By Linda Cole
Last July, the U.S. Postal Service honored a little dog named Owney with his very own forever stamp. Owney the Mail Dog was a terrier-mix stray who made his home at the Albany, New York post office and served nine years as the ‘unofficial mascot’ of the U.S. Railway Mail Service. The stamp recognizes Owney’s steadfast loyalty to the mail service. This is a cool interactive stamp and when it’s held up to your computer webcam, you can see Owney barking and running. He was indeed a special dog, and his story is worth retelling so we don’t forget how extraordinary dogs can be.
It was in the day when trains and wagons carried the mail and at the peak of the Railway Mail Service. In 1888, a scraggly looking dog was abandoned by his owner who had been working in the Albany post office. The other mail clerks liked having Owney around and decided to adopt him. He became their unofficial mascot, and made himself at home among the mailbags.
The little dog wasn’t content to live out his days inside the post office, however. He apparently enjoyed traveling and decided it was his job to ride along with the mailbags to guard them. To make sure no one mistook Owney the Mail Dog as a stray or in the event he became lost, the Albany mail clerks gave him a collar with “Owney, Albany Post Office, New York” written on it.
One story recounts a day when they feared Owney was lost. He followed mail that was taken off a train and loaded onto a wagon. It was headed to one of the local post offices. The wagon and mail arrived, but Owney couldn’t be found. Some clerks went back over the route and discovered him patiently waiting on a mail bag that had fallen off the wagon!