Update on the sad tale of “Owney the Postal Dog”

After a review of the Toledo Blade article regarding this sad episode from  June 11 of 1897, it appears the name of the policeman who shot Owney was not Fred Free (or Freeman), but was a Patrolman Smith(no first name given). It also seems that Owney was not killed immediately after he reportedly bit a mail clerk at the train station, but his execution was delayed until the next day owing to the fact that the first policeman who was ordered to shoot the globe trotting pooch, refused to do so.   As a result, so states the article, that Postmaster Brand had Owney chained to a post until the next day, and then..

“Shortly after 4 o’clock yesterday, Patrolman Smith took the dog to an alley behind the police station and with a shot put an end to the career of the famous pup.”

Sgt. Beth Cooley, at the Toledo Police Museum says she is searching for the records of a Patrolman Smith who might have served on the department at that time. The Chicago Tribune had reported that the officer who shot Owney was Fred Free, but after some research into the records, Sgt. Cooley says there was no Fred Free on the department, but there was a Fred Freeman who was a Toledo policeman during that time. That could have easily been the mix-up, but the Blade said the executioner was a Patrolman Smith.

It’s also noted from this article that it had been decided before Owney was executed to have his remains stuffed and mounted and sent to the Post Museum in Washington D.C. Perhaps this was an atempt to mollify the thousands of postal clerks and others around the globe who loved the dog, as it was noted by the Blade reporter at the time that Owney’s tragic killing would “bring down the wrath of the heavens” upon the heads of those involved in Owney’s death.

Not sure if such wrath was ever visited upon Toledo.



Filed under Strange Happenings

3 responses to “Update on the sad tale of “Owney the Postal Dog”

  1. Steve.

    I don’t understand why Owney is always referred to as being executed for biting a mail clerk. He was 17, blind in one eye, and could only chew soft food. He had become rather grouchy. Most modern dog owners would recognize a dog with failing health that’s beginning to suffer and would consider having him euthanized. Today, it’s a needle. In 1897, it was a bullet. Owney was euthanized.

    • My wife’s grandmother used to have a saying that I sort of like when it comes to euthanasia. “Why would ya want to kill a perfectly good dog, he still eats doesn’t he?”. FYI-even the newspapers at the time called it an execution. And if he was to be euthanized, considering that he was a world famous dog, well known and loved by many, do you really think maybe somebody might have thought twice. It’s sort of like shooting Lassie. You might want to weigh that option for awhile. Hell, I’m practically blind in both eyes, have always been grouchy and growing fonder of soft food every day. Don’t get too close to me.

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