Not All Dogs Chase Mail Carriers

Tavish at the National Postal Museum

Intrepid Pup Tavish made a treasure-filled visit to the Smithsonian National Postal Museum to encounter a peripatetic, 19th-century celebri-dog named Owney and also to learn a bit of postal history—from the days of Benjamin Franklin to the onset of airmail! Tavish even donned his Doggles® and cultivated an aviator look for posing with the Stinson Reliant and deHaviland DH-4 (on loan to the Postal Museum from the National Air and Space Museum).

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stayed Intrepid Pup Tavish from the swift completion of his appointed rounds at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. Housed in Washington, DC’s historic City Post Office building, this bastion of all things philatelic and related to postal service history welcomes approximately 400,000 people annually. It’s safe to say that dogs are very much not among the standard visiting public. But, with the goal of viewing and sharing the story of another intrepid pup from the annals of post offices past, Team Tavish was granted special permission to visit. How exciting! So, on a recent Friday morning, we timed our arrival for well before the museum would fill with schoolchildren and tour groups. Tavish was on his best behavior and seemed to know that even though he sees a lot of historical sites, it’s a rare treat to be allowed inside. We were met at a special entrance by a friendly and extremely knowledgeable member of the museum’s staff, processed through security, and ushered into the galleries.

Tavish with Owney

Time Warp: 21st-century Intrepid Pup Tavish meets 19th-century intrepid postal pup Owney.

It was here that we took in one of the highlights of National Postal Museum’s collections: Owney, mascot of the Railway Mail Service (see photo at left). Owney was a mixed breed dog whose escapades began in an Albany, New York, post office around 1888; he was clearly a dog that bucked the caricature of not liking mail carriers! It’s believed that Owney originally belonged to one of the mail clerks, but the dog’s adventurous spirit compelled him to explore first the mail wagons and then the mail trains, and before you knew it, he had logged a lot of miles throughout the United States and Canada. The novelty of Owney happily riding the rails caused a media sensation. Indeed, Owney could be considered one of America’s earliest celebri-dogs. His travels were well-chronicled by journalists of the day, likely fueled by the fact that Owney seemed to be a bit of a good luck talisman in that no Railway Post Office train he rode ever wrecked while he was on board. In 1895 Owney further broadened his horizons with a 132-day, round-the-world trip from Tacoma, Washington. He took mail steamers to the Orient, through the Suez Canal and on to New York City. The final cross-country leg back to Washington state was via train.

Now while Intrepid Pup Tavish has his very own virtual passport denoting his travels, Owney’s “passport” was a tangible (and very heavy!) one in the form of folks attaching to his collar commemorative tags and trade checks (tokens that could be used much like coupons). Owney’s collar quickly got so unwieldy that U.S. Postmaster General John Wanamaker presented Owney with a custom leather harness to better accommodate all his hardware. Even so, postal workers would periodically lighten Owney’s load and send some of his tags back to Albany. The National Postal Museum estimates that Owney collected as many as 1,000 tags during his lifetime!

When Owney died in Toledo, Ohio, in 1897 he was eulogized in many newspapers. At the urging of mail clerks throughout the country, Owney was preserved by taxidermy and presented to the Postal Department headquarters. Even posthumously, Owney continued to travel the country for various exhibitions, including the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis. He was eventually donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1911. A century later, the U.S. Postal Service issued a “Forever” stamp memorializing Owney and several of his tags. As part of the museum’s outreach surrounding Owney, the National Postal Museum has developed a whole suite of online materials, including a free e-book, a map of his travels, an activity guide and educational lesson plans.

It’s hard not to be impressed by Owney’s power to captivate the imagination as well as convey so much about how mail moved about the country in the late 1800s. Tavish then turned his attentions to the rest of the atrium where he was wowed by the Concord-style Mail Coach and the three airmail-related planes overhead. There’s so much more to see at the National Postal Museum: stamp art, philatelic rarities, changing exhibitions. . . you owe it to yourself to pay a visit and get fresh insight on the stamps and mail service you’ve probably always taken for granted. Tell them the Intrepid Pup sent you!

Owney's Tags, Images courtesy of the National Postal Museum

Just a few of the custom tags bestowed upon Owney during nearly a decade of traveling with the mail. Approximately 90 tags can be seen on Owney’s harness. Images courtesy of the National Postal Museum.

Dogging the Details

Click to see what a "1" on the Wag-a-meter means

38°53′51.24″ N,  77°0′29.39″ W
National Postal Museum
, Washington, DC

A stamp of approval and a “1” on the Intrepid Pup wag-a-meter—the National Postal Museum really delivers! It’s relatively easy to get to by multiple means of transportation. It’s Metro-accessible, plus (unlike its sister Smithsonian museums on the National Mall), nearby street parking and all-day paid garage parking at Union Station next door are ample and convenient. The museum is open 364 days a year and has free admission. While entering the museum with your dog is not an option (unless it’s a service animal), this museum has lots to offer in a space where it’s manageable to see it all without having museum fatigue set in.

Should you wish to extend your postal-themed adventures and bring a dog with you, here are a couple options:

 

Tavish at Air Mail Marker

38° 52′ 53.11″N, 77° 2′ 36.40″ W
Airmail marker, Washington, DC

If you’re up for a walk in the park and specifically Washington, DC’s National Mall and Memorial Parks, check out this little-known marker on Ohio Drive in West Potomac Park, bordering the Potomac River. Across from the present-day ball field is the spot where on May 15, 1918, the world’s first airplane mail started as a continuously scheduled public service. The 230-mile route accommodated transportation of 150 pounds of mail from Washington, DC to New York City via Philadelphia aboard a Curtiss JN 4-H airplane in approximately three hours.

 

Tavish with Ben Franklin

“B. Free”! Tavish channels postal history giant Benjamin Franklin in both Washington, DC (above) and Philadelphia (at right).

Franklin Court

39° 57′ 0.15″N, 75° 8′ 47.67″ W
B. Free Franklin Post Office
and the Franklin Court Complex, Philadephia, Pennsylvania

As Intrepid Pup Tavish was departing from his specially-arranged visit to Washington, DC’s  National Postal Museum, he spied a statue (see photo at left) of Benjamin Franklin in the lower level foyer. Franklin is essentially the “patron saint” of the postal service in America. He started out as the British Crown Post-appointed postmaster in Philadelphia in 1737 with responsibility for surveying post offices and post roads. In 1775, the Continental Congress made Franklin the first Postmaster General with oversight over all post offices from Massachusetts to Georgia.

To be “frank,” seeing Franklin jogged Team Tavish’s memory about visiting the B. Free Franklin Post Office in Philadelphia a few years ago, and you can visit it, too (see photo at right)! This fully operational U.S. Post Office branch is open Monday through Saturday and is within the National Park Service’s Franklin Court Complex (part of Independence National Historical Park) that includes the Franklin Museum, a museum shop, and the Franklin Court Printing Office and Bindery. The B. Free branch is a colonially-themed post office and the only one in the United States that doesn’t fly a U.S. flag—because there was no United States yet when Franklin was serving as its postmaster. You can still get your letters stamped here with “B Free Franklin,” which was Franklin’s not-so-subtle way of signing a letter in support of American independence from England.

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Intrepid Pup Bracketology: 2017 Edition

Intrepid Pup Tavish

The swami in repose: Intrepid Pup Tavish after a vigorous session of divining his brackets.

For the sixth year running, Intrepid Pup Tavish has brought his sixth sense to making his NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament picks. If you’ve followed along in previous years, you know the drill: Tavish works his way through the brackets, indicating his preferences by snarfing treats ascribed to each of the teams. Past Intrepid Pup bracketologies have been fueled by kibble, bits of MilkBone™ or kernels of popcorn. This year Team Tavish went with a new find: PureBites® Freeze Dried Bison Liver Treats. Single ingredient, made in the USA…what’s not to love, right? That’s what Tavish thought, too (*YUM*), and we compiled the 2017 edition over the course of three evenings. While you may not agree with some of Tavish’s choices, you can’t fault the process. He wields lightning-quick verdicts on some match-ups and then really mulls over others, so you know something is going on in his head.

Out of much excited barking and dizzying darting about our kitchen, what we’re left with is a soupçon of inspiration mixed in with a hearty dose of cray cray.

So, without any further adieu, may we humbly present Tavish’s picks:

Intrepid Pup Bracketology 2017

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Tavish for President

intrepidpupforpresident_72dpi

Decision 2016: Tavish for President! Left? Right? Something in between? Intrepid Pup is a new breed of candidate to make America sane again. What do you think of his qualifications? Vote November 8, 2016.

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Bracket Full of Dreams: Intrepid Pup Bracketology – 2016 Edition

Tavish making his prognostications

Tavish making his 2016 prognostications with the help of kernels of Quinn popcorn.

Ok, folks, Intrepid Pup Tavish has completed his picks for the much-vaunted March Madness. For readers who’ve loyally followed through the years, it should come as no surprise that he’s once again made some surprising predictions.

Never has a #16 seed beaten a #1 seed in the first round. But wait no longer, because Tavish is here to tell you that oh, it’s gonna happen. Not just once, but three times in this tourney. And it all starts now!

Team Tavish once again acted as the enabler for Tavish’s singular “bracketology.” Tavish’s key motivator for making wacky picks anything is food. Click here for a throwback to Tavish’s first-ever descent into March Madness and see how we keep the process as unbiased as possible. As a quick recap, every year we switch up the “treat” for variety’s sake. This year, colleges’ hoop dreams were embodied by kernels of organic Quinn popcorn (butter & sea salt, to be precise). Yummy! And it meant we got to eat some, too.

Tavish in bracketology action

Tavish in action mode: Intrepid Pup Bracketology requires zen-like concentration!

We orchestrated the picks over the course of two nights to minimize the binge factor. Tavish plants himself into a concentrated “sit” while we show him two kernels of popcorn that we’ve verbally ascribed to two teams in the matchup. We place them evenly in front of him and say, “Okay, pick!” And he does! Usually it’s with a swift and decisive swipe of the tongue. Then we do it 66 more times to complete the bracket. This year he seemed to show a bit more circumspection. In the conundrum of #15 Weber State vs. #2 Xavier, for instance, he gazed long and hard at each kernel—a good 10 seconds apiece! (*forehead slap* – should’ve taken a video)—before committing to Xavier. We’re glad to see he’s taking this whole thing seriously! Honestly, we don’t know what he’s thinking, but this year he seemed to have little crushes on Gonzaga and Yale and took them fairly deep into the tourney . . . could it be because they have bulldogs as mascots? Another departure from the norm was that our 19-year-old cat Hobbes showed unprecedented interest in this year’s proceedings. Usually an impartial observer from afar, Hobbes warmed up and took on a considerably more visible role as an enforcer of quality control. In fact, as Tavish was mulling over his Holy Cross/Yale decision, Hobbes snuck in and tried to exert undue influence by batting around the “Holy Cross” kernel. Tavish picked “Yale”. Maybe because of the bulldog thing or maybe just to be contrary. We’ll never know, and he’s not telling.

So, it’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world. And—if you believe Intrepid Pup Tavish—here’s how it’s all going down:

Tavish's 2016 Brackets

While we’re not suggesting you bet the farm on these picks, we do guarantee you’ll enjoy ’em. Click on the bracket above for a larger, printable PDF version of Intrepid Pup’s March Random(ad)ness.

Intrepid Pup Bracketology: 2015 Edition

Pounceball
The treats came out, and the picks are in! For the fourth year running, Intrepid Pup Tavish has engaged in his own special brand of March Random(ad)ness to select who he thinks will be top dog in the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. On the all-important “Selection Sunday,” Team Tavish happened to be out of the country, so the mantle of responsibility for facilitating Tavish’s picks fell to extended family members. They had inquired whether there was any special technique required. Um, not really. As we’ve noted in past years, Tavish is consistently inconsistent. But so long as he’s motivated (read: has treats) and is presented with clear choices, Tavish is swift and decisive. Our stand-ins reported that there was much excited barking and that our 18-year-old cat Hobbes assumed his traditional role as impartial observer, emitting a low rumble if the proceedings came too close to invading his personal space.

Wait no longer, Pup fans, behold the picks:

Intrepid Pup's 2015 picks

How do your picks stack up to the Intrepid Pup’s? Click on the bracket above for a larger, printable PDF version. Enjoy the madness!

 

Sergeant Stubby Wearing Military Medals

A decorated World War I veteran and Georgetown University’s living mascot, Sergeant Stubby was truly an intrepid pup. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Cut to the chase, and you’ll see that in Tavish’s world, Georgetown will be the 2015 champs. While it remains to be seen whether the team can go the distance, there’s no denying a great canine connection. Even though they’re known as the Hoyas, among the school’s earliest mascots was one heck of a tenacious bull terrier named Stubby. In 1917 this stray pup was rescued by Private J. Robert Conroy and smuggled aboard a ship bound for France to accompany the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division. Stubby ultimately saw action in 17 engagements throughout World War I. After nearly dying in a poison gas attack, he was so sensitized to the smell that he would warn troops of its presence. Also uncanny was his ability to find wounded American soldiers in enemy trenches; he would hone in on voices speaking English and then stand guard and bark to alert the medics. He buoyed morale by visiting troops in the hospital and even knew how to salute! General Pershing presented Stubby with a medal for heroism, and the dog went on to meet Presidents Wilson, Harding and Coolidge.

HoyasDog

Tavish sizes up the Hoyas bulldog emblem near the Georgetown University campus.

When Private Conroy returned from the war and eventually enrolled at Georgetown to study law, it went without saying that the much-decorated Stubby would go with him. The dog’s celebrity status made him a shoe-in as Georgetown’s living mascot. With Stubby’s passing in 1926, the New York Times ran a half-page obituary. Stubby’s taxidermied remains were ultimately donated to the Smithsonian Institution, where they are currently on view as part of The Price of Freedom exhibition at the National Museum of American History.

Over the years, Georgetown had other live dogs as mascots, including a terrier named Hoya, a Great Dane named Butch and a series of bulldogs. Today the bulldog mascot “Jack” remains, but it’s a student in a dog costume.

GO HOYAS!