The dog days of summer may be known for being some of the hottest of the season, but at Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, they’re some of the coolest all year. This is when the museum celebrates their famed four-legged friend Owney the Dog with the annual Dog Days of Summer Family Festival. And this year’s program will take place throughout the museum on Saturday and Sunday, July 28-29, from 10am – 3pm both days.
Why celebrate Owney? He’s got quite a story!
Owney was a scruffy mutt taken in by the clerks at the Albany, NY, post office in the late 1800s. Fond of sleeping and sitting atop mail bags, Owney began to accompany the mail carriers on their routes—by foot, on wagons and carriages, and eventually on trains all across North America. Lovable Owney became a national celebrity, delighting the public with stories of his adventures and, if they were lucky, a visit by Owney himself! In 1895, Owney even made a four-month, around-the-world trip aboard a mail steamship. The United States Postal Service commemorated Owney with his own postage stamp in 2011, celebrating this most fascinating postal pup in a most postal way.
Inspired by Owney’s remarkable life, the Dog Days of Summer Family Festival will highlight his travels and explore the unique role that animals have played in the postal system. The museum is teaming up with Amtrak Police for demonstrations throughout the day, showcasing the work of the intelligent and hardworking K-9 units. They’re also proud to host local animal welfare organizations such as Homeward Trails Animal Rescue for an Adoption Fair on Saturday. Join this fun weekend of educational and hands-on activities — all free and open to all ages. Read more about what will be there below!
K-9 Demonstration with Amtrak Police
While U.S. mail is mainly moved by trucks and planes these days, there are still some courier companies using trains to transport packages and other items. USPS worked with Amtrak for many years and benefited from the diligent work of law enforcement and K-9 units as they not only protected people on board, but also cargo and mail. Sergeant Micah Jones from the Amtrak Police Department and his partner, Summer the Labrador, will demonstrate their patrol routine at 11am – 1pm both Saturday and Sunday.
Owney the Dog made the Albany, NY, post office his home, but not every pup is as lucky. From 10am – 2pm on Saturday, program partners will be outside on the museum Terrace with rescue dogs and cats in need of their forever homes. Even if you’re not looking to adopt, say hi to some furry friends, who will certainly appreciate your affection and attention!
Embark on a topical Scavenger Hunt throughout the entire museum, locating objects relating to dogs and other animals, planes, trains, automobiles, and more! Participants will receive a medal of completion after finishing their journey.
Tracking Paws: Map Owney’s Travels
Cities and townships often presented Owney with a small tag to remember them by. Owney’s widespread travels left him with almost 400 tokens and tags from all the different places he visited. Track Owney’s paws by examining these tags and identifying the cities and towns on a big map!
Make an Owney Puppet
Owney often followed postal clerks on their travels. Create your own Owney puppet to accompany you through the festival! Design your paper puppet however you want and adorn your dog’s collar with tags marking his travels, just like the real Owney!
Mule Mail Challenge
In Supai, Arizona, mules deliver mail to a small village located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. See if you are up for the challenge by trying our agility course which simulates the mule mail route. Compete with your friends or family members to see which one of you can deliver mail the fastest to the bottom of the Canyon!
Join a special story time about Owney the Dog and other animals that also help carry mail. Story time begins every half hour in the Atrium. Readings will include Owney, the Mail-Pouch Pooch by Mona Kerby and Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings.
Owney the Dog Mo-‘woof’-vie Theater
In the temporary Mo’woof’vie Theater, watch the true story of Owney come to life with beautiful animation, a fun (and historically accurate) story, and the grandfatherly baritone of Trace Adkins! Sing along to a catchy theme song, “The Owney Song.”
Ice Pops Give Away
Beat the heat with a refreshing ice pop! Claim your frosty treat as you take a break from activities, or to wrap up your time at the museum. Ice pops are available while supplies last; limit one per person.
Dog Days of Summer Family Festival
Where: National Postal Museum | 2 Massachusetts Ave NE, WDC
When: July 28-29, 10am – 3pm