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Pit Bulls: A Letter Carrier's Perspective

Updated on July 5, 2013
Mel Carriere profile image

Although many are mystified by his mysterious moniker, Mel Carriere is a San Diego mailman who writes about the mail, among other things.

This man fatally shot his neighbor's Pit Bull after the dog entered his yard and attacked his Husky.
This man fatally shot his neighbor's Pit Bull after the dog entered his yard and attacked his Husky. | Source

Here in San Diego there was a recent incident involving a Pit bull that was noteworthy enough to make the newspapers. While this event hasn’t exactly set off a firestorm of controversy, because most people are level headed enough to correctly judge right and wrong, there has been an outcry from the lunatic fringe element of the animal advocate community. Now calm down animal lovers; in spite of my profession I happen to be fond of canines and animals in general, but just as in human society when one of its members goes haywire and has to be put back in line, at times in the animal kingdom a bad seed germinates that has to be lopped off before it can choke out its neighbors. Among domesticated animals I consider this to be more of a human problem than it is an animal problem, which is unfortunate for the animals who frequently suffer the consequences for bad human behavior.

At any rate, I thought I would discuss the incident and then analyze it in the light of my experiences as a letter carrier. I don’t believe that any particular group besides veterinarians and kennel keepers, perhaps, comes into contact with a more diverse range of dogs more than letter carriers do. Therefore, perhaps my analysis may be useful toward disentangling the controversy that exists surrounding the Pit Bull breed. I have made contact with my share of Pit Bulls through the years, and you may be surprised to learn that not all of my experiences have been negative.

A controversy erupted on Facebook when a San Diego man shot and killed his neighbor's pit bull.
A controversy erupted on Facebook when a San Diego man shot and killed his neighbor's pit bull. | Source

San Diego Pit Bull Shooting Stirs up Controversy

Just a few days ago here in San Diego a Pit Bull broke loose from a chain and attacked a Husky that was inside of its own yard. The Owner of the Husky tried to deter the Pit Bull from the attack and was bitten on the leg in the process, although not seriously. The Pit Bull then tore into the Husky once more, after which the Husky’s owner went for a shotgun. I am unsure if the Husky’s owner was already carrying the shotgun or went inside to get it. The Husky’s owner attempted to beat the Pit Bull with the butt of the gun in order to get it to release his dog, but was unsuccessful. Left with no other recourse, the Husky owner then shot and killed the Pit Bull. Police arrived upon the scene and found that the Husky’s owner had committed no wrongdoing. Instead, they issued a citation to the owner of the Pit Bull for failing to properly restrain the animal.

If I was acting as judge and jury in this case I would rule in favor of the Husky’s owner. He was in his own yard, which had been invaded by the Pit bull, and he was protecting the life of his pet. It is the Husky that seems to have been forgotten about here. The more extreme animal advocates decry the injustice inflicted upon the Pit Bull but don’t seem to mind that the Husky was viciously attacked by the beast they so vociferously defend. As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune, several outraged pit bull advocates denounced the Husky's owner on Facebook and in a newspaper poll. Although the great majority of respondents in these venues supported the Husky’s owner, the expected but seemingly inexplicable outcry still occurred among those whose Pit bull bias seems to go way beyond rationality. I won’t make any attempt to explain this here; it is a subject for psychologists, psychoanalysts, and perhaps voodoo practitioners. There’s no real explanation for it, but it is always there.

The great majority of people taking the survey supported the owner of the Husky.
The great majority of people taking the survey supported the owner of the Husky. | Source

Nature vs. Nurture

This discussion of Pit bull advocates leads us into a conversation about their owners, and this draws us invariably down into that bottomless, murky, muddy well of the old “Nature vs. Nurture” debate. Nature vs. Nurture has been hashed around in wearisome detail in academic circles where it concerns anti-social human behavior, but it also seems to suitably apply to Pit bull personalities. In other words, are Pit bulls innately aggressive from birth or did environmental factors make them that way? I can’t think of any other breed of dog where “Nature vs. Nurture” is more appropriate to the discussion, and this is where I think my experiences as a letter carrier can most usefully be brought into play.

Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but does it think it's a duck?  (Calm down I know it's a goose)
Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, but does it think it's a duck? (Calm down I know it's a goose) | Source

I’ll begin by drawing an analogy which I believe typifies what goes wrong with Pit bulls. Once on my route there was a cute Pit bull pup that was very friendly toward me for approximately the first three or four months of its doomed existence. The dog was allowed to roam free by its owner, who unfortunately was stereotypical of what happens when dogs that start off friendly enough are paired up with bad people. This dog owner had a very loose interpretation of society's standards of good behavior. He was one of those who behaved, again either because of nature or nurture, that rules did not apply to him, and although he went around with a carefree smile that indicated satisfaction with his charmed, rule-free existence, he could turn into an aggressive, threatening bully at the drop of a hat.

As was to be expected, this attitude soon trickled down to his dog. Within a few months that cute, frisky puppy was jumping away from me skittishly when I attempted to pet it, as if it had learned that the touch of a human hand more often than not results in pain rather than pleasure. As time went on the dog grew bigger, and instead of running away it began to feel its strength and wanted to assert its domination of the neighborhood. To the dismay of those of us who were forced to elude its aggressive tactics, the dog was still being left unrestrained. I could no longer safely deliver the mail in that neighborhood and on a couple of occasions was forced to curtail the mail for the entire block. After I had done this a few times the Pit bull’s owner would drive by me, lean out of his pick-up truck, and hint at threatening things that would happen if I continued taking back the mail when his Pit Bull was on the prowl. I suppose he just expected me to tolerate whatever dangers to life and limb his dog imposed upon me when it was loose. By the way, there were 38 fatal dog attacks on human beings last year, and the majority of these were committed by Pit Bulls. Was I wrong in trying to protect myself from an animal that statistics have proven to be dangerous? The old poem about the mail going through in rain or snow or whatever, one often quoted by belligerent dog owners in these situations as if it was official postal policy, doesn't mention Pit Bulls.

Is this dog a desperate, deranged killer by nature or is it another victim of bad human behavior?
Is this dog a desperate, deranged killer by nature or is it another victim of bad human behavior? | Source

A Letter Carrier's Lessons from Pit Bull Encounters

I have had many other encounters with Pit Bulls, and you can read the details of the most noteworthy in two other of my hubs, which are subtitled, “The Dog Days of Mail Delivery,” and “Six Dogs that Letter Carriers Must Avoid.” These experiences continue, because I come across Pit Bulls every day. Just last week a Pit Bull succeeded in knocking out a plank in a fence by continually bashing its head against it, and I had to give that yard a wide berth because I was not sure whether the dog would be able to squeeze its compact, muscular, Mailman-mauling body through that slot. Another Pit Bull I know continually roars out its displeasure from down the other end of a thankfully long metal mailbox, and I am starting to wonder if the day will come when it will attempt to squeeze its body down that same wide mail receptacle and take a chunk out of my hand when I am throwing the letters in. A few weeks ago a CCA in our office on his second or third day of training was chased by a Pit Bull that squirmed out beneath the bottom of a fence. Fortunately the employee escaped unhurt, but talk about baptism by fire! The point I am making is that I could compose an encyclopedia length volume about my run-ins with Pit Bulls, and a few months from now I could sit down and write another one.

Hope for the Pit Bull's Maligned Reputation?

But you may be surprised to learn that not all of my experiences with Pit Bulls are bad. Letter Carriers are supposed to hate dogs in general and Pit Bulls especially, right? This isn’t true, at least in my case. I love dogs, and for every ten negative Pit Bull clashes there is at least one redeeming incident that offers up a glimmer of hope for this oft slandered breed, something that tells me that it isn't the dog but the evil people that are drawn to the dog because of its warped, distorted reputation as a killer beast. Here again I will rely on an analogy, because I don’t think I could pull up any statistics to support my conclusions.

I was delivering a certified letter to an apartment the other day when a young lady came to answer the knock. Upon opening the door I was rather disturbed and disquieted to see that she was accompanied by a large, white Pit Bull with one of those black bandit patches over one eye that seems to enhance this breed’s fearsome impression. There was only a flimsy screen door between me and that dog, which I am certain it could have pushed it away with a single burst of its buffed out body as if it were made of paper. To add to my rather besieged, exposed feeling, I was standing at the top of a long staircase, and this started me thinking about that letter carrier in Oceanside who was killed a few years ago after striking his head when a mastiff chased him down some stairs. I didn't feel right about the situation at all, and my foreboding sense of impending doom did not improve when the massive dog turned around and disappeared somewhere into the dark depths of the customer’s living room.

I was pretty sure that the dog was backing away to get enough running distance to make the bullish, door-breaking run that would push me down that staircase, after which I would be just a sad note in an obituary column and an unsightly stain on the sidewalk. But then something else happened instead, something that would soften my attitude toward Pit Bulls, something that would make me consider that the Pit Bull breed is just another victim as well, the victim of bad human behavior. Instead of getting up steam and bursting through that door, this vicious Mailman mauler came back with a little stuffed toy in its mouth and began making supplicating, whimpering noises. It wasnt going to attack me; it wanted me to play with it.

Nature vs. Nurture? I now lean toward the side of nurture. Pit Bulls can be bad, this much is true, but were they born bad? This Mailman is now forced to conclude that they were not. Perhaps there is hope, after all.

Born Bad or Made Bad? How did the Pit Bull get its nasty disposition?

What is the primary cause of the Pit Bull breed's dangerously agressive temperment?

See results

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    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 3 years ago from Spain

      Hi Mel. I´m sure there are aggressive pit bulls just as there are aggressive dogs what ever the breed, but I tend to blame this on the owners and let´s face it, a good majority of pit bull owners are the dregs of society and do not even attempt to keep their dogs in line, they just want them as macho symbols and I feel sorry for the poor dogs who are unjustly punished for their owners stupidity and maltreatment. Thank god for people like Cesar Milan who fights the pit bulls corner. Any dog who has been left to it´s own devices, cruelly treated and neglected can turn nasty but unfortunately when it has the size and strength of a pit bull serious harm can come to the innocent passer by.

      As for the man who shot the pit bull attacking his Husky ; I don´t know if I could have done that, but as he had tried to stop it and been bitten in the process, had that been one of my dogs and I had a gun maybe I would have done the same. Who knows in the heat of the moment. Once again though I feel it´s entirely the fault of the stupid owner, what a shame animals have to pay the price for neglect and ill treatment.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      I wholeheartedly agree with you. 9 out of 10 pit bull owners do indeed seem to come from the "dregs" of society, as you say, and they deliberately condition these dogs to be vicious. Years of experience dealing with dogs every day has led me to believe that dogs take on the personality of their owners, and because Pit bulls are so physically strong, this can be a fatal combination.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 3 years ago

      I like pit bulls, but in this case, I would vote for the husky's owner. I've never owned a pit bull, but several of my neighbors have, and they were all well-behaved nice dogs. One puppy grew up leading me around by grabbing my hand in her mouth. Another pit bull dug into our dog pen, and our dog, Tasha who was a small chow, attacked her and took her down so fast Mr. B had to separate them. The pit bull only came to play, but she was in Tasha's territory. Thank goodness she wasn't hurt. We were remodeling a house downtown next door to a yard with seven barking pit bulls. One day I was eating a honey bun when the loudest of the bunch approached the fence fiercely barking. I handed her the last tidbit through the fence. She ate it, and I had made a friend for life. After that the dogs didn't bark at me. I think it is in how they are treated, but some go so far that I don't think they can be rehabilitated. Good hvoted you up+.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you for your interesting story. The point of my writing this hub was to demonstrate that Pit Bulls are not born dangerous, but are made that way. Your story aptly demonstrates this point as well. But once they go bad, what other choice can be made but to bring them down when they become a danger to other dogs and to humans? Thanks again for dropping by, I enjoy your visits.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 years ago from USA

      I enjoy reading your hubs as they have a different take when written from a letter carrier's perspective. Do you carry with you any products in the case of a dog attack? My mail carrier used to always have on her a bottle of spray shield just in case.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Yes, we use pepper spray, but I have personally found in ineffective. The one or two times I have used it the dogs blinked once or twice and then kept coming. The best line of defense is the satchel (mailbag). You wield it like a bullfighter's cape to keep the dogs off of you. They chew on the satchel instead of on you. The important thing is to never turn your back on the dog, because they will immediately lunge in. If you face them they tend to back away. Thanks for dropping by with your outstanding comments.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      When I was living in Wilmington, DE, a guy used to walk his Pit Bull with a brick in its mouth, "to strengthen its jaws." I think we all know that is training for fighting. There was an incident that made it into the paper. A man was walking his dog on lead, when both parties were chased by a Pit Bull at large, right into the man's home.

      Nature vs. nuture? Upbringing, of course, just like any other animal that is mistreated, or human, for that matter. I have known Pit Bulls that were gentle as lambs. Next!

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you for your comments. Although I find it hard to trust Pit Bulls regardless of how gentle they seem, I pretty much agree with your assessment that any dog can be made bad. I have known people with mean Labrador Retrievers, and they are the most gentle dogs around. Thanks again for dropping in!

    • CraftytotheCore profile image

      CraftytotheCore 3 years ago

      Great article! I do own a pitbull. He is a rescued dog. I have brought him out of an abandoned, almost starved dog, to the loving amazing pet he is today.

      Having said that, not all dog breeds are for everyone. As a pit bull owner, I know there are people that are down right scared of the breed. When I am out in public with my dog and see the reaction from someone who is afraid of him, I respect that and give the person space. My dog knows to sit down and respect people and other pets. (I knew my dog was fully trained when two women walked by pushing baby strollers. My dog sat right down and looked like he was smiling at them. He respected their presence. He was leashed, but pits are really smart learners. I would have never trusted him to go off the leash while those two women were around, because I think it's responsible to keep all dogs under control always.)

      First time dog owners should not start off with a dog that is going to be more than they can handle. I'm a farm girl with many years of experience. I have 3 rescued dogs, all different breeds, and they all require a lot of work to become the perfect dog. I've talked with a lot of people from the local dog park who regret getting certain dogs after they've had them because they didn't realize how much work it takes! I do think that homeless dogs do make great pets, but people need to keep in mind that all dogs have their own personalities and should be paired with humans accordingly. :)

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      I'm glad you are a responsible pet owner because as you can see from the article not everyone is. Thanks for dropping by with the nice words and for sharing your thoughts.

    • LKMore01 profile image

      LKMore01 3 years ago

      Mel,

      After contemplating your entire article and recalling my own personal experience I agree with you whole heartedly regarding pit bull owners. My first priority would be my dog's life. One evening a few years ago I was walking my cocker spaniel through an apartment complex passing a corridor where a man had his door wide open His pit bull spotted my dog who was oblivious thank goodness or she would have gone on the defensive. Maybe I was over reacting but knowing the breeds reputation I saw the pit lunge slightly and immediately I covered my dog with my entire body. There was no way my cocker would have survived a battle. Luckily the pit bulls owner grabbed his dog before anything could happen. Your articles really put a situation in perspective. Thank you for sharing this information with us.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      You are very welcome. In your case the pit bull had a responsible owner, but that is not often the case. More and more I am coming to the conclusion that the owners make these dogs bad on purpose. Thanks for reading!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      So very interesting and thank you for sharing. I agree that bad owners very often train their dogs to be bad also. Here's in Wales we are over run with Staffordshire Bull Terriers.

      Many the hastily get rid if they find the dog not aggressive enough ???Says it all I think. Thanks again for sharing and enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
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      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Thank you Eddy. I guess the US is not the only place where the pit bull has become problematic. Very interesting information. Thanks for stopping by and sharing that.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 3 years ago from Wales

      You are so welcome Mel; looking forward to following you on here.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Likewise. It's fascinating to chat with people from all over the world.

    • Cathi Sutton profile image

      Cathi Sutton 3 years ago

      Once a pit bull jumped into the back of my pick-up, and destroyed a pet taxi holding my two guinea pigs. One guinea pig was murdered. The other barely escaped by getting under a piece of plywood I was hauling in the pick-up. The pit bull's owner was unable to control the dog. And my guinea pig that survived had to go to the vet. Then I had to nurse him back to health on a liquid diet for six weeks. The guinea pig that was killed was only killed. The dog didn't even try to eat her. So I know the dog wasn't hungry. And you wouldn't believe the absolute torn up mess of the pet taxi! I would never have believed a dog could do what that dog did. And faster than I would have ever thought possible. It was frightening, and sad. The dog's owner was less than remorseful. Which was also frightening and sad.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      A lack of remorse is fairly typical of most, but of course not all pit bull owners. We just had a postal employee get bitten on the hand by a pit bull, and of course the owner tries to spin it that it's the employees fault. Thanks for reading!

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 2 years ago from Orange, Texas

      I enjoyed this very much - you write very well. I used to own a German Shepherd who lived to be 15 years old. He was raised in a loving home and didn't have an aggressive bone in his body. Oh, he got a little grouchy with kids when he got older, but a warning from me usually headed him off or the kids off. The point being, it's usually the owners, as you say, with the problem. The thing about pit bulls is that a lot of owners breed them to fight. I've known several people that have been viciously attacked by one. And, as you say, I've seen several puppies that were sweet when they were little. Who knows how they were when they got older.

      I just remember what the trainer said who taught the obedience class that we took our German Shepherd to. She said that she trained the people to train the dogs. She didn't train the dogs. Her dog that she used in class was a beautiful Doberman - a very well behaved one, too.

      I might add that I've had several Dobermans over the years and everyone of them were babies - wouldn't hurt a soul.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      You must be great with dogs. There are 4 Dobermans on my route - I call them the 4 Dobermans of the apocalypse, that would tear me limb from limb if I stepped inside their yard. Their owner yells at them to shut up but they just think he is barking too and so if the boss is barking we've got to bark louder.

      Some people think loud aggressive behavior is the way to tame dogs but I don't agree. Thanks for the great compliment and the follow!

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 2 years ago from Orange, Texas

      I don't know whether I'm great with them or not, but I love animals and I believe in treating them with respect and love, not aggression.

    • Mel Carriere profile image
      Author

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      I think that is a wise and humane approach. Thanks again.

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