Hint: Let me ride the rails again!

Yesterday, to commemorate a pup who provided good luck to the Railway Mail Service, the United States Postal Service issued 60 million Owney the Postal Dog Forever stamps.

The Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum is debuting a new exhibit that chronicles his adventures and  announcing an Owney photo look-alike contest.  In conjunction with the contest, the museum is also issuing an Owney iPhone application and an Owney iPad interactive e-book.

Who is Owney, Anyway?

According to the United States Postal Service press release:

In the 1880s, during the height of the Railway Mail Service, clerks in the Albany, NY, Post Office took a liking to a mixed terrier named Owney. Fond of riding in postal wagons, Owney followed mailbags onto trains and soon was known as a good-luck charm to Railway Mail Service employees who made him their unofficial mascot. Working in the Railway Mail Service was highly dangerous…more than 80 mail clerks were killed in train wrecks and more than 2,000 were injured between 1890 and 1900. However, it was said that no train ever met with trouble while Owney was aboard.

I’m as big a sucker for a cute terrier mix as the next person — maybe more so (right, Frankie)? And I’m sure I’ll buy a poopload of those stamps (though I’ll probably pass on the phone app and the e-book).

So what’s my problem?

The USPS is issuing 60 million stamps. That would suggest to me that a LOT of people like dogs — and are willing to spend money on images of them. People also like railroads.

I’d bet they’d spend even more money if they could bring actual dogs on actual railroads, rather than commemorating one historic dog that got to ride the rails. I know, I have a thing about this, and have written passionately about it before; see How Amtrak Could Become Solvent. But I’m not the only one who feels this way; see comments to How Amtrak Could Become Solvent.

WAKE UP! We want to travel with our pets and are willing to pay. The airlines made it happen. Why can’t Amtrak? (Please, no anti-government rants.)

Owney’s Mysterious End: Shot and Stuffed!

According to the Postal Museum’s site:

In June, Owney boarded a mail train for Toledo, Ohio. While he was there, he was shown to a newspaper reporter by a postal clerk. Owney became ill tempered and although the exact circumstances were not satisfactorily reported, Owney died in Toledo of a bullet wound on June 11, 1897. Mail clerks raised funds to have Owney preserved, and he was given to the Post Office Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. In 1911, the department transferred Owney to the Smithsonian Institution, where he has remained ever since. Owney can be seen on display in the National Postal Museum’s atrium, wearing his harness and surrounded by several of his tags. [emphasis mine]

Owney was shot? That doesn’t seem right. And the picture accompanying this passage would seem to confirm that “preserved” means “stuffed.” But hey, if it was good enough for Roy Rogers’ horse, Trigger…  (I’m a bit confused by that article, incidentally; I saw Trigger in Victorville, California. Then he moved to Branson. What’s he doing being auctioned off in NYC?)

Yet Another Reason to Vote For Me for the Petties

I don’t mean my perverse sense of humor, though if you were at all receptive to the last section…go for it.

No, lest you think I’m not sufficiently excited about the Owney stamp, I want you to know that the $1,000 that I will donate to the charity of my choice will go to shelter that is participating in — and benefiting from — an Owney-related event. That’s right, the oft-mentioned Humane Society of Southern Arizona is hosting an Owney look-alike contest along with the USPS and Spectrum Printing; see details here.

So if you don’t do it for me or for little diabetic Frankie — what can I say; I’m pulling out all the stops now — do it for the people who are giving Owney his due respect. And after you vote —  only two more days until voting ends on July 29! — send an email to Amtrak.

For Owney’s sake.

13 thoughts on “A Better Way to Celebrate Owney, the Rail-Riding Dog”

  1. I love the way your mind works–from a commemorative stamp to Amtrak’s anti-pet policies to Roy Roger’s horse to the HS of Southern Arizona to a funny and manipulative (in a good way) plea for Petties votes.

    Whew! I nearly got whiplash but I sure enjoyed the ride.

    I’m off to vote.

    1. It’s funny. I started with the Amtrak premise for Pet Travel Thursday, then discovered the dark side — or at least the darkly humorous side — of the Owney story, then realized the Humane Society of SoAZ was involved… All this to say, I had no idea where I was going to go with this, exactly, but it was a fun ride for me too!

  2. Wow, the railroads first attempts towards pet-friendly travel did not turn out very well. We shoot and stuff your dog, for Platinum Pet-Friendly Loyalty Program Members only. Hope Amtrak reads this and don’t name such a program – if they ever get that far – after Owney.

    1. Maybe that would be the *Lead* Pet-Friendly Loyalty Program ;-). Good point about any new Amtrak program but I suppose people wouldn’t dig too deep into background, so as long as it got done and had a cute dog logo….

    1. I like the idea of Frankie being the face of rail travel — and I think I can keep him safe 😉

  3. Yay to another great post! I voted. and yay to synchronicity – it’s funny how it seemed to simply all connect effortlessly – mark of a true blogmaster. I mention this because synchronicity is so important, so underrated. the more you take note of it, the more it happens, and you feel so, well, connected to the flow. I’m trying to do an art project on it.
    btw, happy to report, my first story published, with words and photos, in what, too many years, as Albuquerque correspondent for the Navajo Times, out today (actually two stories, one on veterans attending a job fair, Heroes Helping Heroes, and one on my (step)grand-daughter’s soccer team as champions in a soccer cup. There are lots of sad stories about animal abuse on the rez – but I’d like to emphasize service stories that inform, educate and change, like your blog has taught me, and so, will be looking for those, also for Indian Country Today, so keep me posted if you have any ideas specific to Navajo/pueblo/NM/AZ, to dianeschmidt22@hotmail.com.

    1. Diane, thanks for the vote and the nice words.

      And BIG congrats for your new gig. That’s terrific. Is the Navajo Times online? If so, do post a link. And I’ll spread the word for people to send any story ideas your way.

    1. I have to admit that, in spite of the concept being creepy, stuffed Owney is still pretty darned cute, after all these years.

      And of course you’re welcome.

    1. It’s a wonderful story that was made into a terrible movie with Richard Gere as the professor. But of course Hachiko never actually boarded the train (not to be picky or anything…)

      Thanks for the votes, Lori — much appreciated.

  4. North America is so backwards when it comes to dogs. When I was in Germany, I saw tons of dogs travelling with their owners on the trains, intercity and long distance! You can take your dog shopping, into a restaurant, ANYWHERE you want! Okay, rant over.

    Maybe with a little trim around the face, you could enter Frankie into the Owney look-a-like contest.

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