In my line of work I come in contact with things that bite every day. I get fleas around my ankles, spiders and ants, an occasional snake, ticks, bed bugs and even No see em’s once in awhile. After 2 1/2 decades you kind of take things in stride and the occasional wasp that dive bombs you as you’re sweeping down her nest is no longer any real reason to hit the panic button.
There is however one bite I can never get use to, oh sure I play it off like it’s no big deal and always smile when I tell the homeowner that “it’s ok, I don’t think it broke the skin.” The dreaded bite to which I’m referring is from none other than the family pet. It almost always surprises me and the pain of a dog bite is not something that goes away quickly.
In almost every case it is never a big dog that sinks his canine teeth into my calf, it is 99% of the time a little dog, usually a white poodle type and more times than I can remember his name was Snowball.
Now I’m usually very good with animals and I always take time to talk with them and pet them. I fill up their water dishes on hot days (I think that’s all the water some of these poor guy’s get once every couple of months) and even throw a ball or stick. Almost every pet on my route loves to see me coming and that ol tail gets to wagging 100 times per minute. Still, there are a few and mostly on my new accounts that don’t give me any indication of a problem and then WHAM, right into my ankle or calf.
Even when I’m ready for it and I can see the dog doesn’t like me I am taken aback when it happens. Some little guys are habitual about it so the homeowner has them locked away till I leave. They say in surprise things like,”oh he’s never bitten anyone else.” I have to take them at their word I guess and I want to say please put him up or something but they usually leave him run free and now I have to be ready for strike two at any moment. I know I can’t be the only one in these situations, I mean they have a mailman and an occasional repair person come to the house besides me I’m sure. Still, the owner never admits to it and insists that Snowy is a good dog to everyone else and almost always blames my tools I wear.
One sure sign of trouble is when the house is filled with pictures of the little dog and even some very expensive looking paintings. The dog is posing majestically on a silk blanket with its head tilted to the side. Or lying in the green grass with a big red ball placed under one paw. I’m sure this purebred belongs in Westminster or Buckingham Palace but somehow got stuck in my little town in a 2500 square foot home and no butler or maid service. That could explain his disposition and his lashing out tendencies, at least that’s what the therapist’s receipt left on the kitchen counter says. His bowls are monogrammed with his name etched in silver or gold. The most expensive kibbles-n-bits are in the pantry and his toy box is in the corner with every chew toy imaginable. I even think I see a stuffed spray man at the bottom but I don’t dare reach in to get a closer look.
When I arrive the lady of the house usually lets me in and magically disappears leaving me and ‘Cujo’ alone. He barks insensibly and is forever trying to position himself in back of me. I try talking to him but that makes it worse and I end up carrying my sprayer down low and in between me and the Doberman wannabe. The crafty little villain does get a nip or two in on my pant leg so I increase my security measures and even start to walk backwards. I actually spray better under pressure but this is a bit extreme.
Thankfully when I’m done I leave the ticket on the counter next to the pet psychologists’ and head outside. Normally it’s too hot for this pedigreed animal and he’s left to chasing me from door to door and yapping at every window.
Whether it’s the uniform or my tool belt and spray equipment I’m not sure. But there are a few homes I dread because ‘Snowball’ is waiting and the homeowner is oblivious to her demon possessed cute little ball of fur. Finally when I’m packing up to leave there’s the cable repair man walking up the drive or maybe it’s the UPS delivery. Either way in most cases they’ll ask if the homeowner is home and if the dog is put up. I simply smile and say “he’s waiting,” and their worried look turns to a fearful glaze. That’s when I know it’s not all me and the dog from hell is terrorizing others as well. I know I shouldn’t smirk but it’s at least comforting to know that I’m not the only one who suffers from ‘the Snowball effect’ and in a way, that’s therapy for me.