If you’ve been to visit the lighthouse this summer or gone by via boat, you may have noticed a beautiful blond patrolling the platform and keeping watch over the lighthouse. That lovely yellow golden retriever is 3 year old Lucy, now the official lighthouse mascot. Lucy is the lighthouse owner’s personal pet but comes with an impressive background to serve in this position as other dogs have served the Coast Guard in a variety of jobs for decades.
In 1942, the Coast Guard recognized that the use of dogs, with their keen sense of smell and their ability to be trained for guard duty, would help enhance the patrols. The Coast Guard eventually received about 2,000 dogs for patrol duties. The dogs and their trainers were schooled on the 300-acre estate of P.A.B. Widnener, at the Elkin Park Training Station in Pennsylvania. Others trained at Hilton Head, S.C. The first dog patrols began at Brigantine Park, N.J., in August 1942. The dogs were so successful, that within a year, the animals and their handlers were on duty in all the districts.[i] Nowadays, dogs help the Coast Guard by sniffing out bombs, identifying drugs, or performing search and rescue tasks. *
Lucy has her own impressive credentials and was brought up to serve. She began her career as a service dog in training for an organization called Warrior Canine Connection, which specializes in training service dogs for wounded warriors. And while a good student and quick learner, after two years of intense training, it was determined that Lucy was not able to continue because of an identified medical condition. However, this unexpected turn of events allowed her to be placed in a new job as a certified therapy dog. Because of her sweet disposition and loving demeanor, Lucy and her therapy handler visit patients and staff at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD and two retirement centers in Northern Virginia through Fairfax Pets on Wheels.
As far as her role at the lighthouse, Lucy has many. She serves as a gracious hostess for visitors, a competent tour guide – bounding up and down the two large circular staircases with ease – a fervent watch dog and an expert mink locator (she stands for hours looking in the rocks for the mink that live there). She doesn’t like the noisy jet skis that wiz by but isn’t phased by the power boats, sail boats or commercial ships that move about.
In case you’re wondering how she makes it to the platform from the break wall 10’ below, Lucy gets strapped into a search and rescue harness and is assisted up the ladder where the humans ascend. To get down, she is put back into the harness and is lifted to a waiting volunteer positioned on the break wall below. Fortunately, thanks to her upbringing, Lucy takes most things in stride and despite her numerous jobs as the resident lighthouse canine, she also makes a wonderful companion.
*For more about animals serving the Coast Guard, please click here.