The United States Postal Service Knuckles Under to the Threats and Lies of a Cat-Hater and Gives Sammy the Boot
"Sammy (the post office cat) is no longer allowed in this building due to a customer complaint. Thanks for your help."
--- Carolyn Hood, temporary Postmistress
An orange tabby known as Sammy who had served as the mascot of the Notasulga Post Office for a decade now finds himself on the outside looking in as the result of the machinations of a local cat-hater. (See photo above.)
Owned by Lorenz Ponzig who lives on Lyons Street less than a block away, Sammy used to stop by the Alabama post office each morning where he would nap on a front table in between greeting customers and well-wishers. All of that came to an abrupt end last month when an anonymous female resident of the Auburn suburb of nine-hundred-sixteen souls decided to make a stink about his presence.
She began her frontal assault by complaining to temporary postmistress Carolyn Hood that since Sammy did not pay federal taxes he therefore had no right to be in the building. Despite the stupidity of the argument, Hood fell for it hook, line, and sinker and promptly gave Sammy the bum's rush.
"She (the complainant) acted very ugly on the phone with me," Hood told The Tuskegee News on January 15th. (See "Notasulga's 'Post Office Cat' Receives National Attention.") "I told her I'd do everything I could to keep the cat outside."
True to her word, Hood posted the following notice on the front of the building: "Sammy (the post office cat) is no longer allowed in this building due to a customer complaint. Thanks for your help."
As any simpleton should know, the ailurophobe's argument is pure rubbish in that all sorts of individuals, such as illegal immigrants, foreign tourists, exchange students, tax-cheats, and the unemployed, tramp in and out of federal buildings every day without paying a solitary cent in federal taxes. In fact, the avoidance of paying taxes is not merely viewed as a badge of honor by some Americans but it also is a sure-fire way of landing a high-ranking position within blowhard Obama's corrupt-as-hell administration.
More to the point, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been an independent agency ever since the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970 and as such it technically is not even part of the federal bureaucracy. It therefore is free to admit or bar anyone or any animal that it chooses from its premises. It also sets its own rates which, coincidentally, are going up again on May 11th.
The objection that Sammy is not a paying customer is equally without merit in that the same argument could be invoked to bar all sorts of individuals from entering postal facilities without first making a financial contribution. In order to make the enforcement of such a rule feasible, customers would have to either make their purchases at the door or pay admission.
Hood's precipitate action was met with open rebellion from Sammy's supporters around town. "But the town went crazy after the sign went up," she admitted to The Tuskegee News in the article cited supra. "They call (Sammy) in here more than ever now."
On January 7th, for instance, about fifteen of the cat's vociferous supporters persuaded a reporter from WFSA-TV in Montgomery to travel to Notasulga and do a feature on the brouhaha. On that historic occasion, legendary former Auburn University football coach Pat Dye, who is arguably Notasulga's most famous current resident, told the cameras, "Sammy's got more friends in Notasulga than any other individual I know."
Dye is furthermore quoted by KARE-TV of Minneapolis on January 9th as adding, "We ain't worried about football. We're worried about the cat." (See "Post Office Feline Sparks Cat Fight in Small Alabama Town.") Sammy should be flattered because there are few things in life that Alabamians love more than football.
"He doesn't bother a soul," an unidentified resident volunteered for KARE-TV.
"Bother me?" another resident scoffed to The Tuskegee News. "I was going to suggest we put in a cat door for him."
Eighty-seven-year-old retired schoolteacher Elizabeth Averrett thought that she had hit upon a more practical way of getting around the ban when she and Louise Pratt pooled their resources and purchased a post office box in Sammy's name. (See photo above of Everrett.)
The idea was an immediate success and the mail poured in from all across the country and even from as far away as Austria. In fact, between January 9th and January 13th Sammy received sixty-eight letters as well as two packages.
Included in the haul were a homemade treat from Wisconsin, assorted cat food, toys, a gift certificate, and money. Averrett and Pratt have announced that they plan on donating the food and moola to a local humane group.
Although the post office box was a resounding success in attracting worldwide attention to the injustice being done to Sammy, it backfired politically in that it soon caught the attention of Hood's superiors higher up in the postal bureaucracy who retaliated by ordering that Sammy be kept out of the facility under all circumstances.
This was without doubt attributable to the relentlessness of Sammy's opponent. When her tax argument was thwarted, she changed tactics and pleaded that Sammy had to go because she was allergic to cats.
When that did not work, she pulled out all the stops and charged that Sammy had attacked her one night while she was inside the building. Of course, there were not any witnesses to this alleged attack and Sammy, unfortunately, does not have any method of refuting her lies.
Taken altogether, her actions demonstrate writ large not only how ingrained and pervasive ailurophobia is, but more importantly the extraordinary lengths that cat-haters are prepared go to in order to harm the species. At last report, Sammy is still banned from entering the building although he is able to greet his supporters on the sidewalk outside. (See photo above.)
Readers of Rita Mae Brown's enormously popular murder mysteries will immediately recognize the parallels between what happened to Sammy and the cats and dog owned by the fictional Mary Minor "Harry" Haristeen. As postmistress of tiny Crozet in southern Virginia, Harry for years worked alongside her cats, Mrs. Murphy and Pewter, and a female corgi named Tee Tucker until her superiors banned them from the facility.
Unlike Hood, however, Harry chose to resign her commission rather than to be deprived of the presence of her beloved companions. (See Brown's tome, Cat's Eyewitness.)
In marked contrast to the anti-animal policies of their supervisors, some letter carriers have been known to harbor soft spots in their hearts for cats and dogs. One such postal employee is fifty-two-year-old Kim Pinkham of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, who is so dedicated to helping cats and dogs that she has been dubbed an "animal vigilante" by some of her critics. (See photo above of her at home with some of her cats and dogs.)
"I'm not a policeman (sic)," she told the La Crosse Tribune in defense of her advocacy on January 19th. (See "Postal Carrier Helps Out Cats, Dogs Seen During Route.") "It's not my authority, but it is my business."
Since she began delivering the mail in May of 2004, she has, inter alia, shelled out $200 for a Caesarian section for a black feral cat named Bailey with paralyzed rear legs, coaxed a cat down from a tree, secured a blanket for a dog forced to live outdoors in the cold, and provided food and a doghouse for a pregnant black Labrador Retriever and Coon Hound mix. She later even found homes for the dog's puppies.
As for why she has taken it upon herself to save the neglected and abandoned cats and dogs that she encounters along her mail route, Pinkham says simply, "They present themselves to me."
In England, letter carriers have been fraternizing with cats for ages. In the tiny village of Woolavington in Somerset County, par exemple, a four-year-old black cat named Charlie has been making the rounds inside Nick Lock's mailbag for the past month or so. (See photo above.)
It would not be completely accurate, however, to suggest that this unlikely arrangement came about because Charlie has the slightest interest in the efficient delivery of the mail; au contraire, that credit belongs to Old Blighty's notoriously dreadful weather. One day it was raining, well, cats and dogs, and Charlie scampered into Lock's unattended mailbag in order to escape the deluge.
Apparently liking what he found inside, Charlie now regularly accompanies Lock while he delivers the mail. "Most days now he's about," Lock told the BBC on January 29th. (See "Cat Helps Deliver Town's Letters.") "I think it's because he likes people. I don't think he likes being by himself."
This unusual arrangement is just peachy with Charlie's eighteen-year-old guardian, Lara Lucas of Meadway Road. "I couldn't believe it when he started going around in Nick's bag," she told the BBC in the article cited supra. "When I heard about it I fell into fits of laughter."
Then there is the case of a six-year-old ginger and white tomcat named Beezley from the coastal town of Lyme Regis in Dorset who has been making the rounds with forty-four-year-old mailman Terry Grinter for well over a year. (See Cat Defender post of October 13, 2008 entitled "Life Imitates Art as a Small Town in Dorset Acquires Its Very Own Version of Postman Pat and Jess in the Form of Terry and Beezley.")
In this instance, Beezley reclines on top of Grinter's mailbag as he maneuvers his two-wheeler up and down the hilly streets of Lyme Regis. (See photo above.)
Not all feline encounters with the postal services are pleasant affairs, however. For instance, last summer a one-year-old black cat named Janosch from Rottach-Egern in Bayern unwittingly became trapped inside a neighbor's shipping crate and was mistakenly sent seven-hundred-seventeen kilometers through the post to the Nordrhein-Westfalen city of Dorsten. (See Cat Defender post of July 21, 2008 entitled "Janosch Survives Being Sent Through the Post from Bayern to the Rhineland.")
Luckily for him, an alert postal employee noticed that something was alive and moving inside the crate and freed him. It took some doing, but the wayward moggy eventually was reunited with his grateful owner, Gitti Rauch. (See photo directly above.)
Al things considered, most postal workers around the globe keep an open mind when it comes to cats. After all, a cat is sans doute a welcome sight to any letter carrier who has just been chased down the block by a vicious dog nipping at either his or her heels.
In Notasulga, however, the authorities have overreacted to the rantings of a cat-hater. Notasulga is a small town and since Sammy has been a mainstay at the post office for a decade he should have been allowed to remain.
Perhaps if there is enough of a hue and cry from cat-lovers the post office will be forced to reconsider its inhumane edict. After all, the patronage of sixty-million feline owners is a big chunk of change that the U.S. Mail hardly can afford to lose.
For the time being at least, Sammy still can be reached at Post Office Box 173, Notasulga, AL 36866.
Photos: The Tuskegee News (Sammy and Averrett), KARE-TV (Sammy and his supporters), Peter Thomson of the La Crosse Tribune (Pinkham), BBC (Charlie and Lock), Richard Austin of the Daily Mail (Beezley and Grinter), and Theo Klein of Bild (Janosch and Rauch).