I wrote this back when I had a mail carrier that came to my house. I no longer have that luxury. But the concept below still applies.
We all know that cats chase mice. Raccoons steal garbage. Monkeys eat bananas. Birds poop on heads. There are plenty of comical and stereotypical clichés that exist to crystallize the genetic nature of many animals. Take the classic: Dogs hate cats. How many old Looney Tunes cartoons featured this premise? As a kid I thought this was undoubtedly true. The first time I saw a platonic dog-cat interaction I was flabbergasted. Surely, this is an anomaly and scientists should be called in to investigate. Then I saw it again. And again. Now I know that rivalry isn’t as concrete as I used to believe. Their hatred for each other — originally conveyed as some sort of Hatfields vs. McCoys rivalry — is just a bad rap.
There is another battle of a similar nature that I think may also be more psychological than biological. The age-old Dog vs. Mailman.
My dog Rufus is the protector of the house regardless of how truly un-intimidating he is. He’s only 10 pounds and thinks he’s much more imposing of a presence than reality dictates. Please don’t tell him. We just let him go with it. While he might not be a brutish hulk of canine fury he compensates for it with his wits. For instance, he knows I don’t like blackbirds in the yard so he’s quick to chase them off — yet he leaves the other birds in peace since I like them and feed them. Smart, right?
So consider the mailman from Rufus’ eyes. Every single day this strange person comes right up to the door of my house. Thinking in dog terms, the door is a place that turns into a hole that lets people come in where they usually scratch behind his ears and give out snacks. Indeed, people Rufus likes come through at that very spot.
But then there’s this person with the big bag…he/she is never allowed entrance. Every day they try and every day they fail. There must be a reason. Simple dog logic points to the fact that they must not be invited. And if they’re not invited, then they’re not supposed to be around. And after quickly going through those steps in his mind, it just makes sense to Rufus that this person is villainous. Thus, they are an enemy. And enemies get barked at. They get driven away. It’s Rufus’ job to do this.
I wonder if this is how all dogs view mailmen; a mysterious figure always getting right up to the door but never once being allowed access. If so, our wonderful guardians of the gate are getting a bad reputation when we should be praising them for clearly understanding the dynamics of people who are “welcome” and those who are “not.” To be clear I’m sure my mailman is a wonderful person and we would have a great conversation over tea, but Rufus doesn’t know what Earl Grey is. He just knows what to do when it seems like something or someone is not invited and for that I say good boy.