MORE than a century ago, an adorable, stray mutt wandered into the Garden City Station of the Long Island Rail Road, looking to get out of the rain. Over the next 15 years of his life, the dog, named Roxey, would become the toast of the LIRR, and a bona fide Long Island celebrity, according to historians.
The book was authored by lifelong Long Island resident Heather Worthington of Bay Shore, a former schoolteacher whose grandfather worked as a station agent for the now-defunct New York Central Railroad. She first learned about Roxey while reading up on some LIRR history.
"As I was reading this, I thought, 'Wow, this is really great,' " said Worthington, 51. "It's got children, dogs and trains and it's about a real dog on Long Island named Roxey, who I had never heard of. And, also he was said to have met Teddy Roosevelt on a train. And I thought that would make a great story."
Piecing Roxey's story
Worthington combed through library archives on the LIRR and worked closely with several historians to piece together the story of Roxey, who was first taken in by the station agent at Garden City, but before long made the entire LIRR system his home.
"Passengers liked him. Everyone started to know him. So the Long Island Rail Road decided to make him their mascot, and he was said to travel all the branch lines across Long Island," Worthington said. "He even rode the elevators by himself in Penn Station to go up and visit the rail road president."
As stories of the rail-riding dog spread, Roxey became near-royalty on Long Island. Newspaper stories recorded Roxey "debuting" in different towns, and postcards with the dog's likeness were sold at drugstores, Worthington said.
The LIRR even made a special pass that Roxey - described as small and "yellow" - wore around his neck, giving him unlimited access to trains.
Travels with TR
When Roxey got cozy in a special presidential car transporting Theodore Roosevelt, the president chose to ride from Long Island City to Oyster Bay alongside Roxey, rather than displace the pooch, Worthington said.
Roxey finally passed away around 1915, and was buried at Merrick Station - one of his favorite train stops. Today, a gravestone there still marks the dog's final resting place.
The book, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth and published by Blue Marlin Publishing, of Bay Shore, will be released May 24, and the LIRR is hosting a special book signing with Worthington at Penn Station the next day. In a blurb on the dust jacket, LIRR president Helena Williams called the tale "a terrific and heartwarming story for children and adults."
"The humanity and dedication shown to Roxey are traits that continue to shine brightly today among our employees and customers," Williams said.
Excerpt from "Miles of Smiles: The Story of Roxey, the Long Island Rail Road Dog"
Agent Heaney wasn't amused. "Roxey's train hopping is going to get me fired!" he said.
"All aboard!" called Frank when his train was ready to leave.
Roxey scrambled up the steps without Agent Heaney seeing him.
The train left Garden City puffing out clouds of smoke.
Roxey was hooked on riding. He could not stop!
Roxey changed trains at Jamaica.