Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The "Incident" - there are two sides to every story

Is there anything cuter than a dog in a bike basket?

First, let me acknowledge something - after any incident involving your dog, the reaction seems to be to protect and deny.

I'm not that gal.

I'm the person who accepts responsibility immediately and then works to resolve things. So, keep that in mind as you read through this story.

Next, there are two sides to every story. I can really only tell you my side, but I will share information from the other side.

The reason I'm telling this story at all is because Nano and I have been put in a lose-lose-lose situation by the USPS.

The USPS is, essentially, extorting all the residents of the condo building where Nano and I live through a unilateral decision made on June 23. Of course, the USPS hasn't actually told me their "final decision" but they did tell the condo association president when he went in to pick up his mail that day.

Their final decision, which supports a "zero tolerance policy" rolled out in Minneapolis after the incident described below, is that Nano (and I) must move out of our home - by June 30 - yes, that is next Monday for those keeping track at home.

If we do not comply, then all the mail coming to every resident in our building will immediately be returned to sender.

Like I said, it's extortion. And unreasonable. And terrifying. And I've been trying every single day since June 11 to talk to USPS managers and supervisors to reach a reasonable resolution. More on that later.

Why they haven't communicated this directly to me ... well, that's par for the course with the USPS, as you'll learn if you read on.

Let's start at the beginning

June 10, approximately 9am
Nano, my 11-lb, 6-year-old Coton de Tulear and I headed out for a quick bathroom break - for him, not me, I use the inside bathroom.

We left our building, near 40th & Chicago, where we rent a condo, and turned south down Chicago Ave.

I saw our new postal carrier heading toward us and I thought, "I want to see if she has that package for me and now might be a good time to introduce her to Nano."

In retrospect, I'm a complete idiot for thinking either of these thoughts.

As we got closer, I noticed Nano was getting kind of excited. I figured it was because he's had plenty of mail carrier friends and you never know what they might have in that bag of theirs. So, I crouch down on the edge of the sidewalk, hold his leash close to his collar to have a more controlled greeting and, just as I was thinking of picking him up, his leash detached from his collar.

How? I don't know. I looked at it, Animal Control looked at it, the behaviorist I'm required to work with looked at it ... nobody can find anything wrong with it.

But, it happened and while it's not my fault, it is, without doubt, my responsibility. A responsibility I have accepted since the moment it happened.

Nano dashed on over and stood in front of the carrier, we'll call her SP. He stood on his back legs, and made this digging motion with his front paws and barked a couple times to say hi. All this time, his tail was wagging, but still I leapt up from the crouched position I was in and took two big steps over to him and swooped him up, got his leash clipped back on to his collar and said, "Oh my god, I have no idea what just happened with his leash! Are you okay?"

SP said, "yeah" and then kept on walking down the sidewalk toward our building.

While I didn't think it was strange at that moment, in retrospect, it's odd that if she was bitten (and she wasn't) she didn't react *at all*. No scream/yell, no reflexive jerk back from the source of pain, no nothing. That's weird, right? I mean, sure I think it is.

Nano and I also continued down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. Nano had a quick pee and then I decided I needed some tea, so we make a u-turn and headed back for our building. As we approached, I saw SP (the mail carrier) just dialing a code into our buzzer box. I picked up Nano and tucked him under my right arm and offered to let SP into the building. I unlocked the door, entered the building and started up the stairs. (Note: IMHO, these are not the actions of a guilty person. I'm just saying.)

SP opened the bank of mailbox slots and started delivering the mail. Then, I remembered I had a question about a package. I turned around on the stairs and said, "Amid all that excitement, I forgot I have a question for you." SP pulled out one of her earbuds and looked at me expectantly. "Do you happen to have a package for me that requires signature?" She dug around in her bag, didn't find anything, I thanked her for checking, she said something about leaving a peach-colored slip for anything requiring a signature ... and that was pretty much it.

She wasn't quaking in fear due to Nano's proximity - he was still tucked under my arm and not making a sound. She didn't mention anything about being hurt/injured. She seemed completely fine.

That's all well and good, Alicia, but what about SP's side of the story? 

I shall quote from the report she made to Minneapolis Animal Control. I'll also be posting the full report once I redact the personally identifying info like names and addresses - because while I want the whole story available, I don't need to be a jerk about it.

SP claims several things, such as:

"... the female released the lock on the flex leash, allowing the dog to run toward [SP]." <<< No, I was reeling Nano in and making the leash shorter.

"... SP instructed the woman to grab the dog ..." <<< Actually, no, SP said nothing. She had her headphones in, I'm not even sure she noticed us.

"... The woman grabbed the dog, but then took the leash off the dog and let it go." <<< Okay, really? What person would purposefully take their dog off-leash with the express purpose of encouraging it to attack someone? This is amazeballs in its lack of logic. Also, look at Nano. Little dude is an oversized cotton ball with legs. 

"... The dog ran up to SP and started sniffing her leg and then without warning, jumped up and bit her on the inner thigh, causing multiple punctures." <<< Okay, yes, Nano did run up to her. But he is 9 inches tall at the shoulder - in order to bite the inner thigh of this woman, he would have had to levitate and twist sideways. I can guarantee he didn't do that. He also didn't do a super-high leap into the air - I would have noticed that. Also, interestingly enough, I've been told there are photos but haven't seen them.

"The dog let go and attempted to bite SP a second time, so she started kicking at the dog." <<< Again, if my dog had been hanging from this woman's inner thigh, I sure would have noticed and insisted on taking her to the doctor myself IMMEDIATELY. And if SP had kicked my dog, we would have had some words. As much as I'd like to say this woman is a big meanie who kicked my dog, she didn't. She stood still through the whole thing, which is actually the smart thing to do when an unfamiliar dog is near you and because she stood so still, I noticed it.

I'll be telling the whole story over a series of posts. My experience thus far is that people really want to help and make suggestions. Here are a few pre-answers to the common questions/suggestions I get:

  • I appreciate your ideas. Share them.
  • I've been trying everything I can think of to get this sorted out.
  • The other residents in the building where I live have been great and supportive and have also called the USPS daily.
  • I've remained as calm and reasonable and conciliatory and respectful as I've ever been in my life - in the hope that the saying "cooler heads shall prevail", but I've gotten exactly zero places.
  • I have hired an attorney but I'm trying to keep him out of the USPS stuff because the moment he gets involved is also the moment the USPS lawyers from DC get involved and then this whole thing turns into a very lengthy (months or years) and expensive prospect.
  • My attorney is really good and has been doing these kinds of cases for decades. His name is Marshall Tanick.
  • Minneapolis Animal Care & Control has some of the strictest dog laws in the country. They are a force to be reckoned with. Pray you do not ever need to reckon with them.
  • There is a whole lot about the USPS behavior that is bizarre and doesn't make sense. 
  • Please don't be a dummy and not get your pets licensed. I did not know about this requirement. Go do it now.

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