Monday, July 28, 2014

I can FINALLY tell you all the news - I've been about ready to burst

The image that started it all, courtesy of Bri Hokanson

I have, right in front of me, the official MACC paperwork stating that the “Potentially Dangerous, Needs Training” designation has been rescinded. Nano is in the clear from the perspective of Minneapolis Animal Care & Control and the City of Minneapolis!

As you all know, this has been an emotional, difficult, and expensive journey for me. But, the support I’ve received has been amazing. Now that a major part of this situation has been sorted out on one major aspect of things, I do want to spend some time thanking the organizations and officials and major players who were involved.

Maybe this information will help someone out there – I certainly wouldn't wish this scenario on anyone else, but if I've learned anything from this it's that life can throw some very unexpected things your way. Please know there are resources, including me. Seriously, I'm willing to help anybody going through a similar situation if you need advice or ideas for working through things.

This was a group effort – to say the very least. Each person reading this played a huge part by making calls and donating to Nano’s legal fund. Your generosity and kindness more than made up for the negative parts of this experience. I can’t say you restored my faith in humanity, because I never lost it … but you sure did rejuvenate my belief that most people have good and generous hearts.

Let’s get to the thank yous – I encourage you to keep reading so you can get a sense of the massive scope of what each of you helped make happen.

First, let’s talk about Minneapolis Animal Care & Control. They are under new leadership and while I have no experience to compare the former leadership to the new, I will say I was very impressed with the new Deputy Director, Ms. Caroline Hairfield. She is the epitome of professionalism, compassion and integrity. You may not know it yet, but our city is lucky to have her. She and her staff treated me fairly and with respect from our first interaction. I hope this is okay with all the donors, but if there is any money left over in the legal fund after I pay my bill, I plan to donate it to MACC.

Plus, a friendly reminder – dogs, cats, rabbits and ferrets need to be licensed with the city. To my embarrassment, I did not know this. If you don’t know about this or haven’t bothered to license your pets, please check it out and then do it here.

The Minneapolis City Attorney’s office also played a role in this and I’d like to acknowledge the time and attention they gave this matter. Especially when I’m certain your plates are overflowing with other issues. Ladies and gentlemen, you have my sincere thanks.

The woman behind the scenes in all of this is the dog behaviorist Nano and I worked with, Carol Propotnik. If you are having behavior issues with your puppy or dog, get in touch with this woman. I mean it. She’s truly understands dog behavior and can help you deal with just about any issue you can think of – 612-869-6451. She is worth every penny plus more. She works within a dog’s nature to break habits, develop skills and set up realistic training goals. Working with her will enrich the relationship you have with your pet and make you a team working toward excellent doggy manners. Today, I can give Nano commands and he can control himself when he sees a squirrel. I never thought I’d see that day happen.

Of course, I want to thank my attorney, Mr. Marshall Tanick – he was always rational and realistic; plus, he talks really fast so he doesn't waste your funds on chit chat. He mostly does other kinds of legal work (employment, intellectual property, etc.) but he’s an animal lover, too, and has been working on animal rights cases for many years. I committed to following his advice during this process and he never steered me wrong. If you find yourself in a bind with your pet, he’s the best in the biz.

The residents in the building where I live were on this journey with me – whether they wanted to be or not. This is an exceptional group of people. I was fully supported by every person in the building, plus a few who don’t live here anymore (but used to). It would have been easy to be frustrated or upset with me, but instead we worked together to resolve our mail delivery issue.

Speaking of mail delivery, I have some words of thanks for the USPS – thank you for resuming our mail service ahead of schedule. It was a very nice way to celebrate Independence Day. As I said in an earlier post, we all went through some tough days during this experience, but ultimately, a reasonable solution was reached – for that you have the thanks of all 10 households in the building.

If I may be so bold, while recognizing I know very little about politics and how organizations can/can’t work together, I’d like to encourage the USPS to work with MACC. The two organizations deal with different aspects of the same issue: animals and safety. The USPS puts a lot of effort into dog bite prevention and they take it very seriously, and rightly so – mail carriers enter private property virtually every day and encounter our pets. MACC’s entire reason for existence is to address issues with animals when something goes wrong and to think of public safety – they know what to do, how to assess a situation, and recommend reasonable resolutions. In my marketing mind, this seems like a wonderful partnership opportunity.

I already thanked JonTevlin at the Star Tribune but I want to say thanks again. Mr. Tevlin broke the story and without him, I’m pretty sure we’d still be stuck in neutral.

KARE 11’s coverage came at just the right time and really helped get things moving toward a resolution – Mr. Constantini and Team, thank you for your visit and the great story. Nano is now recognized all over the city.  He’s become kind of an attention hog, to be honest. But, he’s getting more belly rubs than he’s ever gotten in his life – and I’m sure he would thank you for that if he could.

Senator Klobuchar’s, Senator Franken’s, and Representative Ellison’s offices all made calls to the USPS on my behalf – keep an eye open for thank you letters to the staffers who worked on my behalf. A big thank you to city councilwoman, Elizabeth Glidden, who called me and personally wrote a letter to the USPS on my behalf.

To two of the smartest women I know – the co-founders of Union Park Marketing, Patty Radford Henderson and Betsey Kershaw, your support and understanding means the world to me, and that is a serious understatement. I'm eternally and deeply grateful for both of you. A heartfelt thanks to Liz Elert, one of the most loyal and generous people I know. You three women are role models and friends to me and I’m a better person for it.

Last, but certainly not least, to my family, friends, acquaintances, new friends, complete strangers and neighbors – thank you so much for your encouragement, understanding, support and all the things each of you did to distract me, cheer me up, cheer me on. I hope I never have to do the same for any of you, but please know I will.

With gratitude –
Alicia and Nano


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Things That Make You Go ... Hmmmm?

The charmingly empty mailboxes in the building where I live.

I know it's been awhile since I've written here. I'm in 'waiting mode' on a couple things and until things move into 'final mode', there's no point discussing publicly.

However, I did want to share a story that happened on this past Monday, 7/21, because it's really just too ... well, you decide.

Back on June 28, our mail route was assigned a new permanent mail carrier and then on July 3 our mail suddenly started being delivered again, which was pretty cool. There was rejoicing and dancing in the hallways (slight hyperbole).

I haven't met the new mail carrier, but neighbors say he's a very nice guy. I believe it because I saw him saving a balloon from the middle of Chicago Ave. for some kids. That says something about a person, you know?

Anyway, we'll call him Mr. NPMC (New Permanent Mail Carrier). 

Mr. NPMC had a vacation planned, apparently. It started on Monday, 7/21 and is scheduled to last two weeks. A neighbor told me this, I assume she must have talked to Mr. NPMC about his vacation.

A quick side note: when a permanent mail carrier is on vacation or out sick or is otherwise unavailable to deliver mail to their usual route, a temporary or back up mail carrier is assigned to fill in for them until they return to work.

You can probably see where this is going. And no, I'm not even kidding. Just remember, truth is stranger than fiction.

The person assigned to fill in for Mr. NPMC? SP - the very same mail carrier involved in this entire ... thing debacle fiasco series of events. Yes. Yes, really. No, honestly, I'm not joking. 

Now, Nano and I were in my apartment because that's my agreement with the USPS. Nano isn't out and about between 8-10am. This means, I didn't witness any of the following, but after working with Kris, a neighbor in the building, closely over the past month and a half, she's not a person given to exaggeration. She keeps things pretty factual.

To be clear: the following in italics is all second-hand information.

Kris was waiting for some important mail on Monday and saw SP walk directly past our building. Did not deliver mail or take outgoing mail. Did not enter the building. 

Kris, in a panic about the mail she was expecting, went outside and headed down the sidewalk to ask SP about our mail. 

She caught up with her and, from what I understand, the exchange went something like this:

Kris: Excuse me, do you have any mail for me?
SP: No.
Kris: Well, do you have any mail for anyone in our building?
SP: There's no mail for your building.
Kris: Is our mail at the post office?
SP: There's no mail for your building.
Kris: Okay, well, I'll call Powderhorn Station and talk to the manager.

So, that's what Kris did. She called Powderhorn Station and spoke to the manager, PH. She explained what happened and that she had seen SP walk by our building and had gone to ask her about the mail for the building residents. PH was very polite and said that the mail for the building was in SP's van and that he would call her and ask her to deliver it to us. This was around 9:30am.

Right about then, I started getting text messages from Kris, so I'm using those as reference for what happened and when things happened.

By 1:30pm we still didn't have any mail. Kris called Powderhorn Station again and was told that PH was gone for the day. Unfortunately, he had not gotten back to Kris to confirm if/when we'd be getting our mail delivered.

Kris emailed our primary contact in Consumer Affairs, Ms. N, who promptly and politely responded and said she'd escalate the issue and help in any way she could to get our mail delivered. Yay for Ms. N! Someone give that woman a raise and a promotion. Or whatever she wants.

I called Ms. S (another truly nice and helpful person at the USPS) at the Postmaster's office and the conversation went something like this - I'm paraphrasing from memory here:

Me: Hello, this is Alicia Patrick. I'm really sorry to be calling you again.
Ms. S: That's okay, what can I help you with?
Me: Well, our mail wasn't delivered today. Our regular mail carrier is out and SP was put on our route but she didn't deliver our mail and then told another tenant there wasn't any mail for anyone in our building. However, PH at Powderhorn said there was mail for our building and it is in SP's van.
Ms. S: I may need to put you in touch with Mr. M, he's the one handling this.
Me: Okay, sounds good.
Ms. S: I'm going to put you on hold for a moment because Mr. M is on his line.
Me: Okay.
Ms. S: (comes back on the line a few minutes later) I called the station. Someone will deliver your mail today. I'm very sorry for the inconvenience, there was some kind of miscommunication.
Me: What kind of miscommunication?
Ms. S: I'm not sure, but you will get your mail today.
Me: I have to wonder why SP would be assigned to this mail route given that there is a pending legal action and everything. I mean, I'm sure it's not comfortable for her and it's certainly not comfortable for anybody who lives in this building.
Ms. S: I'm not sure how the decision was made but I will pass along your concerns.
Me: Thanks so much for your help and, again, I'm really sorry I had to call you.
Ms. S: It's no problem. Have a good day.
Me: You too, thanks again.

Yay for Ms. S! Someone give her a raise and promotion too! Or free parking for a year. Or her own personal helicopter. Or whatever she might like.

Kris and I compared notes and agreed that both Consumer Affairs and the Postmaster's office had been very helpful, professional, responsive, etc. All good things, in other words. 

Tuesday morning comes. We brace for a repeat performance. Instead, some guy we'd never seen before shows up and delivers our mail. A neighbor talked to him to get a change of address package and asked if he was our new carrier, he said he was filling in because someone "didn't show up". Of course, there is no way to know who he was referring to - it could have been anyone - so don't go jumping to conclusions, people. What we know for a fact is that someone who is not SP delivered mail to our building and for that, we are grateful. Thank you to the unidentified mail carrier who made time in his day to deliver our mail. All 10 households here appreciate you.

Wednesday morning comes. We brace ourselves again. A different guy delivered our mail around 11-11:30am. Again, whoever you are, thank you! We really appreciate your efforts. 

What will Thursday bring? Who knows. But, we'll find out in about 12 hours, give or take. We got our mail today! A bearded mail carrier delivered it. YAY for Bearded Mail Guy! You're awesome!

In the meantime, who knew mail delivery could be so filled with tension, drama and mystery?! 

I'll keep you posted (pun intended - sorry, not sorry).







Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Cliffs Notes Version - Or Why I Need Help With My Legal Fees

Thanks to Bri Hokanson for taking this photo -
for a gal who is afraid of dogs, you sure did great with my "mop"
Several people just tuning in have asked for a synopsis and all the links in one spot and whatnot. This is my attempt.

June 10: I took Nano out for a bathroom break around 9am - a little later than usual since we had both slept in. We saw our temporary postal carrier on the sidewalk south of our condo building, I wanted to introduce Nano to her and ask about a package I was expecting. I noticed he was getting excited to meet a new friend, so I crouched down to hold his leash closer to his collar. As I did that the leash clip came detached from his collar. I have no earthly idea how this happened, but it did and it's ultimately my responsibility. Nano dashed about 3-4 feet over to the carrier (with me in immediate pursuit). He stood on his hind legs and made a digging motion with his front paws. Per the animal behaviorist who has assessed Nano for MACC, this behavior is a sign of affection in the Coton breed (and some other breeds). His tail was wagging, his two or three barks were friendly in tone - like an invitation to play. He has had quite a few mail carrier friends over the years, so he associates the uniform/bag with happy, friendly things.

By this point, I had grabbed him, reattached his leash, apologized for the leash coming off and explained I had no clue what had just happened with it (the leash). I asked if the carrier was okay. She said 'yeah' and then kept on walking north on Chicago Ave to deliver mail at the next house. A few minutes later, as she was about to enter our building, Nano and I returned. I was carrying him under my arm (he is only 11 lbs after all). I offered to let her into the building, then asked about a package - she removed one of her earbuds so she could hear me and then checked her bag. She said if any packages came that needed signature, she would leave a peach slip in my mailbox. That was pretty much it. I carried Nano upstairs to our apartment, I looked over the leash clip to see if it was broken or loose - didn't find anything wrong with it and then continued on with my life.

June 11: Animal Control gets involved and, without any notice or warning, the USPS shuts down mail service to all 10 households in the condo building where we live.

June 11 - 19: Every day, the building tenants and I called various USPS employees and officials to try and understand the procedures and what we could do to accommodate those procedures. We found information online about what should be happening. Our situation, however, wasn't being handled according to the processes and procedures we found. Nobody would call us back but we occasionally got lucky and caught someone at their desk but would get confusing and contradictory information. The best explanation I heard is that there are federal guidelines but the local postal stations are free to have their own policies and procedures. From what other tenants were told, Powderhorn Station didn't have any policies or procedures written down for situations like we were experiencing.

June 19: I finally reached a supervisor and she asked me to write up my list of suggestions to resolve this issue. The goal being to keep Nano away from any mail carrier delivering mail to the condo building. I immediately wrote and hand-delivered to Powderhorn the same day (6/19). If you read my letter, you'll see my suggestions were things that could be implemented immediately and would cost nothing AND, most importantly, would address a main USPS policy goal, which is to "obtain a safe environment in which carriers can do their work". I really believed the ideas in my letter would be accepted by the USPS. Instead, I got no response.

June 23: the Powderhorn manager told the condo association president that a "final decision had been made by the Postmaster" and proceeded to share it with him. At this point, I hadn't been contacted or notified about anything - I thought I was still waiting for someone to call and discuss the suggestions in my letter.

June 24: I went in to pick up my mail, I was told (verbally) that the USPS had made a "final decision", which was that Nano had "to go".  I was stunned and terrified. Nobody had even spoken to me once about the letter I hand-delivered on June 19. And now, I was in a position where I had three horrible options:
  1. Re-home Nano and break the law Animal Control was requiring me to follow (the training). (Also, the mere idea of giving Nano away was enough to send me into hours of hysterics).
  2. Try to find a new place to live in less than 10 days and then break my lease, which would put me in breach of contract. 
  3. Murder Nano, my beloved family member. (I could barely look him in the face without having visions of him being put down. The emotional trauma was acute, to say the least).
Feeling trapped, terrified and desperate, I went to the press for help - reaching out to Jon Tevlin at the Star Tribune through a mutual friend.

June 25-26: A Star Tribune article broke, which I shared on my Facebook page and it took off like wildfire. I also wrote a few posts here to help fill in some details and share my point of view. The only real way to describe those days is that I felt like I was surfing down the face of an 87-foot wave. Now, I've never actually done any big wave surfing, but it felt like barely controlled chaos, amidst some of the most intense emotional trauma I've experienced in my adult life.

June 26: A calling campaign to the Minneapolis Postmaster and Powderhorn Station grew exponentially. I heard people called from Minneapolis/St. Paul (of course), Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington DC, Florida, Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and all points in between. A friend asked a USPS employee how many calls they had received on the issue and was told 3,500. I called and left a voice mail for USPS media relations asking for assistance and to let them know that I sincerely wanted the next story to have a good ending for both of us, but I didn't hear back.

June 27: The word spread, my Facebook posts were reaching almost 5,000 people. The calling campaign continued and I can only guess at the number of calls received on Friday - I'd guess it was at least as many as the day before, if not more. KARE 11 wanted to do an interview for the 6pm news, which I agreed to, but also I called the USPS again to let them know I wanted to be able to share some good news with the press that showed the issue would be resolved. But, again, I got no response

However, KARE 11 did get a response about 30 minutes before they went on the air for the 6pm news with a breaking story. The USPS released an official statement at approximately 5:30pm on Friday, June 27. Apparently, later that same evening, the BBC World News also ran the story!

June 28: A reporter forwarded me the complete, official statement the USPS released to the media on Friday (6/27), which very clearly stated that they would resume mail service after I was in compliance with my MACC hearing requirements. We all thought that was a pretty big win and there was rejoicing in the hallways of the condo. I wrote a lot of thank you notes and emails and even thanked the USPS for taking a more reasonable approach to resolution.

June 29: I realized I better open the mail that had been sitting on my desk since Tuesday, June 24. I found a Letter of Claim from a local law firm, which is the first step toward a civil suit. There are many more steps that need to happen before a suit is officially brought - but Step One has been taken and I can only assume things will progress.

June 30: My attorney asked opposing counsel to share the medical records and photographs with us so we could have a forensic analysis done. This request was denied, which is their right. Down the road, if the suit progress, that information would be handed over during discovery. But for now, nothing compels them to turn it over.

The Fundraising Effort
On June 30, I launched a fundraising campaign for my legal fees, which are already well beyond my means. I wrote a post about my current financial situation and how this couldn't have come at a worse time. I've been unemployed since September 2013 and have been looking for a job. I finally started taking freelance work, which isn't exactly steady. But those projects has been getting more regular and it looked like I would have broken even or the first time in June. Plus I had been scraping together birthday money and anything extra I could find to fund a trip to England to visit my mother and stepfather (they live in England). Since they live so far away, I only get to see them once a year at the most. But, I had to use my "airfare fund" to hire an attorney and pay for the MACC-required dog behaviorist. That was it for my savings. Now, I'm tapped out. No savings. No credit card. Nothing.

I selected a site called CrowdTilt because they take the lowest percentage of any of the other crowdfunding sites, like Kickstarter and Indie Gogo. Crowdtilt only takes 2.5%, plus 2.5% is added to your donation amount to cover credit card processing fees.

So, if you are able to give a donation - even a couple dollars WILL make a difference. It all adds up and you can't imagine how grateful I would be. Nano too, although his financial skills are a little shaky. He's much better at naps and snuggling - but those don't pay the bills. If you're uncomfortable with online contributions, feel free to email me at JusticeForNano@gmail.com and I'll share my mailing address.

Here's the link to the campaign page - it's 2 steps to make a contribution and then there are some options to share with friends if you want, but you can easily skip that part if you want. In return, I can tell you that any funds received will be used for my/Nano's legal fees and other costs related to the legal process (court filings, expert analysis, etc.). I have set up a separate savings account at my bank to keep donations separate from my personal funds.

https://www.crowdtilt.com/campaigns/nano-the-day-the-usps-went-postal-on-my-dog/contributors

Sincere thanks from Alicia and Nano for your generosity and support.


Ongoing Updates

July 3: We heard from the USPS and they said they would be resuming mail service on July 5. In reality, they made an initial delivery on July 3. We don't know why they changed their minds, but apparently they did. I still have my MACC hearing on July 9 - that's a separate issue. I assume the civil suit will also be moving forward - because that, too, is separate from the mail delivery issue.

July 9: The scheduled hearing at MACC didn't go as planned because the mail carrier attended (this is her right) with her two civil suit attorneys (this is highly unusual), which extended our timeline by several weeks as various meetings needed to happen.

July 20: The waiting game continues while various officials and organizations review the case and decide how best to handle it. In the meantime, I'm complying with some additional requests from MACC - just finished yesterday (7/19), actually.



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Giving MACC Some Love

Yeah, yeah, yeah ... we cheated - this is an oversized tennis ball
Photo by: Briana Hokanson

For anyone who has had to deal with Minneapolis Animal Care and Control (MACC), you may not have fond memories. It's overwhelming and scary as hell the first time you go through it.

On June 11, I had my first encounter with MACC and I had no idea what to expect. Friends called and offered support and said, "they will be objective and fair". So, I took that to heart.

The officer who showed up at my apartment, NE, was professional and objective. She explained everything to me (twice - because I was such a basket case I couldn't take in information), she made friends with my cat and was a reasonable person. She took my statement and read it back to me to ensure she got it right.

She explained that since Nano was up to date on his vaccinations, she was putting him on a 10-day in-home quarantine, which is standard procedure after any reported event involving an animal. She made sure I understood the rules and answered all my questions.

She said this time of year is the busy season, so it could take a couple weeks to their their official report and recommendations, but instead, they got me the report and recommendations in 5 days.

When she gave me the report, she said something along the lines of the recommendation being the "mildest" option available - training would be required and use of a 3-foot leash during the training. But, no muzzle, which is usually standard for any alleged bite incident.

On June 24, I was verbally informed by the USPS that the only way they would resume mail delivery to the condo building was if Nano was "gone". I was on my way to file for my MACC hearing when I got the news that if I moved out with Nano that the USPS would keep an eye on me and inform my new postal station of my address and encourage them to cease mail delivery. Needless to say, I arrived at MACC in the midst of a full-blown panic attack (the first I've ever experienced) and hysterics.

I was met with compassion and assistance. For the sake of privacy, I won't identify the names of folks involved, I'll refer to them as Ms. C and Officer D. They met with me and:

  • listened to what I had to say
  • explained what my limitations were from their perspective
  • offered some ideas for things I could do that wouldn't put me in jeopardy of being in non-compliance with the MACC requirements
  • congratulated me on started the training and my choice of behaviorist/trainer
  • remained professional, objective and helpful
It was clear to me that they both cared about animals and community safety. They were extremely knowledgable about the rules and regulations of their organization and could clearly articulate those to me. Plus, they were empathic to the situation I was in. 

As I compare this experience to what I experienced with the USPS, it's like day and night. 

MACC has a process - it's clear and consistent and it's followed for every incident. You may not like it, but at least it's fair for every single person and animal. If you disagree with their findings, you have an opportunity for a hearing.

USPS has published policies that nobody has to follow. They can decide whatever they want to do to you/your neighbors. They don't care what MACC decides or how much the dog owner tries to work with them. And, according to what I was told, there is no appeal process if you disagree with them. 

I would like to see the USPS adopt national policies that apply to animal interference and incidents. I'd like that information to be communicated thoroughly to all USPS customers. I'd like to see cooperation between the USPS and local Animal Control agencies. I'd like to see a clear policy, a consistent process and a hearing/appeal process. I'd like to see an openness to work with dog owners who wish to collaborate or do the right thing to ensure mail carriers are able to carry out their duties without animal interference.

In other words, the USPS could learn a thing or 12 from MACC. 

As for the folks at MACC who I have dealt with so far - NE, Ms. C, Officer D, Officer J and the very nice officer who dropped off my hearing paperwork - I thank you. This has been a stressful time for me but you have been fair, compassionate, objective and helpful. I appreciate it and so does Nano.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

USPS Changes Their Mind - And It's a GOOD thing!

Nano says thanks too, even though he doesn't get much mail


Chalk this one up to Things That Make You Scratch Your Head and Go Hmmmmm?

The plan for resuming mail service was that I needed to have my MACC (Animal Control) hearing on July 9 and be in documented compliance and *then* service would be restored. That seemed reasonable compared to what had been going on, so we were relieved.

Mere moments ago, the condo association president and I both got calls/voice mails letting us know that mail service would be restored on July 5. They asked that I adhere to my suggested solutions - and I most certainly will - a more motivated person does not exist on this planet - but that's the only requirement!

USPS, we don't know why you changed your mind. But, you just made an entire building full of people, including one newborn with very tired and overwhelmed parents, very relieved.

And, here's an open offer to the USPS from me, if you ever want to form and work with a citizen's advisory council on how to communicate clear expectations to pet owners and create a standard set of national policies and procedures for how animal interference is handled, communicated and appealed/contested - I would be more than happy to assist you. I would volunteer my time. I think it's that important.

Of course, not all is sunshine and roses here at #teamnano Central - we assume the civil litigation is still in play, but ... one thing at a time.

Suggesting Solutions: The Letter I Delivered to the USPS on June 19

Nano still fits into my bike basket,
but doesn't like it as much as he did as a puppy

Lots of people have asked to see the written communications related to this incident. I'm classifying documents into three buckets and treating them differently

  1. Documents I authored - like the letter below - I have no problem sharing. Any identifying information about another person will, of course, be redacted/removed.
  2. Documents authored by others (USPS, MACC, attorneys, etc.). I will only post this kind of information after careful consideration and after names/personal information are redacted.
  3. Formal documents, such as the MACC report or the MACC hearing judgement. My attorney has advised me that I could post these documents if I wanted to because they are a matter of public record, but, for now, I'd rather not go down that path. If I ever do decide to publish formal/official documents, of course all personal information will be redacted and I will have my attorney review it prior to posting.


Here are the contents of the letter I hand-delivered to Powderhorn Station on June 19 at approximately 1pm:

June 19, 2014

To the United States Postal Service - Powderhorn Station

In order to reach a resolution and restart mail delivery service to all the residents at XXXX Chicago Avenue S., Minneapolis, MN 55407, I propose the following good faith precautionary measures, which go above and beyond what Animal Control is requiring of me.
  • Mail is usually delivered at approximately 9am to XXXX Chicago Ave. S. I will keep my dog, Nano, inside my apartment during the hours of 8-10am, on days mail is delivered (barring an emergency such as a building fire).
  • In recognition that mail is not always delivered at the same time every day, I will further listen and look down the front stairwell (it’s an open stairwell, I can easily see/hear when mail is being delivered from the 3rd floor of the building) before bringing Nano outside for bathroom breaks. If mail is being delivered at any time of day, I will either:
o   Wait for the mail carrier to leave the building and be out of sight or
o   Use the rear entrance of the building that opens to the alleyway to bring Nano out of the building
  •   If I see any mail carrier in the neighborhood at any time of the day during bathroom/exercise breaks with Nano, I will use any means possible to create distance, such as: crossing the street if traffic/pedestrian lights support that action or walking the other way.
I welcome the opportunity to discuss these precautionary measures in person or over the phone. I also welcome other reasonable suggestions to ensure mail may be delivered to XXXX Chicago Ave. S. with confidence.

Thank you for your consideration and cooperation in this matter.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The Other Shoe Drops - and So Did My Stomach

Even cuter with a banana smile.

Hello friends - well, after a brief (too brief) respite, the other shoe has dropped. While opening my mail on Sunday, June 29, I came across a Letter of Claim indicating I was being sued over this whole mess. This is apparently the very first step down a path toward a civil suit. I didn't understand this initially because, well, I'm not an attorney.

This new information doesn't really change what I need to do. I will need an attorney to assist and guide me throughout this entire process - regardless of how it goes - and there are many possibilities about how this could go.

So, I have to do something I'm not at all comfortable with and actually find fairly humiliating. I have to ask for financial help because the legal fees will be significant.

As many of you know, I lost my job in September 2013 and have been unemployed since. I started freelancing several months ago, but it takes time to build up projects and clients. It looked like I was *just* about to break even in June, and then all this happened. The tiny amount of money I had in savings is gone due to what's happened so far and that's all I had for a buffer.

Now I'm being forced into a situation where I have no choice but to hire an attorney to defend Nano and me. My attorney is an excellent and comes highly recommended, but he's expensive (as most attorneys are).

Today, June 30, he asked opposing counsel to share the medical records and photos with us so we could examine them and have them forensically analyzed but that request was declined. We can't do anything about that. It's their right to decline at this time. Is it frustrating? Yes. Is it worth it to get mad? No. The process will have to get a lot farther down the road before we could do discovery and have the evidence shared with us - and - who knows, it may never get that far. Or it might, no way to know right now.

I'm not sure where or when this journey will end - but it's going to take funding to get there.

So far, it's been a pathway through one of my worst fears: being wrongly or mistakenly accused. So when I say this feels like a nightmare to me, I mean that literally. This has been the hardest experience of my life - emotionally, physically, psychologically - I'm a mess. (And yes, I am seeing a doctor tomorrow, I do know when it's time to get professional help).

I started a fundraising campaign on a site called CrowdTilt - it's a great place to do precisely this kind of fundraising because the percentage they take (5%) is much less than other fundraising sites, plus there isn't a minimum threshold. Several of you have already given generous gifts - for that I thank you sincerely. As for Nano ... well, he's grateful too, he just doesn't know it.

I know people will want to howl with frustration - please, let's not, we're better than that. It won't help - so let's keep it clean, people.

As I said, this is pretty much the low point of my life. I can only tell you that while am I being forced to fight this battle, I also want to fight it because I have to stick up for Nano - he's my best little buddy and brings nothing but joy to my life. I know what I saw, I know what the experts are telling me and those two things add up to innocence. I have to believe that truth and honesty will win the day - it's just going to be expensive to get to that day.

Here's the link, please consider a gift. Over on Facebook, it looks like each post reaches more than 5,000 (!) people - if everyone gave a couple dollars (literally) - I'd be in good shape (at least I sure hope so).

https://www.crowdtilt.com/campaigns/nano-the-day-the-usps-went-postal-on-my-dog/contributors

With heartfelt gratitude -
Alicia and Nano

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Official Press Release from the USPS = Good News For Condo Tenants


Nano sends his most enthusiastic thanks to all (and so do I)

I received an email this morning containing an official statement from the USPS. I must express my gratitude here to the USPS, specifically Consumer Affairs and the Postmaster's office, for making a lot happen in a short amount of time on Friday afternoon. Also, it is a huge relief to me to see, in writing, that a common sense approach will be taken to resuming mail service. That is all I've ever wanted from Day 1.

So, USPS, if anyone there is reading this: I sincerely thank you. It was a rocky path to get here and we both had to endure some difficult days, but I am grateful to see we have a reasonable, logical plan in place to resume service. I guarantee you, I will hold up my end of the bargain and continue to work with Minneapolis Animal Care and Control to resolve this issue and will endeavor to get you the official documentation of my compliance as soon as humanly possible after my MACC hearing on July 9 at 3pm.

The incredible news is that once the USPS can officially confirm I am in full compliance and/or have completed the MACC (Minneapolis Animal Care and Control) requirements and/or the case is overturned, then they will resume mail service!

Each and every one of you made this happen - thank you so much. This is your win as much as it's a win for the residents of the condo and, hopefully, for Nano and I too.

I wish I could officially clear Nano's name, but I can't do that without photos or medical records being turned over to my attorney for forensic analysis. But that may be a bigger headache and financial commitment than I'm able to invest.

In the meantime, I am planning to live by the guidelines I suggested to the USPS on June 19, whether or not they require it too. Mainly because I want to protect Nano from mail carriers - an unfortunate consequence because he has had many mail carrier friends over the years but one I think it is prudent to take.

Here's the press release from the USPS:

Statement - U.S. Postal Service 
In the past year, 32 Postal Service letter carriers in Minneapolis were bitten by dogs. That number ranks 11th worst in American cities. There have been numerous other attacks that did not result in actual bites.

The dog attack on a Postal Service carrier on June 10 produced a bite wound on the carrier's upper thigh near the groin area, with puncture marks and bruising that required medical attention. At that time, the decision was made to curtail delivery to that address. We have concluded that once the dog owner is in documented compliance with all requirements as specified by Minneapolis Animal Control, we will resume delivery. 
"The most important duty I have is to provide the safest working environment possible for our employees," said USPS Northland District Manager Anthony C. Williams. "Part of that is doing everything in my power to ensure that no employee ever has to be a victim of a dog bite. We empathize with the residents who were impacted by our decision to suspend delivery, but ensuring the safety of our employees and customers will always be our first concern. We will work to resolve this and get delivery back up and going as soon as possible."

Thank Yous and What Next?

Bri was our photographer and deserves a round of applause.


Time for thank yous and public recognition. First, to all 3500 of you who called the USPS on Thursday - that was approximately 7 calls per minute for 8 hours. Unless I'm messing up my math. That is crazy.

I suspect, an even larger number called on Friday. For that, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

If I could give each of you three wishes, I would, or maybe a magical sparkle pony or whatever your hearts desire. You made this happen and Nano and I are so grateful.

Now, a few folks really helped me as I stumbled through this experience. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and couldn't have done any of this without advice, input, support and quite a bit of technical help. Very special thanks to:

Kris, Jacques, Jessica, Sarah, Maggie, and all the residents at the condo for being on my side and being so supportive.

Bonnie, Abigail, Kari, Kim and Lisa for the media advice, outreach efforts, practice interviews, help with my hair and pep talks. The success of that KARE 11 interview rests in your hands.

Bri for the awesome photos I've used on the blog and the Star Tribune used in their story. And for answering all my newbie blogging questions.

Tim for specialized advice that I know will come in handy soon.

Mark for reaching out to a stranger and reassuring her. You're a gem.

Kara for dog walks and moral support.

Andrea and Ray for your generous offer.

Patty and Betsey for giving me some space to deal with this. I think you ladies knew what was coming my way before I did. I am eternally grateful to be a part of your lives and your growing business. Thank you so very, very much.

Liz and Abe the Babe for getting creative and inspiring me on how this whole thing could come to life online. Your generosity knows know bounds and I love you both.

Jon Tevlin, the guy who got this whole thing started by writing an article about this situation. I think we were both surprised at the response - okay, maybe you weren't, but I sure was.



Allen Constantini - The man who dared to cuddle Nano The Beast (and was licked on the face for his trouble). KARE 11, you did a wonderful job and guess what else, you were the tipping point. The statement the USPS released to you was the first documented proof that our mail service will be restored once I've completed MACC's requirements. Our gratitude is unending.

Senator Al Franken's office - your calls to the USPS also applied pressure and got things moving in the right direction: a reasonable, logical, no-cost solution that achieves the goal of ensuring USPS mail carriers will not need to encounter my dog, despite the fact that he loves mail carriers because he's known so many great ones, is not aggressive, and didn't/wouldn't bite anyone.


And, of course, my family for listening and understanding and supporting me.


I will be keeping this blog updated as things are resolved over the course of the next few weeks and will also be thinking about how I can turn this experience into something that can help dogs and dog owners across the country. There must be a larger lesson here and if I can use this to help others, I will.

Love from - Alicia and Nano

The Official USPS Statement

Downtown Minneapolis Post Office


Statement - U.S. Postal Service

In the past year, 32 Postal Service letter carriers in Minneapolis were bitten by dogs. That number ranks 11th worst in American cities. There have been numerous other attacks that did not result in actual bites.

The dog attack on a Postal Service carrier on June 10 produced a bite wound on the carrier's upper thigh near the groin area, with puncture marks and bruising that required medical attention. At that time, the decision was made to curtail delivery to that address. We have concluded that once the dog owner is in documented compliance with all requirements as specified by Minneapolis Animal Control, we will resume delivery.
"The most important duty I have is to provide the safest working environment possible for our employees," said USPS Northland District Manager Anthony C. Williams. "Part of that is doing everything in my power to ensure that no employee ever has to be a victim of a dog bite. We empathize with the residents who were impacted by our decision to suspend delivery, but ensuring the safety of our employees and customers will always be our first concern. We will work to resolve this and get delivery back up and going as soon as possible."

Friday, June 27, 2014

Nano's Is a Star + the USPS Budged About a 1/2 Inch (Better than No Budge At All)

Nano's 15 minutes of fame (we hope)
The biggest things that happened today were:

  • I got some work done - you know, the stuff that pays the bills!
  • Nano (plus Kris and I) were interviewed by Allen Constantini from KARE 11. It is a great piece that really focuses on the mail delivery issue, which I'm glad about because there are 10 households being inconvenienced mightily.
    • Something I want to say here that didn't make it on air has to do with ALL dogs - regardless of size or breed. Dogs and their people must know they will be treated fairly by the USPS. And that there is a documented process that will be followed for ALL dogs/dog owners. And there needs to be an appeal process. And there needs to be proper documentation that attorneys, Animal Control and other legal professionals may review if the event is in question.
  • I did receive calls from a USPS Consumer Affairs Official as well as an official from the Postmaster's office. These are the first two calls the USPS has initiated to me in 17 days. I've called them and managed to get people on the phone, but NOBODY has called me until today - I call that progress. Minor progress, but still ...
    • Consumer Affairs worked hard to urge some kind of decision to take the heat off for the June 30 deadline - so that was good. 
    • The Postmaster official said the USPS is willing to hold off on any final decision until the MACC (Animal Control) hearing is complete. At that point, they will "discuss mail service". Let's just say that while I appreciate the heat being turned down, the stove is still turned on. We will see what happens after the MACC hearing. We could easily be back to where we are right now, except with more evidence supporting Nano in it's completed form. Maybe I should be a little more trusting of what the USPS says ... actually, no, I shouldn't. If Nano is guilty until proven innocent, then so is the USPS.
  • My MACC hearing is July 9 ... I just found out this evening
  • I asked again for the medical report and photos to be shared with my attorney so we could hire a forensic expert. The USPS said that they wouldn't release that information for a MACC hearing. I asked if I would have to initiate a federal suit to obtain the information and clear Nano's name and the answer was, "All I'm saying is that we can't release it for an Animal Control hearing." So, reading between the lines, yes, I would need to initiate a federal lawsuit. So, you know, give a few dollars if you can - no pressure: https://www.crowdtilt.com/campaigns/nano-the-day-the-usps-went-postal-on-my-dog/contributors
  • And you guys ... really, you guys ... whatever you've been saying, it's working! 
That's what I've got for you.

I'm going to give some thought about our next call-to-action and post it Sunday night/Monday morning. I just want to think about the proper response now that we're on a holding pattern. 

As always,
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
 
- ap and Nano, TV Personality


TGIF - Let's Give The USPS Something To Think About Over The Weekend

This is Nano's patented "Look of Love" --
It's how he looks at me all the time, every day, even right this minute.

Wow. You people know how to party. Yesterday was one crazy day! All I can say is thank you. Our efforts were impressive and  this is what happened:

  • 3500 calls to the USPS (keep calling! #s below)
  • Jon Tevlin's article shared 1500+ times
  • I got a FB page set up for Nano: http://goo.gl/zdIKVk
  • We were #1 on Google for various search terms
  • I'm being contacted by the media
  • And, the USPS appears to have blocked the name Nano from their Twitter feed


Here's what you can do to help today:

  • Call the USPS again today. If we can get even more people to call on the second day, that'll give them the message, loud and clear. 
    • Postmaster General in Minneapolis: 612-349-4400
    • Powderhorn Station: 612-722-3973

    • The national toll-free number 1-800-275-8777 - at the voice prompt, ask for Customer Service and when you get someone on the line (I didn't have to wait long) refer to case # CA-118435565. I opened that this morning. They will add notes if people call.
    • USPS Consumer Affairs: 612-349-4401

  • Share on Facebook and Twitter - share the phone numbers above and ask others to call
  • Send any media contacts you have to me at JusticeForNano@gmail.com. Also, contact them yourself if it's someone you know personally. Share the link to Jon Tevlin's story with them:
    • http://www.startribune.com/local/264676911.html#oZLBwSXPJ7RDK20x.97

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

There's a Policy for That ... or Maybe Not ...

A mailing sent out to Minneapolis residents around June 16 (6 days AFTER the incident with Nano)

Throughout all of this, it has seemed to me that something just wasn't right about how entrenched the USPS was in their position. I've spoken to attorneys, the Minnesota Attorney General, Keith Ellison's office, Al Franken's office, my own attorney, multiple MACC officers, and the animal behaviorist I'm working with as part of Nano's mandated training and they've all said essentially the same thing: We have never seen the USPS overreact so strongly to something like this. It's absolutely bizarre.

Another aspect of this that is very odd has to do with timing of the incident and the Zero Tolerance Policy I've been hearing about recently.

The incident happened on June 10.

On June 16, when I picked up my mail at Powderhorn (I was so afraid to go in there based on how I'd been treated over the phone by PH, the station manager, that I was shaking the whole time). So, I pick up my mail and sort through it when I got home. I found a postcard from the USPS about its Zero Tolerance Policy.

On June 19, I first heard the USPS Zero Tolerance Policy referred to by Ms. D. in relation to the incident with Nano.

I then informally polled a few folks who live in Minneapolis and they, too, had received the same postcard around the same time as me - June 16, give or take.

So, here's what's happening. This policy, which was just communicated out to Minneapolitans last week is being retroactively applied to the incident with my dog.

This cannot possibly be legal.

I actually asked PH, Powderhorn manager, how far back the USPS planned to go as they retroactively told dog owners who have had any kind of incident with a mail carrier that they need to kill their pets.

PH said we weren't talking about other cases, we were talking about mine. A classic, non-answer.

This just can't be right, though. A good question to add to my list of things to ask my attorney, I guess.

I can guarantee you that the USPS took none of the steps listed below. None. Not one. And when asked about it, they initially said something about "local stations can make their own policies", yet Powderhorn doesn't apparently have any of their "own policies" written down.

And then, once the Zero Tolerance mailing went out, they started relying on that instead.

For all you dog owners out there, just know that there is no policy. The USPS will do whatever they want to you and your dog. Even if you can prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt that your dog did not bite, bark, scratch, looked cross-eyed at a mail carrier ... it won't matter.

It. Won't. Matter.

And that is a terrifying prospect. I am terrified of these people.

They are systematically boxing me into a corner where I have fewer and fewer reasonable options, which makes no sense when there are so many reasonable, no-cost, easy-to-implement options we could start doing tomorrow that would "obtain a safe environment in which carriers can do their work."

Here is what the USPS policies are around "animal interference" - this is from the Postal Bulletin, dated May 1, 2014 (PB 22388), which is hardly out-dated material.
Progressive Warning Letters and Thank You Letter
This section offers materials for you to use to help your letter carriers do their jobs more safely. You can use the progressive warning letters to alert dog owners to the possible loss of mail delivery if they do not restrain their pets. Additionally, don’t forget to send a letter of thanks when they do!
Warning letters, like collection letters, need to be handled tactfully. The first and second sample letters on the website tell customers what we want them to do. The third tells them we have taken corrective steps. The fourth and fifth letters detail the customers’ options. In using these letters, keep in mind that our purpose is not to police the neighborhood but to obtain a safe environment in which carriers can do their work. Though most customers will respond to your first polite request, be meticulous in following up if they don’t. Otherwise, your efforts will not be taken seriously.

Nondelivery of Mail Policy
The availability and use of the repellent does not replace the policy of nondelivery of mail where there is animal interference!
Collection and delivery service personnel are to report the name and address of the customer where such interference occurs to the Postmaster or authorized supervisor, who must immediately telephone the customer and request that the animal be confined during the usual delivery hours in the neighborhood. The Postmaster or authorized supervisor must further inform the customer that (1) no deliveries will be made until this is done, and (2) service will be restored upon assurance that the animal will be confined.

USPS Policies and Written Recommendations

Cover of USPS publication Postal Bulletin, dated May 1, 2014
Issue code: PB 22388

I found this information in a USPS publication called the Postal Bulletin. The May 1, 2014 (PB22388) cover story focused on National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which was May 18 - 24, 2014.

This information was included in the story - I have added the yellow highlights and bold typeface:
Progressive Warning Letters and Thank You Letter
This section offers materials for you to use to help your letter carriers do their jobs more safely. You can use the progressive warning letters to alert dog owners to the possible loss of mail delivery if they do not restrain their pets. Additionally, don’t forget to send a letter of thanks when they do!
Warning letters, like collection letters, need to be handled tactfully. The first and second sample letters on the website tell customers what we want them to do. The third tells them we have taken corrective steps. The fourth and fifth letters detail the customers’ options. In using these letters, keep in mind that our purpose is not to police the neighborhood but to obtain a safe environment in which carriers can do their work. Though most customers will respond to your first polite request, be meticulous in following up if they don’t. Otherwise, your efforts will not be taken seriously.

Nondelivery of Mail Policy
The availability and use of the repellent does not replace the policy of nondelivery of mail where there is animal interference!
Collection and delivery service personnel are to report the name and address of the customer where such interference occurs to the Postmaster or authorized supervisor, who must immediately telephone the customer and request that the animal be confined during the usual delivery hours in the neighborhood. The Postmaster or authorized supervisor must further inform the customer that (1) no deliveries will be made until this is done, and (2) service will be restored upon assurance that the animal will be confined.