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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Pet Talk: Dorsey the mail-carrying dog

  • There is an old mining town in Calico, California that has been restored to replicate life as it had been in the 1880s when silver mining was at it's peak.
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  • There is an old mining town in Calico, California that has been restored to replicate life as it had been in the 1880s when silver mining was at it's peak.
    During its boom, Calico produced more than $20 million in silver ore over a 12-year span. When silver lost its value in the mid 1890s, the miners packed up, loaded their mules and moved away abandoning the town that once gave them a good living. It became a ghost town and is now a popular tourist attraction.
    There have been many spectral sightings in Calico of some of the historically well-known residents. Dorsey, the mail-carrying dog is one of them. He is sometimes seen in shadow form on a hilltop or near the spot where the post office once was. The shadow is clearly in the shape of a dog and it appears to have small sacks on his back.
    Dorsey definitely existed in Calico and he became well known for his ability to carry mail. His career started when he was found, hungry and bedraggled lying on the porch of the postmaster Jim Stacey. Dorsey became his faithful friend.
    Jim Stacey had an interest in a nearby mine in Bismarck and on occasion had an urgent need to send a message to his partner. He tied a note to Dorsey's neck and "sent him up there." I have to assume that the dog had previously traveled the route many times. Dorsey returned with a reply and soon became a regular mail carrier back and forth to the mine sites over a very steep and rugged three-mile round trip through hot, rocky terrain. He carried his load in little pouches strapped to his back and faithfully carried the mail three times a week for over two years until the mines closed.
    "Calico Dorsey" became well known for his dedication to this task. He supposedly performed his duties nearly flawlessly but there is one instance recorded of possible misuse of his responsibilities. One Christmas a miner living in a cave near the Bismarck mines, was sent a box of candy and sweets by his mother. The box was tied under Dorsey's neck but when he arrived the bottom was out and the contents missing. There was speculation that temptation had proven too strong and Dorsey had consumed the contents. It was also possible that other miners had hijacked the box or perhaps the package had broken open and the contents lost.
    Dorsey's breed was described as "Scotch Collie." This breed today is very rare but a small group of enthusiasts is working to revive them. The Mojave River Valley Museum has a photo of the dog posed wearing his mailbags. In this photo, he looks a lot like a Border collie type. Regardless of his pedigree (or lack thereof), Dorsey was a fit, bright, hard-working dog. After the mines closed and the Stacy family left Calico, they gave Dorsey to San Francisco financier John S. Doe, who owned interest in the mine.
    Page 2 of 2 - Dorsey's feats were well known and have been remembered in movie, song and a children's book. Disney made a film about Dorsey called "Go West Young Dog." Sometimes this is aired on the Disney Channel. Kenny Rogers has an album of songs "The Ballad of Calico" with a song about Dorsey. Susan Lendroth has written a children's book "Calico Dorsey" that was released in 2010. A website about the Calico ghost town is quite interesting. A visit there may make you believe in ghosts. http://www.calicoghostwalk.com/about1.html.
    There is no information about Dorsey's life after his mail-carrying days. We have to hope that he was well treated by the gentleman who adopted him.
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