In the 1880s in San Bernardino county–just northeast of Los Angeles–the town of Calico, California, had an unusual mail carrier—a dog.
Jim Stacy worked as postmaster in Calico and his brother Alwin ran a general store near the Bismarck mines, about a mile and half from Calico.
At some point, Jim Stacy acquired a dog named Dorsey. Dorsey has been identified as a Border Collie, an English Shepherd and a Scotch Collie, but more likely was some mixture of any of the above. The story goes that one day Jim wanted to get a message to Alwin but didn’t want to make the trip himself. He decided to experiment by tying letter around Dorsey’s neck; he took the dog out and pointed him toward the other town, saying “Bismarck!”
Dorsey hesitated at first but with added encouragement he started on his trip. Dorsey was not seen around Calico the rest of the day but the next day he appeared with a response from Alwin.
The idea of Dorsey carrying a letter or two back and forth soon caught on with the miners who loved the Dog Delivery System. At first, Dorsey was sent off with a single letter or two, but then one of the Stacy brothers came up with a way to create a wearable mail pouch for the dog. Soon Dorsey’s route became a regular thing. The miners reported that Dorsey stopped at one or two of their houses where he was petted and likely fed, but he concluded his trip by stopping off at the store where the pouch was unloaded and reloaded with outgoing messages.
From 1883-1886 Dorsey regularly carried the U.S. mail. The assignment ended only because the mine closed and many of the miners moved away. When the Stacy brothers moved to a new community it was said that they gave Dorsey to San Francisco financier John S. Doe, who owned an interest in the mine.
The story of Dorsey was given added life when country western singer Kenny Rogers recorded an album called “The Ballad of Calico” in 1972. One of the songs was called “Dorsey, the Mail Carrying Dog.”
For another story about a dog who made his home at a post office, see Owney, the Post Office Dog.