Monday, July 25, 2011

Owney, the Postal Dog

I was pleased to see that the Post Office is finally honoring Owney, the Postal Dog with his own stamp. It's about time. There is a restriction that a stamp cannot be issued until five years after someone's death (reduced from ten years in 2007--unless you are a US President), but Owney's been dead 114 years! What took them so long?

I don't know whether Owney's new "extreme makeover" prompted the stamp or vice versa. You see, Owney was taxidermied and on display at the Smithsonian. There he recently underwent a makeover. I suppose procedures must have improved in 114 years.

I saw Owney at the Smithsonian years ago. I have a special place in my heart for animals and I was happy to read again about Owney's adventures. He first showed up in Albany, NY in 1888 at the Railway Post Office. He found a soft spot to sleep on the mail bags and thus started his trips on the mail trains. He became the unofficial mascot of the postal clerks. As he road from stops to stops, they began to give him tags and medals from the various places. His collar became so weighted down that PMG John Wanamaker gave him a harness to hold all his "trophies".

The postal employees considered him a good luck charm. Train wrecks were common occurrences, yet no train he ever road had a wreck.

In 1895 Owney took a trip around the world via train and steamships through Asia and Europe. Finally in 1897 with sight in only one eye and only able to eat soft food and drink milk, it was decided that he should retire in Albany. Yet, traveling was the life that Owney knew and loved.

I just learned this part of Owney's life and it is not a happy ending. It was 1897 when he slipped on a train and ended up in Toledo. From there the facts vary. He supposedly turned on either a postal clerk or a reporter and in the end he was shot dead.

My first thought is that someone was mean to him. After a life of traveling and seeing strangers, it is hard to believe such a dog would become mean.

He was so loved that the postal employees collected money to have him preserved and kept in the Post Office Department in Washington, DC. In 1911 he was transferred to the Smithsonian Institute. Owney traveled over 143,000 miles and earned over 1,000 tags and medals.

When I read of Owney's death, a light bulb went off. Now I know why dogs hate mail carriers--it's the revenge of Owney. Well, those who know me know I look at things a little differently and that's why it's Debbie's Post.

I'm glad Owney's memory lives on on a new forever stamp. Now next how about Dorsey, the dog who actually carried mail in a saddle bag to the miners.

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