on his lips — but it wouldn’t have been fair to the letter carrier destined to succeed him.

Fortunately, although there were a few small bites through the years, Paul never had any dog chomp down badly enough to break the skin.  I attribute this to my daily prayers for him that God would protect him from accidents, bad dogs, and terrorists — but terrorists are another story for another day.

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