While I was researching Merrick's history, I came across a most enjoyable true story of a yellow mongrel who went on to become the official mascot for the Long Island Railroad. He lived about 100 years ago and is buried at the Merrick train station.
Just last year, Heather Worthington, a children's author, published the heartwarming book, Miles of Smiles, sure to appeal to dog lovers of all ages. The story goes that one day in 1901, a stray dog, frightened during a thunderstorm, showed up at the Garden City train station. The station master let the dog in and waited for someone to claim him, When no one did, the kind-hearted railroad employee decided to adopt the dog and named him, Roxey, after one of his own beloved pets. He thought Roxey would make a wonderful addition to the station.
Roxey was free-spirited and had plans that did not include sitting around at the station house all day. He developed a love for hopping the trains. Soon, Roxey was riding the rails daily. He was quite the celebrity and often made the news when he showed up in different towns.
He was not only attached to the conducters, he was also a friend to the regular passengers. Sometimes, he would even follow them home for a meal, but always returned the next day to his life as the most famous railroad dog. He was even given a special pass which he wore around his neck that entitled him to ride any train at any time.
Roxey's most celebrated train ride was with Teddy Roosevelt, in which he rode in the President's private car to Oyster Bay. This was the location of Sagamore Hill, the President's summer home. In 1914, this loveable dog passed away and was put to rest at the Merrick train station.
The headstone was donated by a group of female commuters. It is located south of the station building near Sunrise Highway and east of Merrick Avenue. After all these years, Roxey still has a loyal following who come to visit and keep his gravesite clean. They bring flowers and freshen the water bowl.
Shortly after Ms. Worthington's book was published, New York City's Penn Station held a ceremony in remembrance of Roxey, the Long Island Railroad's good-will ambassador. Children from a local school were invited to hear the story, meet the author and learn about railroad safety.
There are many wonderful and comparable stories of station dogs around the country. This is just a slice of Merrick's local lore.