What can you do when your mailman is unable — or unwilling — to deliver your mail? For some residents of an Arvada neighborhood, the answer is frustrating: not much.
Andrea Duran moved into a neighborhood close to Arvada's Olde Town in May 2015 with her soon-to-be husband and their two dogs. As Duran settled into her new life of graduate work at the University of Denver, she quickly noticed that not only was their mail not being delivered, but in many instances, they were receiving their neighbors' mail instead.
As the months passed, Duran says that she missed some important pieces of mail, including government documents, IDs, and even the RSVPs to her marriage to Woodruff. Then nothing was being delivered at all.
"[The mailman] was off and on delivering our mail. He would, then he wouldn't," says Duran. "And then it all stopped altogether on October 1, completely, when we were getting married and started to get our RSVPs back.
"It's horrible. Mail is really important to people," she adds. "Your life can fall apart without it."
In the year and a half since the problem began, Duran says she has been forced to pick up her mail at the post office and complained to the Postal Service multiple times. It wasn't until speaking with her neighbors that she realized that many in her neighborhood were experiencing the same thing. And the culprit? A mailman whose fear of dogs is preventing him from delivering mail.
"He's really afraid of our dogs," says Duran, "even though he has never had to encounter them once, except for hearing them bark."
Neighborhood resident Nic Gillan also says that the local mailman refused to deliver mail after encountering his dog, a tiny Chow mix, on his property.
"Every single neighbor in this ten-to-twenty-house radius has a problem," Gillan adds. "Look, the guy wouldn't even deliver to a house that had a ceramic dog — a statue — out front."
Both Gillan and Duran say they keep their dogs inside during delivery hours but that the mailman still refuses to service their houses. Moreover, both say that they received letters in their mailboxes from the mailman telling them to move their mailboxes down to the street — but the problem continued even after they fulfilled his request.
"Now nobody in our neighborhood has mailboxes on the street except for us two," says Duran.
We reached out to the mailman's supervisor and were directed instead to David Rupert, the Postal Service spokesman for Colorado, who says that the local office has received complaints about this particular mailman.
Rupert says that he can't speak about the specifics of the case but says that it is an example of the fine line between protecting mail carriers and delivering mail. "Think about those people that deliver your mail — think, between 1,200 and 1,500 houses a day — there are a lot of potential hazards," he says. "We want to deliver the mail, but at the same time, we need to protect our employees, so it is about finding that happy medium."
He says that residents with problematic dogs are usually asked to sign a letter agreeing to remedy the situation.
"We never ask our carriers to go into a situation where there is an unrestrained dog," explains Rupert. "If a dog is out, we don’t have our carriers go into that situation. They hold the mail, go back to the post office, and a supervisor goes out and they offer a letter saying, 'I’ll keep my dog restrained during the normal hours of delivery and move the box down to the street.'
"So an easy solution is to have the box on the outside of the fence. Usually that is the resolution nine times out of ten," Rupert adds.
But Duran doesn't have a fence, their mailbox has been down at the street since June, and she says the dogs are kept inside. Across the street at Gillan's house, he says his mailbox has been hit after he moved it down to the street — and a third neighbor who signed an agreement but did not want her name in this story says that she is still getting mail that should be going to different houses, and not getting her own.
"We have complained numerous times, and nothing has happened," says the neighbor. "It’s like their hands are tied or they don’t want to deal with the situation."
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
While this challenge is faced by every post office, Denver is particularly dangerous for mailmen: According to an April 2017 Postal Service report referred to by Rupert, Denver ranks seventh in the country for the most dog-bite events on mail carriers — nearly fifty last year.
Duran and Gillan, though, say that their dogs are peaceful and wouldn't pose a threat even if they were outside. They've recently begun to organize with other neighbors to have the mailman in question removed from their route.
“People are angry — they're starting to revolt," says Duran.
Gillan, however, says it would simply "be great if we had someone who delivered the mail. Is that too much to ask?"