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Owney, the Postal Mascot

Owney, the Postal MascotIn observance of the fourth week of September—National Dog Week—it seems appropriate to mention Owney, the Postal Mascot.

One day in 1888 a stray dog, looking something like a Scotch terrier, with curly yellow and gray hair and large brown eyes, sneaked into the Albany, New York post office, curled up on a pile of empty mailbags, and was discovered next morning by the postal clerks. The postmen, unable after several days to find his owner, decided to call him “Owney” because the little dog always pricked up his ears when they asked him “Who is your owner? Owney! Owney!”

One day he got a chance to ride a mail train, which was the beginning of his travels throughout the U.S.—and eventually—all over the world. He traveled over 143,000 miles by steamship and train during his lifetime. He became so popular that people gathered at the rail stops just to get a glimpse of him looking out the postal wagon window. Aware that the distances traveled by Owney were growing longer and longer, the postal clerks placed metal pins on his collar with the names of the railway stations of his destinations. Soon he had so many pins attached to his collar that it became too small to hold them all, so he was given a small jacket to attach the pins.

During his lifetime, Owney received many awards from canine societies and from railway and cultural organizations. He died in June 1897 from a bullet wound; the exact details of how this happened are unclear. He and his exceptional story can now be found in a prominent display case at the National Postal Museum.

Beverly Coward

Sources consulted:

Owney the Post Office Dog and Other Great Dog Stories, compiled and edited by Joe L. Wheeler, SF 426.2.096 2004 NPM.

Owney, the postal dog, a tired, hungry puppy, an open door, a quiet corner and rest, then new adventures, mail cars, boats, travel, a trip around the world. A true story, by Avah W. Hughes, PZ 10.3 H85 OW 1935 NPM.

A small dog's big life: around the world with Owney, by Irene Kelly, PZ 10.3.K295 SM 2005 NPM.

A Lucky Dog, Owney, U.S. Rail Mail Mascot, by Dirk Wales, HE 6076.W35 2003, NPM.

Postal Dogs, by Salvador Bofarull, SF 428.2.B64 2008, NPM.

For more images of Owney: http://arago.si.edu/flash/?s1=5|sq=Owney|sf=0

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