Man’s best friend used to be Ryan Bradford’s, too. “I grew up around dogs,” he told TODAY.com. “My mom at one point had four dogs and three cats. I know my way around them — or I like to think that I do.”
But that was before he became a mail carrier. Now Bradford’s attitude toward dogs is considerably more wary, as evidenced by the name of the blog where he posts pics of the pooches he encounters along his San Diego mail route: “All the Dogs Want to Kill Me.”
The dog blog was inspired by warning cards the U.S. Postal Service issues to mail carriers, which turn up among the periodicals they deliver as they approach the domiciles of potentially dangerous pooches. Bradford described them as “orange fluorescent cards with the dog’s address, description, and name. Like Rambo.”
You might think that naming a pet after a heavily armed Sylvester Stallone character suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder would be sufficient warning in itself, but Bradford got the idea to supplement the cards with photos. After all, he writes, directs, produces and acts in videos that have been accepted into the TromaDance independent film festival, as well as freelance-writing about music and pop culture. “It keeps me sane,” he explained. “It’s a nice counterbalance to the post office.”
So, as he delivered mail, Bradford also started snapping shots of snapping dogs with disposable cameras purchased at Rite Aid. Unfortunately, the dogs refused to sit still for their close-ups, preferring instead to jump, growl, bark, snarl, slaver and generally display profound hostility to their natural adversary — a mail carrier. (Bradford calls it “the natural pecking order: cats, dogs and mailmen.”)
Thus, in a classic case of the tail wagging the blog, the photos wound up on the Web instead, where they have gained the attention of such media as usatoday.com’s “Your Life” section. A local newsman even wanted to accompany Bradford on his route, and called the post office to set it up. “My supervisor was like, ‘Do you have a blog with dogs on it?’ ” Bradford said he was asked. “But they have no problem with it.” In fact, they even approved of it as a way to publicize National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which was last week.
But what about the owners? Don't they object to seeing their beloved Fluffy or Fido vilified online, foam flying from their jaws as they hurl themselves at Bradford, howling for his blood? “That was the only part I worried about,” Bradford said. “When the pictures sort of exploded, I was afraid the owners would be mad. But I haven't heard a thing about it.”
Look out for the little ones
So which breeds are the ones to watch out for? “Pit bulls, obviously, stay away from,” Bradford advised. “You’ll see huge capital letters on the dog card: PIT BULL — WATCH OUT.”
But, he added, “The ones you don’t think of are the tiny ones. They’ll jump on you and scratch your legs up, break the skin, and the owners think it’s adorable. They’re wondering why you’re not loving this dog: ‘C’mon, it just needs petting.’ And it’s hurting!”
In addition, as Bradford’s photos document, “Dogs jump at you. I’ve never been bitten on the job, but I’ve had a couple of close calls.”
Of course, Bradford carries dog repellent — but he’s reluctant to use it. “I’d like to think I’d never spray a dog in the face,” he told TODAY.com. “A lot of the carriers I work with, they hate dogs. They won’t hesitate to spray a dog. They’ll say, ‘Don’t hesitate to spray this one down if you see it.’ ”
And though its balmy climate makes it a pleasant place to work outdoors, San Diego itself may exacerbate the problem: “San Diego is a kind of mecca for mail carriers, but the tradeoff is, there are more dogs outside,” Bradford said. “There have been times when there’ve been wild Dobermans just wandering around.” (For the record, San Diego does have leash laws, and owners of dogs that bite can be charged with a misdemeanor.)
“There are some really sweet dogs on my route; most are the retrievers and Labs,” Bradford acknowledged. Still, in the ways of dogdom, he is a sadder but a wiser mailman.
“When the owner says, ‘My dog never bites,’ it's hard to believe them now,” he told TODAY.com. “Even when I’m off the job, there’s some trepidation when I see a dog.”