Dogs have a special place in our hearts, but some dogs also have a special place in history. Our Historical Hounds series focuses on those notable and extraordinary dogs. In their own ways, all dogs are heroes. We wish to bring attention to their shining examples and characteristics so that they are not forgotten.
You may have heard of Owney, or you might not have. But this scruffy mutt captured the hearts of Americans everywhere in the late 1880s. He’s represented in everything from his own stamps to his own song, sung by country music legend Trace Adkins.
While details are vague, it’s believed that Owney was owned by a postal clerk who, upon moving, left the dog with the post office. The pup was strangely drawn to the scent and feel of mailbags, so he quickly made a home for himself in the post office of Albany New York.
That is, until instead of just snoozing in mailbags, Owney opted to start following them around. This led him to ride along on mail wagons and mail trains across the state, across the country, and even around the world!
Owney, The Good Luck Charm
To the mail clerks who knew Owney, or knew of him, the dog became something of a good luck charm. Train wrecks were a somewhat common occurrence, yet no train the dog ever rode on crashed. He soon became the unofficial mascot of the Railway mail clerks.
As Owney’s travels became more and more consistent, many clerks would mark his journeys by placing tags on his collar that were later collected and stored at the Post Office in Albany. He was even gifted a harness from Postmaster General John Wanamaker to help alleviate the growing weight of the tags that the dog would accrue over time.
One Brookely Daily Eagle report stated that “when he jogs along, they (the tags) jingle like the bells on a junk wagon.”
Owney Is Gone, But Not Forgotten
While Owney may have lived quite the eventful life, his final days ended in misfortune. Details are unclear, but it’s believed that the pooch became less friendly in old age and wasn’t as willing to partake in the life he once led. Ill-reported events eventually led to Owney dying from a bullet wound while in Toledo, Ohio in 1897.
The Post Office raised funds to have the dog preserved. He can be seen today in The Smithsonian Institution in the National Postal Museum’s atrium. He is surrounded by several of his tags and still wearing the harness that he was gifted.
Even though he passed away, he made a lot of people happy and will not be forgotten.
To learn more about Owney you can visit his Facebook page.
Are you happy that Owney is still honored to this day? What other Historical Hounds do you want to know about? Let us know in the comments below!