letter carrier:
person who delivers mail (often, when the letter carrier is male, ‘a mailman’)

tear off:
remove something by tearing (transitive separable phrasal verb)

adjective describing a manufactured replacement for something natural (e.g. artificial flowers)

very small (fine) drops of liquid (‘pepper spray’ contains chemical that causes pain to eyes of person or animal it is aimed at)

pit bull:
a ‘pit’ is a large hole in the ground; a ‘bull’ is a ‘male cow.’ Pit bulls are dogs originally bred for fighting with bulls in a pit.

a covering for a dog’s mouth to prevent it from biting

feel sorry for:
have feelings of sympathy with; feel bad about someone else’s suffering or unhappiness. A prepositional verb (synonymous with "sympathize with.")

Darlene Wagner (easy version)

On June 3, 2004, Darlene Wagner was working as a letter carrier in Dresden, a small town in Ontario, in central Canada. Darlene had been a letter carrier for thirty years. She was planning to stop working in two years, in 2006.

Like all letter carriers, Darlene knew that dogs could be dangerous. In 1976, she had been bitten by a dog and her arm had been badly injured. But she had never been afraid of dogs and had two of her own.

On June 3, 2004 Darlene was working in the place of another letter carrier who could not go to work on that day.

She had not done this job before and no one had warned her that there were two fierce dogs in one of the houses she had to go to. As she climbed up the steps of this house, the two dogs suddenly ran through the front door and came toward her. Darlene tried to get away from the dogs by running down the steps. She got to the bottom, but as she was running across the sidewalk toward the street, she tripped and fell. The dogs jumped on top of her. When one of them tried to bite her face she turned her head away, and the dog tore her ear off.

After that had happened, the woman who owned the two dogs pulled them away, but Darlene had already been badly hurt. Apart from losing her ear, she had broken both wrists when she fell.

The doctors were not able to put Darlene’s ear back on. They told her that, later, they would give her an “artificial” one.

Darlene was not able to use her hands or arms properly for a long time. While she was getting better, she went to live with her son who lived in another town not far away.

When Darlene was bitten she was carrying a can of pepper spray. Pepper spray doesn’t do any real harm to a dog, but it’s very painful if it gets into its eyes and frightens it away. If Darlene had known about the dogs, she would have had her spray can ready as she climbed the steps. But, because it was her first day on this job, she didn’t know.

Every year in Canada several letter carriers are seriously hurt by dogs. Often, when a letter carrier is bitten, it is a pit bull that does it. For this reason many people think that owning this kind of dog should be against the law.

A few months after Darlene was hurt — and after several other people in Ontario had been bitten by pit bulls. The government said that it was going to make a new law and, in future, people would not be allowed to have this kind of dog. People who already owned pit bulls would be allowed to keep them, but they would have to put a “muzzle” on the dog when they took it into public.

Many people in Ontario and other places think that owning a pit bull should be against the law. There are many other people, though, who say that they say there is nothing wrong with pit bulls. These people say pit bulls are really friendly and playful dogs and that they make good family pets. They say the real problem is not with the dogs but with some owners who teach their dogs to be fierce. They also say that any kind of dog can be dangerous if its owner wants to make it dangerous.

Darlene knew that other kinds of dog could be dangerous. The dog that bit her in 1976 was not a pit bull. But, still, she said, owning a pit bull should be against the law because she thought they were more likely to be dangerous than other kinds of dogs.

The son of the woman who owned the dogs did not agree. He said he felt sorry for Darlene. But he also said his dogs were really friendly and had never bitten anyone before. A month before Darlene was bitten, he said, one of the dogs had been bitten by another dog. He thinks that may have been why it bit Darlene.

-information from: London Free Press, (London, Ontario), 04.06.04 (Teviah Moro and Brian Cleeve); CTV.ca, 04.08.31; Toronto Star, 0410.18