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Owney is a tramp, as you can plainly see. Only treat him kindly, and take him along with ye.
July 2, 2008 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Owney the Postal Dog was the unofficial mascot of the U.S. postal service in the 1890s, riding the rails with the mails and accumulating an impressive collection of dog tags on a specially designed vest. He even made it as far as Japan, being issued a special postal class (Registered Dog Package) and an official Japanese passport. After an illustrious career, however, Owney met a sticky end -- shot by the police under dubious circumstances in Toledo in 1897.

Despite his ignominious death, Owney has inspired lots and lots of books and even a decade-long public school project with stuffed "traveling dogs" being sent from state to state. And, speaking of stuffed, Owney can be seen in the fur, preserved at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C. (and even post-taxidermy, he apparently gets out and about every 40 years or so). There's even a video, narrated in a voice so folksy you can't help but imagine a kindly old man strapping you to a rocking chair and jamming crackers and home-made jam down your throat. Owney stands in obvious contrast to the stereotypical postal worker/dog relationship, with the U.S. Postal Service reporting over 3000 bitten carriers in 2007 and holding a Dog Bite Prevention Week every year in May.
posted by Shepherd (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
True to his canine nature, he turned on the postman in the end.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 9:34 AM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wait, so a postal worker died due to a bite on the hand from a medium-sized dog? Was the postal worker as geriatric as the dog was by that point?
posted by gurple at 9:36 AM on July 2, 2008


I've said it before, and I'll say it again--the Postal Museum is the absolutely lamest-ass (or is it lame-assest?) museum in DC.

Since I live in such an awesome place, my post office is in the same building as the Postal Museum, so I'm in the building once a month or so. I actually worked in that building, too, several years ago, at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Then, I thought it was awesome to be in the same building as a museum, a post office, and a brew pub, and it is a beautiful building, but now I guess I'm jaded.

Seriously, the Textile Museum and even the freakin' Bead Museum are better. Last time I was there, I wandered around the Postal Museum for 10 minutes or so, saw the inverted Jenny and, yes, Owney, but, wow, LAME.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:39 AM on July 2, 2008


Owney got pwnd
posted by Kabanos at 9:41 AM on July 2, 2008


Wait, so a postal worker died due to a bite on the hand from a medium-sized dog?

Pre- (and, I fear, post-) antibiotics, it is much more of a possibility.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 9:50 AM on July 2, 2008


"shot by the police under dubious circumstances in Toledo"
holy crap!!! I was in Toledo last weekend... probably lucky to be alive today!
posted by HuronBob at 10:05 AM on July 2, 2008


Did you bite a postal worker? Because if not, that probably saved your life.
posted by miss lynnster at 10:08 AM on July 2, 2008


Talking of working animals and Japan, here's a story about a cat who is the only member of staff at a railway station.
posted by biffa at 10:27 AM on July 2, 2008


I'm totally naming my next dog "Owney."
posted by jabberjaw at 12:05 PM on July 2, 2008


Photos of Owney iin his current... state... at the Postal Museum show a dog with the expression of an animal that has just had his future as an ornament laid out in front of him slowly and deliberately, with diagrams illustrating what exactly taxidermy entails.

My guess is Owney tried to dethroat the SOB that told him he was going to be stuffed and mounted, but was weighed down by 50 lbs. of tags on his vest and couldn't do more than snag a hand.
posted by Shepherd at 12:32 PM on July 2, 2008


"Did you bite a postal worker?"..

no, but I growled at the docent at the art museum when he told me I couldn't take pictures...
posted by HuronBob at 1:38 PM on July 2, 2008


Wait, so a postal worker died due to a bite on the hand from a medium-sized dog?

I'm guessing 1897 was pre-Rabies vaccine. And getting bit by a rabid dog is a death sentence.
posted by noble_rot at 1:43 PM on July 2, 2008


Wait...this doesn't have anything to do with outraged Muslims in Japan?
posted by thankyoujohnnyfever at 6:32 PM on July 2, 2008


Rabid, noble-rot? I think the postmen would have noticed if Owney had rabies. It isn't a stealth disease, and reports say the reporter was mistreating Owney.
posted by QIbHom at 7:12 PM on July 2, 2008


QIbHom, the article makes some mention of the bitten postman calling the dog "mad", which I believe is a colloquialism for rabid.
posted by noble_rot at 8:58 AM on July 3, 2008


Pre-taxidermy Owney was the cutest little dog. What a charming story.
posted by banannafish at 11:12 AM on July 3, 2008


Lies! If Owney had been rabid it would have been obvious. He was no more mad than Toto, who was also also falsely accused of rabies by evil farm-country folk.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:57 PM on July 3, 2008


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