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Safe/Sea Canine Corps

As many of you who have seen us on the water are aware, some Safe/Sea Captains choose to have seemingly unusual deckhands aboard. They have stood beside us in the pilothouse through the worst of weather, and oftentimes acted as goodwill ambassadors when pulling alongside stranded boaters with children. For those of you who have not seen us underway with these loyal workers, you may be surprised to learn they are in fact our dogs. In reality, these crewmembers are often better remembered than the captains who perform the jobs, and I have often been referred to not as Captain LeBlanc, but as "the captain who has Mate aboard". After two unprecedented promotions, and a flurry of early-season letters mailed to our deckhands thanking them for their services, we decided to publish a 2008 update of the Safe/Sea Canine Corps.  

Mate is a seven-year-old Portuguese Water Dog and also the best friend and most trusted deckhand of Captain Phil LeBlanc. He has become the ultimate assistant, and has logged countless hours underway. His presence and reputation have become so well known, that he has even been featured in a Providence Journal article about pets on the water. Upon seeing the article and a large full-color picture of himself, he simply shrugged it off as if to say, "It's all part of the job." 2009 will be his eighth year of service and his favorite words (besides cookie) are boat, dock, and work. As soon as he hears any of these, he immediately runs to the door and proceeds to jump in circles just waiting to get underway. He is well known in many local harbors as the furry little head that peers over the bow and paces across the aft deck whenever he and Captain Phil are in port. He also has an innate talent for keeping small children calm and comfortable in the face of danger. Portuguese Water Dogs have been bred for hundreds of years to perform multiple tasks on the water, and Mate is no exception. He is just as comfortable underway as on the couch, and as the most experienced member of the Canine Corps, tries very hard to stay in the boat and set a good example. Because of Mate's long and productive tenure in the employ of Safe/Sea we have taken the unprecedented step of awarding him a Safe/Sea unit number. Normally reserved for two-legged staff captains, unit numbers act the same as badge numbers for police and fire personnel. They allow us to communicate on the radio and identify ourselves easily. In all our twenty-four years of servicing local boaters, this is the first time a unit number has been awarded to any deckhand, let alone one of the canine persuasion. At the award ceremony, Mate sat dutifully as he was presented with unit number eleven. When asked for his reaction to this great honor, he merely cocked his head and looked back, wondering if an increase in his stuffed animal allowance was warranted.

Mate's sister Shea, a.k.a. "Probie", is also a seven-year-old Portuguese Water Dog. She was rescued at the end of the 2008 boating season by Captain Phil, and is currently preparing for her first year in the Canine Corps. Though Shea grew up by the water in Connecticut, it was the relatively calm inshore waters of the Connecticut River. She will have to spend the Spring getting acclimated to the winds, waves, and salt of Narragansett Bay to ensure she has what it takes to be a full member of our elite canine unit. Until then, she is getting comfortable in her new home and learning the ropes from her pushy brother.

Anchor, the greenest member of the Canine Corps, is the constant sidekick of Captain Pete Andrews. This will be Anchor's second year underway, and he has been hard at work trying to live up to the storied reputation of the Canine Corps. At just two years old, he is, like Mate and Captain Pete's former deckhand Toque, a Portuguese Water Dog. Unlike Toque, who spent years patrolling offshore and called Block Island his second home, Anchor seems to be very content with the gentle inshore waters of Narragansett Bay. Though he is not following directly in the paw prints of his ancestors and herding fish into nets, he is excelling in the quick response field and hopes to earn his AB Seaman's card when he turns 18 (in dog years of course). Anchor knows he will have to give his all to follow in the paw prints of his predecessor Toque, and this task has recently become more challenging.

Toque, the founding member of the Safe/Sea Canine Corps spent 13 years vigilantly patrolling Rhode Island waters with Captain Pete Andrews. Nine of those years were spent at our ever-challenging Block Island station, where he enjoyed the pace of Island life. After waking every morning for breakfast at The Oar, he would resolutely stand ready for the next call for assistance to come in. He braved the offshore waters of Rhode Island Sound, Long Island Sound, and Buzzards Bay, never once complaining or becoming seasick. Toque set the standard for all members of the Canine Corps to follow, and his passing in 2000 was greatly mourned by all at Safe/Sea. In remembrance of his loyalty and steadfast courage in the face of danger, Toque has been posthumously awarded with unit number 4.5 to symbolize his attachment to unit 4, Captain Pete Andrews.  

Many of you will remember Bos'n, a five year old Portuguese Water Dog owned by Safe/Sea owner Capt. John Andrews and his wife Sally. Bos'n has spent the last few years underway with Capt. Pete, but after an extensive amount of schooling, has moved on to the healthcare field. Bos'n now spends his days as a therapy dog and can be found in local hospitals and nursing homes bringing joy and companionship to those who are ill. He still holds a position in the Canine Corps Reserves and is available for call-up at a moments notice.

Flo, another Portuguese Water Dog owned by Capt. John and Sally also spent years on the water with me before deciding to retire in 2001 when Mate arrived to take her place. Feeling that her time was better spent raising a family, Flo has produced many gorgeous litters and her children can be found on boats up and down the East coast. As the mother of both Bos'n and Anchor, she is still a voice of authority around the Corps.

Last but not least is the Communications and Operational Support arm of the Canine Corps. Stationed in the Safe/Sea Emergency Response Center and led by Oscar, a.k.a. "Your Friendly Neighborhood Wog", these corps members, the brains behind the brawn, can unfortunately be easily distracted by a belly scratch. Oscar is a two year old Shih Tzu owned by Senior Dispatcher and office manager Nick LeBlanc. He can be seen working his shift next to Nick in our Wickford office where he is also being trained for surveillance work. He spends much of his time lying beside the floor level windows of the office, watching for potential members and returning captains to arrive.

If you see any of our Canine Corps while underway or at the dock, feel free to come over and say hello. None of them have ever been accused of being shy, and will happily sit still for a photo as long as a proper bribe has been offered to them.
click photos to enlarge

Mate (left) & Anchor (right) pose for a picture on the stern of a Safe/Sea Rescue Boat
Flo makes an afternoon patrol of her yard in Wickford Harbor...
Oscar celebrates all the promotions within the Canine Corps...
Shea is using long winter walks to shed some pounds in preparation for bikini season!
Even our pets enjoy winters working from home. Mate & Shea take a nap after lunch...

60 Reynolds Street
Wickford, RI 02852
24 Hour Dispatch: 401-295-8711