By Mel Carriere
No matter how hard letter carriers try to rectify the fallacy, the public persists in the prevarication that pooches are predisposed to possess prejudicial perceptions about postal people. In my daily rounds, I frequently encounter postal customers who try to excuse their dog's bad behavior by maintaining that all dogs dislike the mailman, that there is, without a doubt, some built in biological mechanism, perhaps a mutated strand in the doggy DNA, that instinctively sends dogs into aggressive defense mode whenever anyone wearing the blue uniform walks by. Of course letter carriers know this is not true, it is in fact plain nonsense. Although there may be a few rotten apples in the canine fruit basket, if a pooch poll could somehow be taken the overwhelming sentiment among America's dogs would be complete, unconditional love toward whatever mailman or mail-lady serves their particular neighborhood.
Not surprisingly, the postal customers who persist in this false belief that all dogs hate the mailman are those who have aggressive dogs, and are perhaps carrying out a preemptive strike in defense of their own misanthropic mutt by sneakily shifting the blame back on you. In other words, if you weren't such a MAILMAN my dog would be spinning around in tail chasing circles of joy every time you walked by.
The reason why I bring this up is because today, as I was handing a couple of packages across the fence to a customer, he had the audacity to justify the uncontrollable barking of his bad mannered boxer by saying "I don't know why all dogs hate the mailman."
It is extremely wearisome to me when I hear these words, because they are just not true, and they always prompt me to defend the special relationship between the letter carrier and his or her army of four legged, tail wagging fans.
"Dogs don't dislike us," I said, trying not to sound too surly. "It just takes a while for them to get used to us, sometimes."
In response he gave me that tolerant, father to child yeah right, you don't know what the hell you're talking about look, and seeing no point in trying to press the issue, keeping in mind the Mark Twain axiom not to argue with stupid people (they will drag you down to their level then beat you with experience), I walked on.
There is a special flavor of this misconception espoused by postal customers who pretend to have secret insights into dog behavior. Regular dog whisperers, these folks, as if they could ever challenge an experienced letter carrier in the field of doggy psychology. More than once I have heard a customer espouse the bogus theory that "The reason why dogs bark at the mailman is because after they bark the mailman goes away, meaning to them that they have successfully defended their territory, which results in future barking at the mailman."
Yeah, and then what happens when the mailman comes back the next day, and the next, and then the next, for hundreds even thousands of endless days without end. In your face bitch! You thought you chased me away but now I'm back! If this theory is correct then the mailman must be like a horror movie in the canine mind, one where you keep killing Jason, Freddy or Michael Myers but he keeps rising from the dead and coming back to haunt you. Come on people, the dog barks at everybody that walks by, mailman or not, not because they get a thrill out of it but because they are programmed to bark at people they don't know.
Another popular theory in circulation among the postal public is that the only way a dog could ever love the letter carrier is if that letter carrier feeds them. I have even come across certain customers who provide a little basket of dog biscuits on the front porch to help the process along, thinking that this little spark is essential to kindle the love affair between dog and mailman.
Again, utter nonsense. Although I confess I used to carry a box of dog treats in my bag, years ago I decided that if the dogs are going to love me, they have to love me for who I am, not for what I give them. Okay, my wife who knows me quite well will tell you that my personal qualities don't quite cut it, that only a constant downpour of bribes has convinced her to stay with me for nearly 25 years, but contrary to one negative opinion, dozens of dogs throughout the years have learned to love me for my charming personality, without a single feeding to influence this affection.
Case in point is the dog you see above, a shaggy little Schnauzer who was quite friendly toward me from day one, even though I was only the T-6. This dog loved the regular too. In fact, she only liked letter carriers, and would bark ferociously at everybody else who wasn't wearing a postal uniform. When I would bring along CCA trainees on this route who were wearing civilian clothes, the dog would bark at them too.
To sum it up, dogs love us. They love us when the mail is late, they love us whether or not the check or package the people in the house were expecting arrived, they are happy to see us even when the owner isn't exactly wagging his or her tail with joy when we show up.
Have a friend or family member ready to take the postal plunge? Be prepared!
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