MIKE WAGONER

MIKE WAGONER

The “Owney the Postal Dog” commemorative postage stamp, issued in 2011 by the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), generated a lot of publicity for the famous canine postal service mascot who lived in the late 19th century.

The stamp introduced younger generations of dog lovers to the heroics of Owney who was a “postal mail pouch pooch” of the highest order.

Owney was an orphaned, scrawny, Irish-Scottish border terrier mix puppy when he was discovered nestled into a lump of mail bags at the Albany, N.Y., Post Office in 1888.

Owney went on to ride the rails with the Railway Mail Service branch, crisscrossing the country as a goodwill ambassador.

The dog’s grit symbolized the postal service’s motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

After Owney died in 1897 during a visit to Toledo, Ohio, postal clerks from all across the country contributed funds to have Owney’s cinnamon-colored body preserved by a local taxidermist and displayed for public viewing...rather than see their beloved mascot interred.

Hence, the “taxidermied” Owney, all 18 pounds or so of him, became an important exhibit at the National Postal Museum in Washington, D.C., a unit of the Smithsonian Institution.

When Owney’s “Forever” stamp was unveiled July 27, 2011, it was a “red carpet event” in Albany, as the city observed “Owney Day.”

Jennifer Gordon Sattler, author of “‘All Aboard Owney!’ The Adirondack Mail Dog,” said: “Any time you can put a spotlight on stray dogs that need a home, I’m all for that.”

Volunteer leaders with the Mohawk Hudson River Humane Society were among the celebrants, and the organization’s spokesperson said: “We’re proud that an Albany dog is on a stamp that will go across the country...and around the world.”

Gwen Girsdansky of The Daily Gazette published in Schenectady, N.Y., reported: “The shelter brought several dogs to be shown during the event. The story of Owney is about a great connection people have with animals. The event was a perfect time to celebrate and show people that connection.”

Kathy Quandt of Discover Albany, the local tourism marketing organization, said: “This isn’t just a story; Owney was a real dog.”

Mary Darcy, the co-creator of the popular All Over Albany news and culture website, is one of Owney’s greatest fans. One of her loyal readers, Don Begley, wrote in:

“You could not ask for a better ambassador (than Owney). He was courageous and trusted those who loved him. Give your heart to a dog and you will never be let down and forever loved.”

Begley continued: “Could a person be as trusting as Owney? I would like to think so, but alas, my years, which there have been quite a few, have left me doubting. I once asked a theologian, ‘do you think there will be dogs in heaven?’ His reply was, ‘no.’”

“I replied, ‘if not, I do not think I would care to go!’”

Did Owney ever ride the mail train on the Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad into Morehead City? If so, the town needs to add a chapter to its illustrious history.

During Owney’s lifetime, Morehead City was “the summer capital of North Carolina.” Owney would have been treated royally.

Former Gov. John Motley Morehead, who helped bring the railroad from Goldsboro to the coast, once wrote:

Morehead City enjoys a “salubrious climate...and its fine chalybeate spring, strongly impregnated with sulphur, makes it a pleasant watering place.”

For both humans and canines.

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