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.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

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

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Retail Hound

Tavish at Orvis

Dogs Welcome: The sign is right at dog’s-eye level! Tavish can’t read, but fortunately he didn’t need to. He spotted the water bowl just inside the doorway instead.

While adventures at national parks and historical sites are the usual fodder for IntrepidPup.com, this time we’re exchanging the woodland trail for a little detour down Main Street and an adventure of a different kind:  shopping. Yep, the retail jungle.

It’s de rigueur to bring your pet to places where you’ll be shopping for them (think: pet boutiques, PetSmart®, Petco®, etc.). But, honestly, where can you go when you happen to be out shopping with your pet? For a variety of perfectly justifiable reasons—usually having to do with local ordinances or health codes—many businesses don’t allow Fido or Fluffy unless they’re assistance animals, so it’s unrealistic to expect every commercial establishment to welcome your furry friend with open arms.

When traveling with Tavish, leaving him unattended isn’t an option, so we’ve mastered the drill of taking turns going into stores while one of us remains outside with him. And that’s okay. Seriously. We’ve ended up having some wonderful conversations with folks over the years by virtue of waiting outside a shop with the Intrepid Pup. But when there are exceptions to the rule and we can bring him inside? Those tend to be memorable win-wins.

Here’s our roundup of six favorite dog-friendly re(tail)ers from the road this past year:

 

Dogging the (Retail) Details

42°17’49.82″N, 83°52’12.60″W
Motawi Tileworks,
Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tavish at Motawi Tileworks, Ann Arbor, MI

Tavish got the royal treatment at the tileworks. They even snapped a photo of him for Motawi’s Facebook feed!

Fact: We’ve been fans of Motawi Tileworks for years and have quite a few of the company’s signature art tiles in our home. Nawal Motawi started the business in her garage in 1992, and today it’s a tour-de-force in interior design. Carried in more than 350 showrooms and museum shops nationally, Motawi tiles have been featured in Huffington Post and will appear in a 2015 episode of PBS’s acclaimed “Craft in America” series. So when our travels took us through eastern Michigan last autumn there was no way we weren’t going to visit the Motawi factory. It’s in an unassuming industrial park a little ways from downtown Ann Arbor. With Tavish along for our Midwest road trip, we parked in the lot and figured one of us would walk Tavish around the grounds while the other reconnoitered inside.

Tavish at Motawi Tileworks

Motawi’s “Boneyard”: Tavish was a little disappointed there weren’t real bones here, but the humans were excited! It’s actually the firm’s seconds room, where tiles with slight imperfections can be found at reduced cost.

 

 

 

Long story short, the showroom manager caught sight of us through the picture window and beckoned us all in. “Oh, we’re absolutely dog-friendly,” she said, and then added somewhat cryptically: “People are going to be really excited.” With that, she disappeared down a hallway, and moments later, several employees piled out of the back to come fuss over Tavish!

This ended up as a classic example of how being dog-friendly can make good retail sense. Because Team Tavish didn’t have to split up, we were able to browse at a more leisurely pace. What could easily have been a hurried 15-minute stopover turned into a great, nearly hour-long customer experience! Motawi staffers got their dog fix, and we purchased several new tiles as mementos of our visit.

Tavish at Reiner's

“Say, do you guys know where they keep the treats?” Tavish befriends the menagerie at Reiner’s.

43°15’17.49″N, 79° 4’16.79″W
Reiner’s
, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada

Last year our travels took us across the border to Ontario, Canada, and we spent an afternoon in charming Niagara-on-the-Lake. While eating a light lunch on the outdoor patio of café Taste, the window display of the shop next door caught our attention: finely crafted leather ottomans in the shapes of hippos, rhinos, bears, bulldogs and more! It turned out to be a newly opened flagship store for Reiner’s. Established by German immigrant Reiner Henneveld in 1967, the company has remained in the family all these years, and the pieces are handmade some 90 miles west in Kitchener. The two saleswomen (the store manager and a new trainee) eagerly welcomed Tavish, shared a bit about the company’s history and showed us the various animals. Before long, we’d decided a moose ottoman would not only make a good Canadian souvenir but also a nice addition for our living room. Better yet, we were able to select the leather and have the piece custom made. It was shipped to us about six weeks later—a nice reminder of our dog-friendly shopping experience!

Saks Fifth Avenue

Tavish was particularly fascinated by the woman setting up her Cartier station. Treats? Are those treats?

40°45’28.95″ N, 73°58’38.35″ W
Saks Fifth Avenue
, New York, New York

Cartier, Prada and Gucci, oh my! Although we’d read that Saks was dog-friendly, we were still dubious in approaching this grand dame of Fifth Avenue establishments. Really, a fancy department store? But the doorman assured us we weren’t mistaken, and so we were ushered into the opulence of the women’s accessories and fragrances departments. When presented with big echoing spaces, Tavish has a damning habit of barking a few times, and the glittering ground floor of Saks was no exception. He must think it’s a riot. We, however, were cringing and thinking the doorman would reappear at any moment to escort us out. Au contraire. Tavish’s excited barks turned out to be the siren song that summoned every boutique associate within hearing radius to come over and pet him. Charmed life, mon ami.

 

Tavish at Annapolis Pottery

Amid platters, vases and coffee mugs, Intrepid Pup found a selection of pet bowls, too!

38°58’42.20″ N, 76°29’24.00″ W
Annapolis Pottery,
Annapolis, Maryland

Head to historic Annapolis, Maryland, and an array of dog-friendly options await—from patio dining to taking in views of the Chesapeake Bay or strolling through the picturesque campus of the United States Naval Academy. But if ceramics are your thing, then don’t miss the Annapolis Pottery located on State Circle in the shadow of the Maryland State House. Much to our delight, it’s dog-friendly! For more than 40 years the shop has carried functional and decorative ware hand crafted by talented potters working onsite, as well as sourced from ceramic artists around the country. There’s a dizzying array of forms in colorful glazes, and your well-behaved pup’s visit just might be rewarded with a complimentary dog biscuit or two!  Bonus: the well-stocked Paws pet boutique is just a few doors away.

Orvis_inside

Scanning the retail horizon at Orvis. Adventuresome and outdoorsy…hey, that appeals to me, too!

The Orvis Company, Inc.
(67 retail locations and 11 outlets in the U.S.)

Since the founding of Orvis in 1856 in Vermont, the company has become the oldest mail-order outfitter and longest continually-operated fly-fishing business in America. The company’s retail locations both in the U.S. and in the U.K. sport rugged yet stylish outerwear and clothing, fly fishing equipment, and gear for hunting upland birds. It just so happens they have a pretty extensive selection of dog beds, collars and travel gear, too.

While we’re *pretty* sure that Tavish couldn’t read the “DOGS WELCOME” decal right at dog height on the door, he did see the water bowl just inside the doorway and made a beeline for it. We hadn’t visited an Orvis store in years (there wasn’t one near where we used to live), so Tavish pulling us in was a homecoming of sorts. We got reacquainted with the brand while the sales associate got acquainted with Tavish, lavishing him with a couple of dog treats that “magically” appeared from behind the counter. Hey, whadya know, it ultimately resulted in our purchase of three men’s shirts and a sweater. Retail therapy? Sure, but here’s another thing to feel good about: Orvis is a socially responsible company, donating 5% of its pre-tax profits annually in support of environmental initiatives, community projects and canine well-being. Orvis also runs a cover dog contest for its biannual “Dog Book” catalog and since 2009 has specifically raised over $1 million for canine cancer research grants. Two paws up.

Tavish at Torpedo Factory Art Center

So many studios! Tavish takes in the view from the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s main concourse.

38°48’17.57″ N, 77° 2’23.19″ W
Torpedo Factory Art Center
, Alexandria, Virginia

The Torpedo Factory Art Center was among the early paragons of the adaptive reuse/working studio movement. In 1974, the founding artists took over a dilapidated, former munitions factory on the Alexandria, Virginia, waterfront, converting the cavernous industrial space into a hive of creativity. More than 40 years later, it’s still going strong:  home to 82 artist studios, six galleries, two workshops and an art school. Explore all three floors and you’ll discover jewelry, ceramics, fiber art, sculpture, fine art photography and works on paper and canvas to fit any budget. Each studio is part workspace and part retail, meaning you have surprising access to converse directly with the artists, ask questions and gain insight into their artistic processes; many accept commissions. What might come as even more of a surprise are the studio dogs.

Tavish with Opie in Studio 16

When studio dog Opie (right) is in residence in Studio 16, he’s as big a hit as owner Lisa Schumaier’s whimsical creations in papier-mâché and raku.

Indeed, many generations of artistic muse in canine form have accompanied their owners to the Torpedo Factory and made the studios their homes away from home. Peer past the gate by the counter in Studio 226 and you might just catch a glimpse of Lab mix Donut contentedly lounging in the sun. Look closely, and you’re just as sure to spy Rocky the chihuahua curled up in Studio 214 or dachshund Chester sitting patiently in Studio 321. And it’s because of these resident pups that yours is welcome at the Torpedo Factory, too. So grab a leash and soak up an art scene like no other!

Save

Game On! Intrepid Pup Bracketology: The 2014 Edition

Tavish with a ball

This Intrepid Pup Bracketology is serious business!

Yep, it’s that time of year again when Intrepid Pup Tavish goes out on the proverbial limb and makes his predictions for the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. If Tavish’s consistently inconsistent bracketology prowess is news to you, we unabashedly refer you to our 2012 and 2013 editions where his highly entertaining (and completely unbiased!) process is explained and even shown in action. To briefly recap, though, Tavish does not watch endless hours of game footage. Nor does he use some mathematician’s code-based matrix. 

Nope, Tavish relies entirely on his gut.

And this year, his gut had lots of itty bitty pieces of spinach-flavored, shamrock-shaped homemade dog treats that somebody baked him for St. Patrick’s Day.

So what did his gut say?  Let’s just cut to the chase:

 

2014brackets

Click the image to open a larger PDF version

 

Three years into this whole Intrepid Pup Bracketology escapade, we’ve finally fine-tuned the methodology to where Tavish can make his 68 picks in about 40 minutes–considerably less time than it takes Greg Gumbel and crew on CBS’s Selection Sunday.

Every year, Tavish’s gut reminds us that it’s very fickle indeed. He always seems to conjur up an early Cinderella to beat Duke (Way to go, Mercer!) and certainly champions his share of underdogs (Here’s lookin’ at you, 12-seed Stephen F. Austin, wherever you are). But just when you think you see a pattern emerging with teams with dog mascots (Go, UConn Huskies! Rock on, Gonzaga Bulldogs!), Tavish gets all conventional and advances some very solid teams (That’d be YOU, Creighton). Only very rarely does he hesitate, but there was a brief instant of introspection (or maybe just inattention?) before deciding the fate of his Dayton/St. Louis final in favor of the Billikens.

After Intrepid Pup buzzed through his choices for this year, one member of Team Tavish looked over his completed brackets and remarked disbelievingly, “Sheesh, there sure aren’t going to be many people with these picks!” That, friends, is the point. There won’t be many any people whose brackets look like this. And Tavish still has the same 9.2 quintillion-to-1 odds of winning the Warren Buffett and Quicken Loans Billion Dollar Bracket Challenge. Delightful, isn’t it? Welcome to the madness of March. How do your brackets stack up?

P.s.  Several of you commented last year on how nice it was to see Tavish’s elusive housemate (Hobbes the cat) get in on the picks. We tried to rekindle that again this year, but Hobbes couldn’t have cared less. Picking brackets is for the dogs!  🙂

National Howl-iday Scene, Part VI: President’s Park

Pathway of Peace 2013

Tavish beholds the National Christmas Tree from the Pathway of Peace in President’s Park. The national tree has been illuminated by GE since 1963–originally with thousands of incandescent bulbs and now entirely by eco-friendly LEDs. The lighting design changes each year.

Intrepid Pup Tavish has been in dogged pursuit of the best of the national howl-iday scene. In Christmases past and present, he’s sniffed out “Season’s Greenings” activities at the U.S. Botanic Garden, Christmas at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, yuletide preparations at The Biltmore, and much more (see the blog index for the others).  His next stop? The National Christmas Tree!

The tree lives year-round on the grounds of President’s Park, 82 acres maintained by the National Park Service and encompassing the White House itself. For much of the year visitors take little note of the evergreen on the Ellipse, but come December, it becomes the focal point of the park. Fitted with a mantel of LED lights, the tree is officially turned on by the President during a televised ceremony complete with a concert.

Tavish in President's Park with the 2012 National Menorah

Lighting of a national menorah was a tradition begun by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 in nearby Lafayette Park. The 30-foot menorah was incorporated into the President’s Park festivities in 1987. Here’s Tavish in 2012 on the final night of Hanukkah.

President Franklin Pierce is credited with putting up the first Christmas tree inside the White House in 1856, but it wasn’t until 1923 that President Calvin Coolidge lit a national tree outside for the benefit of the American people. For more than 90 years, the storied tradition of a national Christmas tree has continued. Early on, the ceremony took place either on the White House lawn or in nearby Lafayette Park, and various trees were designated as the “national community Christmas tree.” During WWII a national tree was decorated but never illuminated. When the ceremony permanently moved to its existing location on the Ellipse in 1954 to better accommodate crowds, the National Park Service began annually cutting and transporting a tree to the site. By the early 1970s, however, they returned to having a planted tree, and there have been 5 since. The long standing 1978-2011 tree was removed after irreparable storm damage. Its replacement lasted only a year before succumbing to transplant shock. The current National Christmas Tree—a 28-foot-tall Colorado Blue Spruce—was planted in October 2012.

Just as the trees have changed, so too has the pageantry at President’s Park evolved. Various elements have been added, such as a menorah (1987), a model railroad (1993), and Santa’s Workshop (2008); others have fallen by the wayside like the Yule Log (2012) and live reindeer. Performances by local choirs and musical groups occur nightly (except Mondays) following the initial tree lighting ceremony and continue all the way up until Christmas Eve. What has remained a constant since first introduced on the Ellipse in 1954 is the Pathway of Peace, a walkway lined by cut Fraser Firs to flank the National Christmas Tree each December. The Pathway now contains 56 tree representing all 50 states, plus Washington, DC, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each is decorated with distinctive ornaments handmade by schoolchildren and artisans from that region.

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

38°53′41.57N,  77° 2′10.98W
The National Christmas Tree
, President’s Park, Washington, DC
Annually, early December to January 1 ( site is accessible 10 AM – 10 PM)

National Tree 2013

The 2013 National Christmas Tree with the White House in the background.

President’s Park ranks a “1” on the Intrepid Pup’s wag-a-meter for being relatively easy to get to and for providing a unique experience once you’re there. If you’re coming with your dog, plan on doing some walking as you can’t bring your pup on the Metro system. Metered street parking is available, though, and we’ve found that it’s usually a little easier to find a space in the blocks west or north of the White House. Timing your visit for during the week or early in the evenings also helps.

Leashed dogs are permitted on the grounds of the National Christmas Tree, and admission is free—no tickets or reservations are required. Be forewarned, however, that there are typically large crowds, which aren’t always every pup’s cup of tea. If your dog doesn’t like getting jostled or is otherwise prone to claustrophobia, simply forgo walking along the Pathway of Peace; you can still enjoy the tree lights from afar from various vantage points throughout the Ellipse. It’s also been our experience that visitors are so busy looking at the tree that they’re not necessarily looking down and may even be startled to see a pooch in their midst. For your and your dog’s comfort, we recommend visiting at an off-peak time. If you’re going at night, consider adding something reflective so your pet stands out and is visible to other passersby (Tavish’s Chilly Dog® jacket has reflective piping, and he sometimes wears his Nite Ize® SpotLit blinking LED collar light, too). Your best photo ops will come a bit away from the fray, where the Pathway leads south from the tree and opens up onto the Ellipse. With the tree and the White House as your backdrops in the middle distance, you also won’t be holding up throngs of foot traffic to get that perfect shot!