Is that Frank?
And then there were the postal workers.
At about 3 pm one sunny, innocent day, Eric and I decided to take Preston out for his second daily walk. We got ready to go. Preston jumped around excitedly, as he always did when he was about to go for a walk or get fed. We seldom put Preston on a leash because he was good about going directly to the car since this was the transportation that took him to all of those places he wanted to go.
We stepped out of the side door, as we always do. We opened the gate, as we always do. But today was different.
Preston charged past us and through the gate. The next thing we knew, the mailperson (a woman) was screaming and throwing her hands up in the air (the exact wrong thing to do when a dog is coming at you). Eric ran out and grabbed Preston while I assessed the damage.
“Are you okay?” I asked her. She was hurrying away from us and Preston and heading to our neighbor’s mailbox.
“I…I think so,” she stammered. “He bit me on the calf.” She stopped just long enough to show me where he had “bitten” her. There was no sign of blood or teeth marks. That much was good.
“I’m sorry,” I apologized, pathetically.
She left without another word.
Later that day, we discussed this incident with our neighbor, Jim. Jim was the owner of the town “upscale” pet store, as well as the resident know-it-all.
“That was a fear bite,” he said. “Don’t worry, Kathy (he referred to the mail carrier by her first name) is okay. She actually likes dogs. She used to have a golden retriever. This mail route has made her feel a little different towards dogs. I think she’s trying to get a driving route.”
About a week later, there was a knock on our front door. Eric answered it.
“Hi, I’m Rich from Animal Control,” the uniformed man at the other side of the door informed us. “We had a complaint from a mail carrier that your dog had attacked her.”
“Uh, yeah,” I said, coming up behind Eric. “We are very sorry about that.”
“He’s really a very sweet dog,” Eric explained. “Come meet him. He’s just out in the back yard.” Eric led the man around to the side gate. The Animal Control officer peered over the gate. Preston immediately stormed the gate. He jumped up towards the man’s face – biting and snapping.
“Yeah…” the man said in the way that only an experienced animal control person could, as he turned and walked away. “Just make sure that you keep him on a leash when he’s not on the other side of that fence.”
“Of course we will,” I said.
After the Animal Control officer left, Eric and I just looked at each other in disbelief. Was that really our sweet little dog?
A few weeks later, after hearing about these incidents, Jim called Eric to borrow our lawn mower. Of course we always traded things back and forth. The only difference was that when Eric and I returned the borrowed implement, it was usually broken.
“Just, could you keep the dog inside?” Jim pleaded.
“Sure,” Eric said. Of course, no one told me this.
While Eric was on the phone with Jim at the other side of the house, I was at my computer with Preston lying on the futon in my office, as he usually did. He stood up and started panting heavily. This was a sign that I had learned to mean “Oh, boy do I really gotta pee.” Or, it also meant “I want to go outside now so I will pant and manipulate you into thinking I have to go pee.”
“Do you need to go outside?” I asked.
Preston immediately flashed his big dog ‘smile’, jumped off the futon and shook in preparation for the next move. We walked to the back door, I opened it, and like a bullet with big teeth and a loud bark, he lunged toward Jim who was just outside the shed door. Eric and I stood by helplessly. Jim immediately stepped inside the shed and used the door as a shield.
“I TOLD you to keep him inside!!” Jim exclaimed over the barks. Eric and I reined Preston in.
Realizing that Jim had called Eric, I said, “I’m sorry, but no one told ME.”
By now, Preston was back to his sweet self. He really liked Jim.
Only a few days later, Preston ran off for a long time and ended up back at the Mac Forest parking lot with three porcupine quills in his nose.
“Time for Jim!” I thought. Many months before, I had come to the parking lot just as Jim’s wife, Kate, was leaving with her two dogs, Maggie and Lexi. She drove up to me and rolled the back window down so I could get a look at the dogs.
“That’s strange,” I thought to myself before the image clicked, ”Is this some kind of new jewelry they are selling at the store?” Then I realized that both dogs had their nose completely covered in porcupine quills. Kate took them home and between Jim and her they managed to remove all of them. So, I thought, Preston only has three of them and he will have no problem.
“Uh-uh,” Jim said, “No way.”
So, Eric and I had to take Preston to the emergency veterinarian. It only cost $100. They didn’t have to sedate him or anything. He really could be a well-mannered dog…sometimes.
Eventually, after one more fairly innocuous incident, Kathy finally got her wish and a route where she spent the majority of the time inside the relatively safe confines of a truck.
The new mail carrier, Frank, was a gruff older guy. Preston took an immediate dislike to him. Preston would actually bark and go crazy in the back of the car when we even passed his parked mail truck. Come to think of it, he reacted this way to any mail truck, FedEx trucks, UPS trucks, motorcycles, etc. Eric and I always joked that Preston hated mail carriers because they brought bills that had to be paid and took away from his ‘kibble fund.’
Preston’s first introduction to Frank happened pretty much like it had with Kathy. We were a little faster at understanding what was about to happen this time, however. We were able to stop Preston before anything actually happened. Still, Frank was obviously no fan of Preston’s either. He may have even heard stories from the previous mail carrier.
The trouble with Frank, other than being gruff and seeming like he really disliked all dogs, was that his schedule seemed somewhat random. With Kathy, we learned to keep Preston close between the hours of 1:30 – 3:00. Frank could show up anytime between 11 am and 6 pm. Maybe he did his route in reverse order now and then just to shake things up. I do know that there were certain people along the route that he would spend a lot of time talking to.
One day, Jim, Eric, Kate, and I were all standing outside of their Volkswagen van talking after we had all gone for a walk. Their dog, Lexi, and Preston were milling about at our feet. Their dog Maggie was in the van. Suddenly, Preston took off full speed down the street. We all looked down the street to see Frank.
We all yelled for Preston to come back, but Preston was focused on his prey. Frank waved his arms and, as Preston drew nearer, I saw him reach his arm out toward Preston. All of a sudden, Preston stopped in his tracks and did an about-face. He came running back to us shaking his head, sneezing, and with runny eyes. Frank had pepper-sprayed him.
Not that I could blame him. Preston could obviously be quite vicious-looking.
Again, we quickly retrieved Preston, said a hasty goodbye, and went back to our house across the street before Frank could catch up to us. Of course, he had plenty to sputter at Jim. Jim tried to reassure Frank that Preston wasn’t really mean or nasty. Of course, Frank would have nothing of it.
Things calmed down for a very long time. By calmed down, I mean that we actually kept Preston on a leash between the house and the car so that nothing would happen. Eric and I were divorced a little over a year later. Eric left and Preston and I stayed in the house.
Preston and I got into the habit of going for long bike rides in the afternoon. I mean, I rode the bicycle and Preston ran alongside. Preston loved this of course. He would constantly try to push the time to go earlier and earlier each day. He would come over to where I was at my computer, sit down, and stare at me. My desk has always been a counter-height butcher-block table and he could not actually reach my arm to nudge it. It usually didn’t take much for me to give in to that stare. I liked going outside nearly as much as he did.
“Okay. Okay.” I would say as I closed down my computer programs. Then, off we would go.
I went to retrieve my bicycle from the shed in the backyard. I walked it up to the side gate. I opened the gate. Preston pushed through and ran toward the car. Of course, the next thing I knew he was running past the car. I dropped my bike and ran to catch him.
There was Frank. Preston ran up to him and Frank backed away. As he took one step backwards, Frank’s foot hit the curb and he was suddenly falling backwards with his arms flailing in a windmill motion and mail flying everywhere. It was just like a cartoon. Thankfully, Frank never actually fell down. Though, it was all I could do not to laugh.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“That’s it!!!” he yelled, “You keep that dog away from me!!”
I quickly loaded Preston into the car and drove off, leaving my bicycle by the gate and Frank to pick up the pieces of mail that were blowing down the street. But Frank’s admonishment haunted me as Preston and I went for our walk. It was doubly concerning when I came home the next day to see a citation from Animal Control left on my front door.
Running at Large. It read. Well, Frank was a bit overweight, but I wouldn’t call him Large, I thought.
By this time there was a new Animal Control officer as the other one had retired. Still, this was the third time Preston had gotten Frank and I knew these all had to be on Preston’s rap sheet. I really started worrying that they were going to come after him. Possibly even euthanize him.
My new boyfriend, Paul, had told me stories of his own dogs getting in trouble and having to wear muzzles everywhere they went (they had killed someone’s pet cat).
By this time, I had been going out with Paul for a few months. We had also talked to each other for four years before this. I told Paul what had happened. We decided that, if things started to look really bad for Preston, Preston would live with Paul. Frank could live happily ever after.
As it turned out, both Preston and I moved in with Paul. Kathy, the original mail carrier from those times, sometimes even delivered the mail in Paul’s neighborhood. However, she was in a truck and the mailboxes were all down the street in a multi-family mailbox. There were no further notices from Animal Control.