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Hummel column: Those doggies in the window

I work next door to a pet store. Today in the window there were eight of the cutest puppies you will ever see. The store owners never allow an ugly puppy to be in that window. Just "darling" ones. Nobody can walk past that window without stopping and looking. Children beg and cry for a new puppy, even if they have two or three at home. The puppies play, they nap, they seem to show off for the window. On the inside, kids can pet them and get their fingers and noses licked. Who can resist?

Yet, among those eight darling, innocent puppies, at least one will bite a letter carrier or a kid, not because it's a vicious dog, but because of a stupid dog owner. What do letter carriers fear most? Rain? No. Snow? No. Ice? No. Hurricanes? No. Vicious dogs? Well, not exactly. If you ask them they will tell you they fear stupid dog owners most. Here's an example from my zip code. The letter carrier is out on the sidewalk going past the house, about to turn onto the owner's path to the house. The owner is inside the door with his dog watching the mail arrive. The dog is barking, growling, snarling, getting all riled up and banging against the door. Then the owner opens the door and the dog does what angry dogs do -- he attacks the letter carrier -- a mail lady. As he's ripping at her trousers, she tries to kick him away. "Don't kick my dog," hollers the owner. The mail lady says the dog wasn't stupid, the owner was. She was trying to get at her mace squirting device, but she couldn't reach it in the excitement. Later she said she'd have liked to have maced the owner. This particular letter carrier has been attacked by dogs at least a half dozen times. Once a glove saved her hand, once she was bitten on the leg. Other times, her mail bag and trousers were ripped. She says stupid owners were the problem every time.

When I was about eight or nine, I went trick-or-treating on Halloween night. I knocked on the door of our neighbors about a half block from home. At the first knock, their dog Rusty jumped out of the bushes just beside the door and came roaring, snarling and barking after me. I ran screaming for home, terrified. Rusty was fast but I was about a half step faster that night, because I was scared and Rusty wasn't. Rusty never caught me, but he was always two feet behind. Those were friendly neighbors -- they had kids of their own, and they loved kids. So why would they leave a nasty dog (yes, Rusty was always nasty) out on the loose on Halloween night? They were great people, so I won't call them stupid, but they were thoughtless.

In Japan, they have robot dogs. Maybe we have them here too, but I have never heard of them. They are little metal machines that can walk, run and bite. They're for protection. Just this past week, a 34-year-old mail carrier in Japan was bitten by his own robot dog. How can something like that possibly happen? The dog must have had a stupid owner.

I've had dogs -- loved them -- they are wonderful pets. They think you're terrific even when you're a jerk. Man's best friend and all that. But, I don't have one now (actually, I'm usually between dogs -- one on each side in the neighborhood). If you have a dog, don't be stupid -- keep it on a leash or fenced-in in your yard. For heaven's sake, don't let it out when the letter carrier comes, or when there are kids around. Yes, even your dog will bite. And, finally, if you own a robot dog, attach a magnet to a short chain, bolt it to a post and slap that magnet on his rusty iron butt.