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Jul 15, 2009 12:14 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Man's best friend may follow post office to new home

Jul 15, 2009 12:14 PM

Thirty-five years ago, the Southampton Post Office lost the best employee it ever had.

During eight years of service, he never missed a single day of work, and he wasn’t even paid—that is, if you don’t count treats and steak burgers that business owners fed him along the route as compensation.

Bee Bee the dog was the mailman’s traveling companion. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, he knew everyone on Main Street, and everyone knew him. Twice a day, Monday through Saturday, Bee Bee could be seen accompanying the mailman on his route through the business district. Though the face of the mailman changed many times over those years, Bee Bee was always there, making sure the mail all got to its destination and not resting until the mailman’s bag was empty.

The shaggy pooch walked his last rounds on June 10, 1974, at age 12. The postmaster later arranged for Bee Bee to be buried in front of the post office on Nugent Street, and, ever since, a monument to Bee Bee has remained there. It reads: “A shaggy dog and mailmen’s faithful escort.”

Now that the post office has relocated from Nugent Street to North Sea Road—the new facility opened on Monday—Southampton Postmaster Walter Marsicovetere says he intends to have the monument moved to the new facility, to be placed near the flagpole out front. And, he said, if it can be arranged, Bee Bee will be reinterred there too.

This week, the people closest to Bee Bee recounted their time with the dog.

Though Bee Bee spent most of his day on the route, or waiting at the post office, his home was on Windmill Lane with the Etheridge family. Elton and Florence Etheridge’s young daughters—they’re now adults: Linda Gillam, Wanda Turpin and Kim Jarvis—picked Bee Bee from a litter of puppies that Ms. Etheridge’s brother, Bill Lee, was giving away. Bee Bee was the only shaggy one in the bunch. They surmised he was a fox terrier, collie and sheepdog mix.

He was a friendly dog that they could let out of the house knowing he wouldn’t get into any trouble and would always come home.

In the spring of 1966, Bee Bee began hanging out on Nugent Street outside the post office, which had been built just a couple of years earlier. “He started coming around in the back of the post office, then he started following me,” recalled the Reverend Albert Brown, who was the postman assigned to the village business district route at that time.

Bee Bee must have enjoyed his first day, because he began to wait for Rev. Brown each morning.

Mr. Etheridge said that, after some initial confusion, Bee Bee began to sense when it was a Sunday or a holiday and wouldn’t head to the post office on those days. But when the post office was open, Bee Bee would arrive like clockwork.

“Rain or shine, snow, wind—he was there,” Rev. Brown said. Soon, Bee Bee became a local celebrity and the subject of media fascination.

In addition to being a mailman, Rev. Brown was also pastor of First Baptist Church of Southampton. “I was carrying mail for the government and mail for the Lord,” he said. And eventually, Rev. Brown left the Postal Service to become a full-time pastor.

But Bee Bee remained on duty.

“When I left, he stayed on and broke in the next person,” said Rev. Brown, who, for 34 years, right up until his retirement last year, was pastor of First Baptist Church of Bay Shore. He moved back to Southampton Village with his wife, Florence, in December, just in time to see the new post office being erected.

The mail carrier who went on to spend the most years with Bee Bee by his side was Avery Dennis of the Shinnecock Indian Reservation. “I just remember him being a good friend,” Mr. Dennis said this week. “He kept me company along my route.”

Bee Bee was also a timekeeper. “He knew when it was 9 o’clock, and I was supposed to go out the door,” Mr. Dennis said.

In between the early delivery and afternoon, Bee Bee waited outside the post office, or lay next to Mr. Dennis’s desk until it was time to hit the sidewalk again. And Bee Bee protected the postman from perceived threats: Mr. Dennis said the dog was suspicious of men with long, shaggy hair—ironic, considering the dog’s own hairstyle.

A woman on Mr. Dennis’s residential route had a shaggy dog of her own, and she once asked if her dog could mate with Bee Bee. The Etheridges were given the pick of the resulting litter and named Bee Bee’s offspring Jippy. Mr. Etheridge said Jippy would try to follow his father to the post office, but Bee Bee would never let him join and chased the pup back home. Bee Bee was very protective of his job.

Other postmen would try to take Bee Bee along on their rounds, but Mr. Dennis said the dog would not stray from the business route. “He wanted that one special route,” he said. But if Mr. Dennis missed work, and a substitute mail carrier filled in for him, Bee Bee would follow.

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What a great story... These are the things that make living in a small town
really worth it.
By ride the truth wave (125), southampton on Jul 15, 09 1:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
Now THIS is a good piece of writing and an excellent story. Something worth reading here for a change.
By slamminsammy (104), Hampton Bays on Jul 15, 09 4:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
An excellent story. By all means Bee Bee should be re-interred at the new post office location. It's nice it's been 4 decades and the aninal is not forgotten!
By BruceB (142), Sag Harbor on Jul 16, 09 5:50 PM
1 member liked this comment
This story added even more happiness to a beautiful sunny day!
By baywoman (165), southampton on Jul 19, 09 2:38 PM
1 member liked this comment
The never ending letters from Ms. Lynch and the others complaining about Animal Control make my head hurt.

This story certainly brought a smile to my face! We can love our animals without ranting endlessly!!

Great story!
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Jul 23, 09 8:57 AM