Doggie double take

It’s Halloween time, Americans are rallying around the Postal Service, people love their pets, and who couldn’t use a good chuckle right about now?

Count those among the reasons you’re quite likely to see dogs dressed as letter carriers in your neighborhood and social media feed these days.

The officially licensed USPS dog costume, introduced two years ago, has become nothing less than a blockbuster — selling more than 10,000 units since January on the Postal Store alone, and proving popular with retailers such as Amazon, Chewy, Target and more.

It’s only the second official costume in USPS history, following in the footsteps of the U.S. Mail carrier kids costume that’s been available for years.

“Dog costume customers smile and giggle, and they learn something, too,” said Stamp Products and Exhibitions Manager Amity Kirby, pointing out that USPS requires the licensee, California Costumes, to include information on the packaging to educate consumers about keeping postal employees safe around pets.

The costumes for dogs and kids are among an ever-growing portfolio of USPS licensed products that create royalty revenue for the organization without the expense of manufacturing and marketing.

Categories include apparel, accessories, gift and novelty items, toys, stationery and — with an eye toward the Postal Service’s 250th anniversary in 2025 — publishing.

“This is a great opportunity to engage with a new customer,” Kirby explained. “We’re aiming to capture the attention of a new generation of potential USPS customers while allowing existing customers to engage with USPS in nontraditional ways.”

The dog costume, Kirby added, is spreading much-needed goodwill and delight.

“It’s doggone cute,” she said, and the beauty of it?

“We get paid for it.”

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Got your flu shot yet?

The Postal Service is encouraging employees to get a flu shot, which will be more important than ever this season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Flu vaccines don’t prevent the coronavirus, but they help to reduce flu-related illnesses, missed work and school, hospitalizations, deaths and burdens on the health care system. This means more medical resources can be directed toward easing the pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts there could be an increase in coronavirus cases during the fall and winter, so it’s important for everyone to remain vigilant and do their part to stay healthy.

With rare exceptions, everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine. Vaccination is especially important for people at high risk of developing flu-related complications.

Most Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plans cover flu vaccines at low or no cost.

While the flu exists year-round in the United States, it is most widespread during the fall and winter. The flu generally increases in October, peaks between December and February, and continues until May.

The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine early in the fall and by the end of October. Individuals should aim to be vaccinated before the flu begins to spread in their community because it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to provide protection against the flu.

Influenza usually emerges with moderate illness symptoms; however, it can cause serious complications, such as pneumonia and bronchitis. The flu also makes worse chronic health conditions, like asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

Healthy habits — such as avoiding people who are sick, staying home when sick, covering your cough, cleaning frequently touched surfaces and washing your hands — can help stop the spread of germs.

Getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, managing stress and eating nutritious food will also help keep viruses away.

Additionally, during the pandemic, USPS requires all employees to wear face coverings when there is a state or local face covering order or directive in place or when an employee — including those who do not deal directly with the public — cannot achieve or maintain social distancing in the workplace.

The CDC website has more information about flu prevention, while the Wellness LiteBlue page has overall health information.