If your bucket list budget for fulfilling dreams of drama, excitement and a hint of danger won’t cover your donning a white shirt and pants and running with the bulls in Spain, you have a reasonable facsimile alternative. For one-fifth the price you can rent a U.S. Postal Service letter carriers uniform and buy a coach ticket to Houston, where another but less romantic action awaits.
The ultimate challenge: letter carrier versus neighborhood dogs.
For the second year in a row Houston, Texas, is the most dangerous major American for mailmen and women to ply their trade — at least as far as making home deliveries to pet-occupied residences are concerned. In 2018 the number of serious-enough-to-register dog bites to letter carriers in Houston jumped to 75, up from 71 the previous year when it was also No. 1. Nobody, except for maybe the canine population of the Bayou City knows for sure why Houston leads the nation, beating out No. 2 Los Angeles.
Except to the most sensitive people, dog bites are often amusing — little dog, big man — in movie comedies and have been a staple of cartoons for more than 70 years. In real life, not so much. Dog bites and attacks by other animals cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year. Insurance companies also have to pay out big bucks and some people on the wrong end of the bites wind up picking up their own mail at the post office for weeks, months or longer. At one point years ago the accident rate for the U.S. Postal Service was on a par with the peacetime US Marine Corps.
The good news from the City of Angels is that dog bites in 2018 were actually down 7 year-over-year to 60.
Philadelphia was No. 3 on the dog bite parade last year with 51 incidents, while Cleveland ran a close fourth with 50 recorded bites.
Washington D.C., the number one city when it comes to yapping politicians and media talking heads, didn’t even make the dog-bite list. But Baltimore did, tying with Denver for 15th place, and saw a drop from 44 bites in 2017 to 31 in 2018.
While it’s easy to get a cheap laugh over the image of a tiny dog chasing big burly letter carrier, folks on the ground, and in hospital emergency rooms, say it is no laughing matter. That’s especially in neighborhoods where some people raise attack dogs with the bite power of an alligator for “sport” fighting, if you can even call it that. Years ago an official of the National Association of Letter Carriers said the standard comment from dog-owners involved in incidents is “[Insert dog’s name] has never done that before,” even as they were prying its jaws off an employee’s leg.”
The overall good news, unless you have a route in Houston or LA, is that nationwide dog bites in 2018 were down to 5,174, which is 500 fewer than 2017 and 1,000 fewer than 2016. Officials credit the drop on increased public awareness — this is National Dog Bite Prevention Week — and the use of apps and other devices that not only check on mail delivery but highlight households where dogs are present.