Coast Guard Station Menemsha enlists new mascot

Buddy is the new mascot at Coast Guard Station Menemsha. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Buddy, a two-year old golden retriever, joined the ranks as the official mascot of the U.S. Coast Guard Station Menemsha in a ceremony held Monday morning.

The crew assembled in front of the station, where Station Chief Jason Olsen read from their new member’s certificate of enlistment:

“Be it known that Buddy, in selfless service to his country and affirming the oath of enlistment in the United States Armed Forces, hereby enlists in the United States Coast Guard at the rank of Seaman Recruit, the rank as such until advanced by competent authority…”

Buddy sealed the deal by shaking Chief Olsen’s hand. He was dressed for the occasion with a bright blue collar decorated with his rank, one stripe, and embroidered with his name and “U.S. Coast Guard.”

After the brief ceremony, Buddy posed patiently for photos with the crew, who made it worth his while with a steady supply of treats. Although not standard issue equipment, several of the crew carried dog biscuits in their Coast Guard uniform utility pockets.

Chief Olsen said he figures Buddy won’t wear his first rank for long. As a new enlistee, Buddy will participate in an abbreviated doggy version of boot camp to start, which will likely consist of a few runs around the property and practicing the “sit” command.

Since the Coast Guard ties advancement to enlisted performance qualifications known as “practical factors,” Chief Olsen said he asked the crew to come up with a fun list for Buddy to accomplish. The rumor is that Buddy’s tasks probably will include some of the things he already does best, for example, chasing sea gulls, ducks, and rabbits, and patrolling the boat dock. One of the crew said he figures Buddy will be chief in a year. “He already is,” another one quipped.

With Buddy’s official designation as a mascot, Chief Olsen said he can now be treated at military veterinary clinics, which will save money that would be spent from the crew’s morale, recreation, and welfare fund. One of the clinics is located at the naval submarine base in Groton, Conn., so Buddy can probably hitch a free ride with a crew member who frequently visits his girlfriend in that area, Chief Olsen said.

The Station Menemsha crew adopted Buddy about two months ago from a family in North Kingston, Rhode Island. Fireman (FM) Matt Soscia happened to mention that the crew was looking for a dog to his brother, who put him in touch with a co-worker who owned Buddy and was trying to find a new home for him.

Like many human siblings, Buddy found himself upstaged by the arrival of a new baby in the family, who joined two other small children in the home. Still being a kid himself, Buddy proved a bit too rambunctious around his most recent litter mate. His family reluctantly decided to find him another home where he could get more exercise and attention.

“He was used to the beach and likes the water, so this is a good fit for him,” Fireman Soscia said.

Petty Officer Robert Verdone made the trip to Rhode Island to get Buddy. “He was great in the car, and figured out the first day he got here not to go in the galley or the mess,” he said.

Buddy’s former family was very sad to see him go, and the kids have sent cards and letters to him at his new home. Chief Olsen said the friendly, good-natured canine keeps everybody’s spirits up around the station, and that the crew has been great about pitching in to care for and clean up after him.

A typical day for Buddy includes running up and down the pier at Menemsha Habor to make sure it is clear of wildlife, greeting everyone who walks into the station, and wandering from room to room for head rubs. He’s not the watchdog type.

Since the Menemsha station is manned 24 hours a day and has 26 crew members, Buddy can find someone to nap with around the clock, whether it’s on the third floor with the on-duty crew or on his comfy new dog bed on the floor next to the duty officer’s desk.

Buddy has not gone out on any boat rides because he does not have a life jacket yet. Chief Olsen said Buddy would probably be introduced to boat travel in small doses next spring. Buddy currently is developing his sea legs by going aboard vessels tied to the dock, Seaman Jeffrey Beauvais said.

Although Buddy can’t replace his predecessor, he fills a void left by the death of the station’s former mascot, Bridger, in September 2011. The crew buried him at sea last November.

Bridger, a big yellow Labrador retriever, served as the station’s mascot for the last seven of his twelve years. He, too, was adopted from a family, who was moving to a high rise in Manhattan after spending the summer on Martha’s Vineyard.

In a previous interview with The Times in March 2011, Chief Olsen said that every Coast Guard cutter had a dog on board at one time. The mascot tradition gained strength during World War II when more than 2,000 dogs were trained and accompanied guardsmen on beach patrols to sniff out submarines and saboteurs.