The book is out of print. Amazon.com will find out-of-print books but if they can find one, it's likely to be very expensive. One of the teachers involved was able to find it in the library. The author has given permission for me to provide the story to you. Thanks to Sally Patterson who typed the text for us.
Click here for an interactive version of the story with links to vocabulary words.
Another version is available too. This version has the pictures from the book. It can be found with information about one of the other groups and their Owney. Click here for the text and pictures from Lynn Hall's book.
It was a cold snowy evening, but the streets of Albany, New York, were crowded with carriages drawn by fine horses. Women in long skirts and men in top hats smiled and nodded to one another and called,"Happy Holidays!"
Through the lines of carriages came the post office wagon bringing large stacks of mail from the railroad station to the post office. Running along beneath the wagon was a shaggy little puppy. He had to run hard to keep up with the horses, but this place, under the wagon was safe. It was the only safety the small brown puppy had found from the dangers of the busy city streets. The wagon also kept snow off him, although he was already so cold and wet that it hardly mattered.
Worse than being cold and tired was being hungry. The hunger made the puppy weak, and after a while he fell. Part of him just wanted to lie there and give up, but the stronger part of him said NO. He got up and ran until he caught up with the mail wagon and was once again running beneath it.
Then the wagon slowed down and went into a place that was dark, quiet, and warm! The wagon stopped, and so did the pup.
Soon there were people around the wagon. The puppy saw black boots, gray pants, and huge gray bags labeled U.S. MAIL.
When all the black boots were on one side of the wagon, the pup trotted out on the opposite side and climbed up onto the nearest gray sack, which was not as soft as it looked. In fact it had bumps and corners sticking up everywhere, but the pup was too sleepy to care about comfort. It was warm here, and he didn't need to run anymore.
The pup curled up and slept until a sharp hunger pain in his stomach woke him. Hours had passed. His shaggy coat was dry now, and he was thoroughly warm. When he lifted his head, he discovered that someone had put a woolen scarf over him. He sat up and blinked in amazement.
The horses and wagons were gone, and he was in a large room that was filled with stacks of gray mailbags. Several people were working at tables, sorting mail.
Closer to the pup, two men sat eating sandwiches and watching him.
"He's awake," James said.
"It's about time," Buck answered. "I was beginning to worry. He's too young to be out in this sort of weather."
The pup didn't know what the words meant, but he knew the sound of kindness. And he definitely knew the smell of food! He tumbled down the side of the sack, but landed running. He went to the nearest man, who gave him a crust of his sandwich.
"He's starving, the poor little pup," Buck said, giving the puppy the rest of his sandwich- meat and all.
"What can we do with him?" James asked. "We can't put him out on the streets. He'd never survive."
"Let's keep him here," James suggested. "He can be our mascot. It won't take much to feed him, and he'll be good company, especially at night."
So the pup stayed on in the post office. Buck and James named their little mascot Owney, and they fixed a bed for him in a warm corner of the office. The bed was an empty mail sack, folded over. The other postal workers on the night shift soon discovered the pup and began bringing extra food in their dinner pails. Before long, the thin little pup was a plump and happy puppy with thirty fond owners.
By the time spring arrived in Albany, Owney was large enough and curious enough, to go exploring. He wandered up and down all the streets near the post office. He spent a lot of time in the barn where the post office horses and wagons were kept.
One bright day in June, Owney came home from a visit in the barn. He wanted to have a nap, but he discovered that his bed had disappeared. He went to the corner where it had been and stood there, puzzled.
One of the postal workers saw him and said, "Sorry, Owney. We were short of mailbags for this afternoon's mail, and we had to use yours. I'll fix you another bed when I get a minute."
Owney didn't understand the words at all so, he turned around and trotted to the loading area. The wagon for the afternoon mail stood by the loading dock, where two postal workers were loading the mailbags.
Owney stopped and stared up at the loaded mailbags for a moment. Then he leaped onto the dock and from there to the wagon.
The little dog climbed up, around, and over the gray bags until he found the one that was his. It was crammed with letters instead of folded flat, as it was supposed to be, but it was Owney's bed. He circled three times on his sack and then settled down for a nap.
Owney slept through the trip down the streets of Albany and woke up only when the wagon stopped at the railroad depot. Close beside the wagon was a freight car, one of more than a hundred cars that made up the long, long train.
No one noticed Owney when he jumped down. The pup trotted up and down the railway platform and stared at the train. It was the biggest thing he had ever seen. Its wheels held faint smells from many places, and Owney grew almost dizzy with the excitement of it all.
He returned to the postal wagon just in time to see his own gray sack as it was tossed inside the freight car. Owney got a running start and jumped up into the car.
"Scram, you mutt!" someone shouted, but Owney just moved around the mailbags. The man was too busy to chase him. Owney found his sack and settled into a soft place on the top of it. Then something whistled, and with a whoosh and a chug, the train began to move.
Owney sat up, pleasantly surprised that he was going on another ride. The train clicked and clacked as it picked up speed.
The door of the mail car had been left partly open, and Owney slid down the pile of mailbags and sat beside the door. Things he had never seen before flashed past. He sniffed the animal smells, the green smells, and the earth smells. His shaggy head moved from side to side, faster and faster, as he tried to see everything that was whizzing past. His tail wagged faster and faster with excitement.
Suddenly someone was standing behind him. It was a stranger, but he wore the same gray uniform that Owney's other friends wore. So Owney gave him a wag and went back to watching through the door.
"Would you look here," the man said to another man, who was sorting the mail at the table. "We've got ourselves a little passenger."
Through the rest of the long journey, the postal workers played with Owney and even shared their meals with him. It was just like being at home for Owney, except there was the additional excitement of the outdoors whizzing by.
Late that night, the train stopped, and the men began unloading the mailbags.
"What should we do about the dog?" one man asked.
The other man said,"We'd better send him back to Albany on the 2:15 train. He must belong to somebody there."
Then he wrote a note and fastened it to Owney's collar. The note said, "Your dog rode to Buffalo, New York, with us. We're sending him back." When the mail car of the southbound 2:15 was loaded and ready to depart for Albany, the man handed Owney to another postal worker.
"Be sure to put him off at Albany," he said.
At midmorning the next day, Owney rode into the Albany post office atop the load of incoming mail sacks.
At first he was glad to be back among his friends, but soon he began to think about the fun he had on that train trip.
One day before long, another wagon of mail went to the train depot. In the back were seventeen gray mailbags and one small shaggy dog. The little dog had a gleam in his bright black eyes.
This time the train went south, then west. The journey took five days, but Owney wasn't worried. All around him were the familiar mail sacks and kind workers in postal uniforms. They shared their food with him, and sometimes they talked about him.
"That's Owney," one worker would say to another. "He's the mascot of the Albany office. They sent out telegrams to all the stations asking to have him sent back if we found him."
"How did he get in our mail car?" someone would ask in amazement.
"When we weren't looking, I guess. He likes to ride trains. He was on the 8:10 out of Albany. They took him off at Cleveland, Ohio, and put him on the northbound 3:08. They passed him on to us. We'll put him off at Rochester, New York, and the workers there will put him back on the 9:19 to Albany."
When he got back this time, Owney was even less content to stay at home. It was as though home was no longer just the Albany Post Office. Home was anywhere there were mail sacks and people in gray uniforms to take care of him.
His collar now carried a metal tag with Owney's name on it and the words, "Please return to Albany Post Office."
Although he couldn't know it, Owney's fame spread throughout every post office in the United States. Postal workers hoped to find him among the sacks whenever a load of mail came in. Each place that Owney went, the workers gave him a tag with the name of their post office on it.
Before long, Owney's collar was so heavy with tags that it made him tired to hold his head up. The collar brought him a lot of attention when people were around; but when he was alone, it was just too heavy to wear. So he learned to pull it off with his front paws. Then, when he felt the train slowing for a station, he worked his head back through the collar. As the door opened, he would jump down from the train in all his jingling glory.
One day a package arrived for Owney from the postmaster general of the United States. Inside was a beautiful harness made of soft leather. "For Owney's tags," the note said.
As the years passed, the harness held many tags. There were tags from as far south as Mexico. There were tags from every state and Canada too. Back and forth across the nation, trains rattled and roared. From the crack in the mail car door peered two bright black eyes in a shaggy face.
Late one summer evening, when Owney was seven years old, he was at home in Albany. Buck and James talked about Owney's travels as they ate their midnight supper.
"There's only one place Owney hasn't been," Buck said thoughtfully.
"Where's that?" asked James.
Buck looked up at James and slowly began to smile. "Around the world."
Three hours later, Owney was aboard the westbound 3:50 train. On his back was a traveling packet with his blanket and a comb and brush. There was also a note that said,"Owney wants to go around the world."
Three days later, Owney woke up from a nap and sniffed the air. Behind him was the city of Tacoma, Washington. Before him was the ocean, with its salt smells. Owney was lying on the mailbags that were bouncing toward the gangplank of a huge ship.
The shaggy little dog jumped down and stared in amazement as the mail sacks disappeared into the ship. This was new to him, but the ship smelled of exciting places.
"Go ahead, Owney," encouraged the postal workers around him. "You're going for a boat ride this time instead of a train ride."
Owney gave one sassy bark and then trotted up the gangplank to the huge ship.
The days that followed were full and happy days for Owney. He ate delicious meals at the captain's table in the fancy dining room. He wandered up and down the decks and was patted and admired by the passengers. At night he slept in the mail room in the lower part of the ship, where he was comfortably surrounded by his mailbags and his gray suited friends.
When the ship docked in Japan, huge crowds were waiting to welcome it. The captain stood holding Owney under one arm, Suddenly he said to the steward,"Look, here comes the ambassador. I telegraphed the newspapers that Owney was aboard. The emperor must have heard about him and sent the ambassador to greet him."
When the engines were finally still and the gangplank down, the ambassador came aboard.
He saw Owney in the captain's arms and said,"So this is the famous traveling dog from America." The ambassador held out toward Owney an important looking paper. "We welcome you to Japan, traveling dog. We give you this honorary passport as a token of the friendship between my country and yours."
Similar honors awaited Owney in China and Singapore. Then he sailed through the Suez Canal to Port Said, Egypt, then to Gibralter and the Azores, and finally across the Atlantic Ocean to New Your. In New York, friendly hands put him on the swiftest train to Albany.
On a day in late December, Owney trotted into the Albany post office and leaped into Buck's welcoming arms. Owney had circled the world!
If Owney had been famous before, he was even more famous now. Photographers and reporters came from the big newspapers.
"What will happen to him next?' one reporter inquired. "Will he stay home?
"Probably," Buck said. "Owney's not a young dog anymore."
The men laughed fondly and smiled down at Owney.
Two days later a fast freight train whistled across the plains of Kansas. From the crack in the mail car door peered two bright black eyes.
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