ROCKLAND — Sociable, friendly, golden curls and hypoallergenic. That’s Gunner, an eight-month-old Goldendoodle, who can be spotted occasionally on duty at the Rockland Fire Station, with Chief Chris Whytock.
Gunner is a cross between a poodle father and a mother who is herself a mix of Golden Retriever and poodle.
Considered by the chief as "the best dog ever," Gunner was named by his family who looked forward to enjoying the outdoors with him.
“We thought it was a strong name that fit him well, even as a puppy,” Whytock said. “He loves being in the woods and it's amazing to watch him in his element.”
To the crew at the fire station, Gunner is a calming presence for those in a stressful vocation. Moods tend to soften when Gunner is around.
"I’ve noticed, not just with Gunner, but with other animals, they’re good stress relievers,” Whytock said. “It definitely brings the nerves down a little bit when a dog comes running in.”
Gunner is not the first animal to spend time at the station.
A few have made a real home there. Once, a cat showed up, cold and hungry. Fire Chief Ray Worcester started feeding her, and she ended up staying for almost four years.
A lieutenant had a faithful Golden Retriever, which would wait without fail for his master to return whenever a fire call came in.
"That dog, he was trained so well that when the buzzer went off, he would go right into the bunk room and lay down,” said Whytock. “He wouldn’t come out of the bunk room until his owner came back and got him. I don’t think he was ever really taught that. It was just kind of what he started doing.”
To Whytock's daughter, Madeline, Gunner is a gentle snuggle buddy. To son Frankie, he is a four-legged playmate.
"If we’re at home, if we are all just hanging out, he’s just a mellow dog, unless Frankie comes home from school,” said Whytock. “Gunner thinks that Frankie is his actual brother because they’ll wrestle and play, and Gunner is definitely focused on every little noise that Frankie makes.”
Whytock does not make a habit of taking Gunner to work, but when he does visit the station, he makes the rounds, bouncing from office to office, room to room, satisfying his curiosity as to who's there, and who might want to play.
But mostly, he keeps by Whytock’s side, content to remain still.
"Stick him on the bumper of a truck or something, he’d sit right there," Whytock said.
Gunner has not, nor will he ever be invited to ride in the trucks to an actual emergency, though he may be seen in the fire chief vehicle or Car 1 as Whytock completes errands.
It was only by coincidence that Gunner was in the vehicle, dropping Madeline and Frankie at school a few months ago, when a fire was reported on Gay Street.
But then, he stayed in the car, content to watch his friends do their jobs.
Sarah Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org