I don’t remember when Cricket discovered that the mailman was the embodiment of evil, but it happened early in her life. She sees him on our street and starts to bark. The closer he gets to our house, the more hysterical her tone of voice – higher pitched and in a faster and faster rhythm until she’s throwing herself against the front door and snarling at him through the glass.
I’ve tried everything to discourage Cricket’s obsessive reaction to the mailman. I used to call her upstairs with the bag of treats in my hand, but I could never break the treats into small enough pieces to outlast the mailman. She still had plenty of time to get back downstairs and bark her message.
She starts barking as soon as she hears his truck coming up the street, and keeps going until he is absolutely, positively, gone. Sometimes he has the nerve to park right in front of our house and then slowly bring the mail to all of the houses on our street, returning to the truck for new batches, forgetting mail and having to go back again, waiting until the end to go back and take the packages from the truck that he couldn’t carry the first time through.
We have a pet gate a few feet away from the front door because our previous dog had severe separation anxiety and would always try to leave the house when we did. So we tried closing the pet gate for Cricket so she couldn’t actually see the mailman coming. But, she can hear him. And she hears him before we do, so we never get the pet gate closed in time.
She has a mailman early warning system in her brain that I seem to lack.
One time, when the mailman arrived, I opened the door to get the mail. I probably didn’t know he was still there when I opened the door, because I would have been hiding on the stairs if I’d known, but once he was there I smiled and tried to be friendly. But he grimaced at me and asked, “Is the dog there?” in this about-to-pee-his-pants tone of voice. Cricket was standing about two feet behind me, so I closed the door and let him get on with his business.
It has generalized so that if Cricket sees a mailman when we’re out walking, even if it’s not Cricket’s mail man, she barks. And if she sees a white truck passing by, even a truck with a small amount of white on it, she barks. She has generalized her anger, like a child who was bitten by a dog who learns to fear all dogs.
Butterfly, our new dog, has not learned to fear the mailman, yet. She just stands at the top of the stairs and watches Cricket bark and throw herself at the door. I hope she doesn’t start to think this behavior is normal.