14 July 2017
Wet snouts and waggy tails: Meet 15 pawsome lifeboat dogs
Washing the lifeboat; greeting visitors; (dog) training with the crew; and looking very cute. Just some of the ways dogs at our lifeboat stations play their part in saving lives at sea.
If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’ll know what an important part of the family they are. And even if you haven’t, chances are you know a dog that you’re very fond of - or who is very fond of you!
The RNLI family is no different. Dogs are a common and welcome sight in our lifesaving communities and have been for many years.
For many of our lifeboat volunteers, there’s nothing better after a long and tiring shout than a warm welcome from their faithful furry companion.
So, without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to some of our canine crew.
1. Archie at Dunbar Lifeboat Station
Archie is a rescue dog and belongs to Dunbar Crew Member and RNLI Press Officer Henry Weaver.
He is well-loved at the station, particularly by Station Mechanic Gipper Ainslie who gives Henry a hard time if he ever turns up without Archie. Too right!
Breed: Hungarian vizsla
Age: 7 years old
Background: Henry adopted Archie in October 2015.
Station duties: Wingdog to Station Mechanic Gipper Ainslie; assisting with training exercises (he particularly loves navigation - and Gipper!); guarding the station’s Trent class lifeboat, John Neville Taylor; and keeping a watchful eye on the harbour from the station doorway.
Favourite things to do: Playing with Gipper at the station and swimming.
2. Laika at Howth Lifeboat Station
Named after the first dog in space, Laika has been a lifeboat dog since she was a pup. She grew up at Ballycotton where she was the station mascot before moving to Howth 5 years ago with owner Coxswain and Mechanic Ian Sheridan.
Breed: Mongrel, or ‘Sooner’ as Ian describes her - a dog who’d ‘sooner’ go to toilet in the house rather than outside!
Age: 15 years old
Background: Laika is a rescue dog and Ian adopted her as a puppy.
Station duties: Greeting children on school visits; helping with engine room and lifeboat checks; participating in crew training sessions; and taking part in the annual RNLI Reindeer Run.
Favourite things to do: Getting out on the lifeboat; waiting at the end of the pier for the lifeboat to return; and swimming.
3. Mr Pickles at Hastings Lifeboat Station
If rescue dog Mr Pickles could talk, he would describe his dad, Hastings Coxswain and Mechanic Steve Warne, as a hard taskmaster!
Breed: Yorkshire terrier (although he thinks he’s a great Dane!)
Age: 12 years old
Background: Steve adopted Mr Pickles 6 years ago and he’s been a lifeboat dog ever since.
Station duties: Where to start?! Guarding the station and the lifeboats; helping to keep the station admin up-to-date; directing station delivery drivers; participating in casualty care training; assisting with regular lifejacket checks; helping out in the station shop; and tweeting about his antics at the station! #PicklesDay
Favourite things to do: Sudoku; supping up Steve’s leftover Baileys (leftover?!); and just generally chilling out.
4. Jemma at Porthdinllaen Lifeboat Station
Having been at the station since day one with owner Coxswain Mike Davies, Jemma is a lifeboat dog through and through. But these days, this sprightly lady is taking things a little easier as she hands over the reins to Mike’s new Jack Russell puppy, Jasmin, pictured with Jemma below.
Breed: Jack Russell
Age: 12 years old
Background: Mike has owned Jemma since she was a pup.
Former station duties: Dog overboard training exercises (with her own lifejacket of course); looking down on and greeting members of the public from the stern of the station’s former Tyne class lifeboat; providing light relief for the workforce during the building of the station’s new boathouse; book monitor for the station’s visitors’ book; and observing launch and recovery from her designated position.
Favourite things to do: Sailing with Mike - Jemma and Jasmin are key members of his crew; sleeping on Mike’s yacht (one of their very important crew member duties); spending time with Jasmin; and being around people.
Claim to fame: Jemma was a casualty during a lifeboat training exercise filmed for BBC One’s Countryfile.
5. Monte at Aberdeen Lifeboat Station
Named after legendary Cromer Coxswain Henry Blogg’s dog, Monte is becoming a lifeboat dog legend in his own right!
The lifeboat station can be a lonely place for a full-time station mechanic and so Cal Reed, Mechanic and Deputy Second Coxswain at Aberdeen RNLI, decided a dog would make a perfect companion.
When Cal’s local animal rescue centre sent him a photo of a ‘skinny little fluffy weed of a dog’ who had clearly been neglected, Cal and his partner Kate went to meet him and brought Monte home into the RNLI fold.
Breed: German shepherd
Age: 18 months old
Background: Rescued by Mrs Murray’s Cat and Dog Home at around 4 months old and adopted by Cal, Kate and the lifeboat crew!
Station duties: Welcoming visitors and crew to the station - very enthusiastically; ensuring Cal doesn’t miss a bit when he washes the station’s Severn class lifeboat, Bon Accord; being Cal’s right-hand dog and the best station companion ever!
Favourite things to do: Grabbing a drink from the station hose and playing with tennis balls.
6. Bosco at Enniskillen (Carrybridge) Lifeboat Station
At just 2½ years old, Bosco is still learning the ropes as station dog at Enniskillen. But owner, Crew Member Jen Bailey, and her father, Lifeboat Operations Manager Tom Bailey, are teaching him well.
This gentle, sweet-natured boy is Jen’s best bud and constant companion. He is adored everywhere he goes and as such, frequently outshines Jen!
Breed: Parson Jack Russell
Age: 2½ years old
Background: Jen has owned Bosco since he was a puppy.
Station duties: Chief welcomer for visitors to the station (he even wears a special RNLI coat for this very important role); taking the ‘lead’ in school and youth group visits (children love him!); assisting with training exercises; and fundraising with the station volunteers - Jen’s bucket is always the heaviest!
Favourite things to do: Playing fetch with his tennis balls is Bosco’s most favourite thing in life; food and lifeboats come a close second.
7. Ben at Douglas Lifeboat Station
With 11 years' lifeboat station experience under his collar, Ben is a lifeboat dog veteran. Don’t be fooled by his relaxed appearance; Ben is always alert and ready for action, just like his dad, Douglas Mechanic Tony Radcliffe.
Breed: Border collie cross with a touch of Akita
Age: 11 years old
Background: Tony has owned Ben since he was a pup.
Station duties: Keeping a watchful eye over the station and his dad; assisting with navigation training, post-it notes at the ready; and making thorough checks of every single compartment onboard the lifeboat, including the anchor locker, in his high-vis vest of course.
Favourite things to do: Chasing birds.
8. Mickey at Cowes Lifeboat Station
Mickey is Cowes Lifeboat Station’s longest serving lifeboat dog and has always been at owner Lifeboat Operations Manager Mark Southwell’s side.
But with his health deteriorating, Mickey can’t do as much as he used to, and so is priming 2-year-old golden retriever Maisie, also owned by Mark, to follow in his pawprints.
In fact, station canines are such a common sight at Cowes that new crew members only feel well and truly accepted once their dog’s name has been used for administration purposes!
Breed: Collie/Labrador cross
Age: 13 years old
Background: Mark has owned Mickey since he was a puppy.
Former station duties: Head of station security
Fondest station memory: Mark was walking Mickey and Maisie in the park once when his pager sounded. As Mark jogged to the station with the dogs in tow, Mickey decided he needed to do his business. So Mark cleared it up and continued to the station with a full poo bag swinging in one hand. ‘It’s not all romantic heroics at the RNLI!’ says Mark.
Favourite things to do: Playing in the park.
9. Molly at Tower Lifeboat Station
This is #MollyTheLifeboatCrewDog. She is an honorary crew member at Tower and even has her own crew number - 500!
Since being rescued by volunteer Crew Member Pip Dwyer, Molly joins Pip on every 12-hour shift, which certainly brightens her fellow crew members’ day.
Breed: Sprocker (springer spaniel cross cocker spaniel)
Age: 9 years old
Background: Molly is a rescue dog and Pip adopted her 5 years ago.
Station duties: Lifeboat Morale Officer (LMO); official biscuit tester; and a regular participant in crew training. Molly was even awarded her own certificate for attending a Project Griffin Counter Terrorism Awareness presentation at the station.
Favourite things to do: In her spare time, Molly enriches lots of other people’s lives as a Pets As Therapy visitor.
10. George at Aldeburgh Lifeboat Station
George and owner Aldeburgh Coxswain Steve Saint are inseparable and he accompanies Steve to the station every day.
Known around town as the station hound, George is a well-loved member of the local community. He knows where all the treat stops are around the shops and even features on a local wine bottle!
Age: 6 years old
Background: Steve has owned George since he was a puppy.
Station duties: Giving visitors to the station a very warm welcome (anything for a biscuit!); helping with crew health and safety briefings; and lazing on the beach while secretly guarding the lifeboat in the boathouse.
Favourite things to do: Carrying his own lead around the station - it’s his way of showing off and persuading people to go walkies on the beach!
11. Diesel at Tobermory Lifeboat Station
Diesel has pretty much grown up at Tobermory Lifeboat Station and has no less than three station guardians!
Owner former Tobermory Coxswain Andrew McHaffie got Diesel as a puppy. When Andrew became Fleet Staff Coxswain, his role took him away from home so Lifeboat Operations Manager and former Crew Member and Navigator Sam Jones took Diesel in.
Now when Sam’s away managing a community project for the RNLI, Crew Member Leanne Blair looks after Diesel. And of course when Andrew’s back home, there’s nothing Andrew and Diesel love more than to go on long walks together to catch up.
Breed: Springer spaniel
Age: 3 years old
Background: Diesel originates from the Scottish Borders and has a couple of Field Trial Champions in his line. Andrew has owned Diesel since he was a puppy.
Station duties: Diesel’s main role at the station is looking good. Area Manager Adele Fuller even goes so far as describing Diesel as an RNLI supermodel! He’s happiest when he’s at the station surrounded by the people who adore him - the volunteer crew and fundraisers.
Favourite things to do: Diesel’s favourite game is BallSAR (ball search and rescue)! ‘He loves to search for his tennis balls and kong when out walking,’ says Sam. ‘He does real search patterns, which probably not only reflects his breed but also the time he spends around the station and the crew.’
12. Lucky at Dun Laoghaire Lifeboat Station
When Dun Laoghaire Mechanic Kieran O’Connell and his wife Mary adopted Lucky 13 years ago, he was very nervous of people carrying sticks and umbrellas. But with lots of love, training and reassurance, Lucky soon overcame his fear and has thrived as a lifeboat dog ever since.
Breed: Terrier but looks like a fox
Age: 14 years old
Background: Lucky is a rescue dog and was adopted by Kieran when he was just a year old.
Station duties: Guarding the station’s Trent class lifeboat, Anna Livia, from the harbourside (trying his hardest not to fall asleep on the job!); helping with lifeboat checks; and visiting his dad’s fellow lifeboat volunteers at neighbouring lifeboat stations along the east and south coast - anything for a treat!
Favourite thing to do: Cuddling his teddy bear at bedtime - how cute is this!
13. Woolly at Dungeness Lifeboat Station
With his rugged good looks, you can see why they say dogs look like their owners. Well, that’s what Woolly’s owner, Dungeness Lifeboat Operations Manager and Second Mechanic Roger Gillett, says!
Once the star of an RNLI Christmas card, Woolly has been a lifeboat dog all his life. He jumps at the chance to wear his lifejacket and is such a good advert for water safety.
Breed: Border collie/poodle cross
Age: 7 years old
Background: Roger has owned Woolly since he was just 8 weeks old.
Station duties: Greeting visitors - children absolutely adore him; guarding the launch and recovery equipment for the station’s Shannon class lifeboat – well, it is a cool piece of kit; assisting with crew training; and helping with the station’s admin.
Favourite things to do: Apart from wearing his own lifejacket, Woolly loves going fishing with his dad.
14. Bear at Aith Lifeboat Station
As his name suggests, Bear is big, furry and cuddly - quite the opposite of his wild and remote surroundings at our most northerly lifeboat station on Shetland.
Around 3 years ago, owner Aith Coxswain Hylton Henry saved Bear from going into a dogs’ home. At the time, Hylton’s daughter had taken on Bear’s sister from a family who was rehoming the dogs but they couldn’t find a home for Bear. So Hylton took Bear in for a ‘holiday’ and the rest is history!
Age: 4 years old
Background: Hylton rescued Bear when he was around 1½ years old.
Station duties: Guarding the station’s Severn class lifeboat, Charles Lidbury (you really wouldn’t want to mess with him now, would you!); helping with lifeboat checks; posing for very important crew photos, such as the one above on the left for Photographer Jack Lowe’s Lifeboat Station Project; and generally just looking handsome.
Favourite things to do: Watching food; walking between your legs; and, in Hylton’s words, ‘releasing gas’!
15. Roxy at Silloth Lifeboat Station
Like her owner, Silloth Crew Member Andrew Stanley, Roxy is new to the RNLI but her fellow lifeboat dogs at the station have made her very welcome.
Andrew has wanted to join the crew ever since he was a child when he used to watch the lifeboat in Ramsgate Harbour. He realised his lifelong dream over 30 years later and feels honoured and privileged that he and Roxy are part of the charity that saves lives at sea.
And now Andrew has a new addition to his lifeboat family - Elsie, a 12-week-old fox red Labrador. No doubt Roxy will keep Elsie in check and teach her all she knows!
Breed: Chocolate Labrador
Age: 7 years old
Background: Roxy is a rescue dog and Andrew adopted her when she was 2 years old.
Station duties: Roxy is still learning the ropes so doesn’t have any official duties yet, but she’s done a few shifts of guarding the station’s B class Atlantic 85 lifeboat, Elaine and Don Wilkinson. Being such a friendly dog, she’s a good morale booster. And last year she joined the station’s float in the Silloth Carnival.
Favourite things to do: Playing with her ball; swimming; running down the slipway for a dip; and being a role model to Elsie.
Do you know a lifeboat dog?
Is there a lifeboat dog at your local station? If so, we’d love to meet them. Post a photo with their name and the difference they make in your community on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages using hashtag #RNLIdogs.
Alternatively, give them a shout out in the comments below.
You'll see more than one soggy doggy rescued in Saving Lives at Sea, a 12-part BBC series on the RNLI’s lifesaving work. Get more stories from the series here.