There are countless stories in the news about dogs being run over by the mailman, but the tragic death of one little French Bulldog has been keeping his heartbroken owner in a constant state of turmoil one year later.
For Louisiana veteran Patty Weston, the story began in June of 2018. “Max became a family member when he was given to me by a friend whose cancer had returned, and he felt he couldn’t manage both,” recalled Weston. Max was an adorable little Frenchie with a charming, exuberant personality.
“Max was my constant at a time that was very dark for me,” said Weston, a Vietnam era veteran who has experienced homelessness. “He was the light that I so badly needed then.”
A few months later, Weston’s life changed. “I suddenly lost my home through unfortunate circumstances, and I had nowhere to go, due to my financial status, so I was basically homeless. A friend finally stepped up and offered me ‘the family camp house’ until I could get help. The house was old and worn, so out of concern for Max and Sammigirl, a 16 year old Emotional Support Animal, I thought it would be best if I could find foster care for them. I immediately found care for Sammigirl, but I couldn’t find anyone for Max,” said Weston.
She explained that the little dog was young, energetic, and had allergy issues, so finding him temporary care proved impossible. “Maybe it was because of his breed, but after running ads, reaching out to friends, and even calling the local vets for referrals, I had no choice but to keep him with me. I just wanted the best for him and I wanted him to be happy. I tried so hard,” she said.
A “FUR-EVER FAMILY” UNTIL TRAGEDY STRUCK
“I did all the right things for Max; obedience school, surgery to correct a birth defect, and I had him neutered. He had meds for his constant allergies and heartworm prevention, and I kept him current on his vaccines. He had his friends to play with, and he was always protected from the heat; which is important to his breed,” said Weston.
According to Weston, every day was a new adventure as she introduced Max to all the things Sammigirl enjoyed; swimming in the bayou, hiking at the nature park, cruising on the lakefront, and daily walks around the neighborhood. Weston enjoys photography so she would often take pictures and videos, documenting all of their adventures on film. In fact, the two dogs enjoyed getting selfies as much as she did, so that became a Sunday ritual.
And then, one day, the unthinkable happened.
“A friend was helping me with some things in the camp house, and mistakingly left a door open, so Max got out,” she recalled, adding, “I didn’t know. God, if only I had known.”
“I rushed him to a vet, thinking maybe they could save him, but his little chest had filled with blood,” Weston sadly recalled.
Still devastated a year after her dog’s tragic demise, Weston wants the country’s post offices to change the way such issues are handled. “On a personal, community, and management level, the post offices need to prevent these tragedies,” she stated, adding, ”When they do happen, there must be reports, documented statistics, and accountability. This information must be available to the public upon request.”
“Mr. Cox’s only statement to me at the scene afterwards was, ‘I saw the dog sitting on the road. I didn’t intentionally run over it’”, Weston recalled. “I was literally in shock, sitting there on the gravel, crying like a baby, holding Max in my lap as I waiting for my friend to return with the car. I didn’t even know who this man was, and everything from that point on is like a blur to me. Witnesses on the scene told me what he had said.
“It’s the same statement I had gotten from his wife, co-worker and Post Master. It’s as though they were reciting a phrase from a playbook. Are those words suppose to make it all better?”
Prior to adopting him, Max was a serial car-chaser, so Weston had to train him to stop that bad habit. Looking back, she now feels that Max was lonely. “He might have run after the mailman that day to make friends with him,” she said, adding that her poor little dog was killed upon impact. She said she learned after Max’s death about how the mail carrier would often speed down that particular road.
CHANGE IS CRUCIAL
Weston stated that the post office must develop a policy on these types of tragedies, which rural contractors must also comply with. There must be accountability when they do harm or kill a pet.
“Grief counseling should be offered and made possible at the expense of the agency when they are at fault” she noted. “Vehicles must be equipped with up-to-date technology, including those who hold contracts, and especially on vehicles used in rural areas. The post offices must have safety classes for every driver, including those on contract, and disciplinary action should be taken when drivers are reported for breaking the rules of the road.”
She states, “It is not enough to simply change a driver’s route after the driver harms or kills a customer’s beloved pet”.
PET LIVES MATTER
President Trump recently passed bills pertaining to the health and welfare of animals, because in today’s society, pets are recognized as family, and they deserve protection just as humans do. “My pets, my companions, are family to me and my most valued treasures,” said Weston.
She recalled the idyllic life she had with Max and Sammigirl until it was tragically cut short on March 11th, 2019.
“I miss his nite-nite kiss before going into his kennel to sleep. He was was my baby. He was Sammigirl’s baby, too.”
SEEKING ANSWERS…AND CLOSURE
“There should be regulations to guide mail carriers on proper procedure to follow when a pet is injured,” Weston pointed out. She’s been upset with the way the mailman who hit Max refuses to discuss the incident with her.
“Since he won’t tell me anything else, I can only assume that Max did not run out in front of him. I think that maybe Max ran up to the next house further down the road, to meet the mailman. He was very social and loved meeting new people.”
The thought of her sweet little dog trying to make friends with the mailman on the day he was killed breaks Weston’s heart. She explained, “I feel like I let him down, because of the acute depression I was suffering through at the time. My heart is so broken that I can’t even describe how difficult the pain is… or how I’m haunted at night. The loss of Max has deepened my depression.”
Weston said that postal workers must be more alert and cautious while driving through neighborhoods. “How does someone see a dog sitting on the road, and then drive right over it? Max showed no sign of an injury—no broken bones, and no blood. However, there were tire tracks left on his little white belly and chest…and the awful smell of rubber.”
Weston later learned that the mail carrier would sometimes speed through the rural area. “Also, his co-worker stated to me that it’s necessary that they take their eyes off the road to read the addresses on the mail. She then justified it by saying all drivers do. What if a child had been sitting on the road?
“Mr Cox could have been my hero that day. He could have gotten out of his vehicle and walked up the neighbors’ driveway with Max to ensure his safety,” Weston said, noting that the mailman had just pulled away from a delivery when Max was run over. “Is it possible that Mr. Cox pulled off too abruptly and startled Max, disabling his reaction time? Why would there be tire tracks on his body and the smell of rubber? I can only assume that Mr. Cox was in too big of a hurry to get his route done.”
In the year since he ran over poor Max, Mr. Cox has not once reached out to Weston to follow up on her letter or repeated phone calls. “It seems he has been hiding behind his wife’s shirt tail rather than speaking to me. She is his boss. How do I find closure? What are they hiding? I have so many questions still, but haven’t gotten any answers.”
SEEKING JUSTICE FOR MAX
To this day, her grief and panic episodes are relentless. “My sleep is constantly interrupted with thoughts of Max, while tears stream down my face. That is, if I can get to sleep. I sometimes think I should get another dog, but the pain of losing Max is too overwhelming.”
Sammigirl has not been the same since her little brother died. “I know she misses him too, because she sometimes looks for him when we return to the house we had shared together. She seems to have lost interest in doing most things, and mostly sleeps now as her health declines. A year ago, she was very active, running around and playing with Max, talking long daily walks, and hiking like a young dog, even while wearing her own backpack. But now, she’s different.
Max and Sammigirl were my family, and my only support. Losing Max was the most devastating thing that I have ever experienced.”