Since today is Labor Day in the United States, and most of us are enjoying a day off work, I was thinking about dogs and some of the jobs they do. I’ve certainly learned a lot about the various ranges of jobs dogs do for us. We have military dogs, service dogs, therapy dogs, sled dogs and a host of other unique and valuable canine occupations. As I was thinking on dogs with jobs and what I wanted to say today in our salute to the working dogs, I thought about Owney the Mail Dog and thought his story might be a good one to relate to today.
For those who don’t know, Owney was a scruffy mutt of a dog who became a mascot of the United States Postal Service. It’s said it was likely that his original owner was a mail carrier and he followed him to work. In 1888 he became a fixture at the post office in Albany, New York. It’s believed that his owner moved away and he just stayed at the post office permanently. He liked the texture and scent of the mail bags and followed them around. Soon, he wasn’t just following the mail bags and postal carriers, he was riding with the mail bags in train cars across the state. After that, he traveled across the country. In 1895, he traveled around the world via Asia and Europe.
He was considered a good luck charm by the postal workers. Not a single train he ever rode on had a wreck. When he passed through different post offices, the clerks would put medals and tags on his collars. When the Postmaster General, John Wannamaker, learned that his collar was getting too heavy from all the tags and pins, he got him a harness so he could display all the souvenirs of his travels.
After his death, postal workers raised funds to have his body preserved and it still sits in the Smithsonian Museum, and then later moved in 1993 to the Postal Museum. He was beloved by the postal workers and was rather famous in his day. Reporters wrote stories about him and for a time, the nation was in love with him.
What I love about his story is that it can relate to so many of us humans. This dog found himself left on his own, but he made a place for himself in the world. He found a job that he loved with people he cared about. His life was probably more exciting than that of most dogs who live even today. He went from humble beginnings to a life of celebrity. The only thing he had to do was follow his heart.
I hope that everybody who reads this has found a calling in life that leaves you feeling fulfilled and happy. If more of us followed our hearts, even without a safety net to fall back on, I wonder if we would be happier in our work. Monday mornings might be filled with more anticipation and less dread if more of us pursued our passions. Maybe working like a dog really means that we do what we do well because we love it with our whole hearts.
Enjoy your day off today, if you are enjoying the day off. Here’s hoping you have a safe and happy holiday. We also hope that you have a great week ahead of you, too, no matter what you do. To those who serve in the armed forces or the police or fire departments, a big thanks to you for all that you do for us, especially if you are at work today keeping us safe.