Life has changed on Bluff Avenue in the last three weeks.
Mail carriers have banned the entire street since two pit bull dogs broke loose, knocked down a carrier and bit her.
The owner, Amanda Radley, can’t understand why it happened. She says the carrier shouldn’t be afraid to come back.
But just across the street, Robert Peek has told his 5-year-old twins that they can’t ride their bikes up their dead-end road any more, for fear the pit bulls might attack again. What scared him was that it appeared to be unprovoked: The mail carrier wasn’t even in front of the dogs’ home; she had her back turned, delivering mail to a house about 20 feet away.
On both sides of the road, dogs occasionally run loose. The main difference: Peek’s pit bull obeys commands, coming back to sit and stay when ordered.
Radley’s pit bulls play a boisterous game of keep-away, dodging their owners and ignoring shouted commands as they run down the street and into neighbors’ yards.
All of the dogs are popular with the dozen young children on the street, who play with them every afternoon.
Radley lets children walk one of her dogs — even children whose names she doesn’t know. The other dog, though, stays on a short leash, where it cries and strains to get free. That’s the dog that bit the mail carrier.
Peek’s dogs go off-leash sometimes too, playing in their driveway. But when the dogs ignore the rules and race into the street, Peek calls them back sharply — and they obey.
While Radley can’t understand how her dogs could have attacked anyone, Peek has a simple answer. He thinks they’re bad dog trainers.
“They’re young people, in their 20s,” he said. “After [the attack] they’re still letting them run loose. It’s not the dog’s fault. It’s the way they raise them.”
He’s watched Radley and her boyfriend Matthew Kennedy playing with Sonic, who bit the carrier. Kennedy regularly tosses a plastic toy in the air for Sonic to catch. But most of the time, Sonic doesn’t want to give it back, and Kennedy hasn’t been able to teach him the command, “drop it.” On Friday, he pulled and tugged at the toy, and finally swung the dog around and around in the air, trying to get him to let go.
A pit bull can lock its jaw and hang on, a trait that makes it dangerous if it attacks someone. Peek thinks that by swinging the dog around, Kennedy taught Sonic to bite aggressively.
“That’s how you teach them to lock their jaws, you let ’em bite something and you swing them around,” he said.
But Kennedy said he just wanted to play with the dog. He laughed when Sonic wouldn’t let go. After a minute, the laughter turned to irritation. Finally, with help, he pried the dog’s jaws open.
“Jeez, dog,” he said. “Can somebody give me some other toy?”
Peek wasn’t impressed.
“Honestly, I don’t think people like that — they should not be allowed to have any dog. They should be taken away from people like that,” he said. “A dog’s like a weapon. It’s not the gun’s fault, it’s the person holding it. You can train a dog to do anything.”
Police issued four tickets to Radley after the attack, accusing her of having two loose dogs and two dangerous dogs. But after confirming that they were vaccinated, the dogs were not confiscated.
Radley still can’t understand how it happened — she even introduced the dogs to the carrier earlier in the summer and saw no signs of aggression, she said.
“We had the dogs on the porch and she was afraid. We said, 'No, they’re perfectly harmless,’ ” Radley said. “I don’t know what happened.”