Owney, The Post Office Dog
The time was winter 1886, and the place was the post office in Albany, New York, where a cold, bedraggled fox terrier made his way inside looking for shelter.
The postal clerks took him in, fed him, and provided the dog with a warm place to sleep. Owney, as they called him, felt right at home and decided it was his job to follow the mail wagons from the post office to the rail station and back again.
Owney Joins the Postal Service
One day he slipped on to a rail car, and several days later he caught another train back to Albany. Owney began to travel regularly, probably encouraged by some humans, but he always returned to the home office. The clerks in Albany were fond of him and were worried about losing him, so they gave him a collar with the inscription, “Owney, Albany P.O., N.Y.”
For eleven years, Owney traveled the U.S. from New York to California, and he had the tags to prove it. Other post offices began tagging him with “postmarks” that specified where he had visited. Miners in the West inscribed some molded silver as a label of his visit to a mining community; others labeled him with tags of leather or scraps of cloth. Owney started each trip fresh, because in Albany his friends removed and preserved the tags from his previous trip. Occasionally a “travel” book was sent along with him to further document his trips.
Owney Traveled Widely
In July of 1894 a report in The New Orleans Times-Democrat noted that Owney was back in New Orleans again. His last visit to the city had been in the winter of 1892. The article notes: “He never travels in any but mail cars, and when he reaches a town that he forms a good opinion of from the car door, he follows the mail wagon to the Post Office, and when he is ready to travel again, he follows the wagon to some train and is off for parts unknown.
“Since he was here, Owney has taken in the World’s Fair and a part of the widespread labor troubles…[traveling] to Seattle, Washington, Kansas City, Mo.; Memphis, Fort Worth, Taylor, Texas; Waco, San Antonio and Houston.”
Eventually Owney traveled internationally. One of his medals documented an audience with the prime minster of Japan. Owney had become quite a celebrity.
Today Owney’s body has been stuffed and preserved and stands guard in a glass case in Washington, D.C., serving as a reminder of the importance of goodness and loyalty. (New York Times, 3-20-1910)
On July 27, 2011 the postal service release a commemorative stamp in Owney’s honor.