- Associated Press - Saturday, September 20, 2014

DESTIN, Fla. (AP) - Rudder, a 4-year-old black Labrador retriever, has several tricks in his repertoire.

He can sit, speak, roll over, balance food on his nose and shake hands.

He also knows port from starboard and can rescue dummies from the water during training.

Since June 2010, Rudder has been a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Destin station.

“Rudder is considered a 2nd Class Petty Officer because he knows so many tricks,” said Seaman Danielle Heckman.



She said he has a list of requirements - tricks he has to learn - in order to advance in rank.

“Rudder helps us out at the station,” Heckman said. “One of the jobs he has here is he’ll run out and get the pa-per every morning.”

His biggest job, however, is his easiest: boosting the morale of seamen and visitors to the station.

“He loves to be around everybody,” said Seaman Shelby Yerks.

“He’s definitely a little attention hog,” Heckman added.

When school groups tour the station, both said Rudder is one of the most popular parts of the tour.

During meal time, he sits and watches, waiting for someone to sneak him a sample of the meal.

When it’s time to rest, Rudder heads to his room, where he has a fluffy dog bed, his food and water dishes and his collars, toys and treats.

Rudder is the latest in a long line of Coast Guard dogs.

“We’re not the only station that has dogs. It’s pretty popular,” Yerks said.

Also popular is choosing names with a nautical theme.

Rudder’s most recent predecessor, a yellow lab named Buoy, retired in April 2010, at age 8.

He moved to Texas with an outgoing seaman.

Rudder replaced Buoy, finding a home and plenty of people happy to love him.

Heckman noted that Rudder is a “big morale booster” for seamen who are away from their families.

Occasionally, Rudder gets days off.

“Sometimes he gets to taken home, too, by the members of the station who wish they had a dog,” Heckman said.

He goes out on the boat with the crew, and they’re trying to get him a life vest to wear on the boat.

He also runs with the crew, participates in training and warns about intruders, human or animal, inside the gate.

“One of his favorite things to do is jump in the water and try to catch the crabs,” Yerks said. “He thinks he’s a crab fisherman.”

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Information from: Northwest Florida Daily News (Fort Walton Beach, Fla.), https://www.nwfdailynews.com

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