Friday, May 23, 2008

Bilbo, Britain's Favourite Lifedog


"Bilbo Pays The Price of Celebrity"
(The Guardian, May 21, 2008)


"Celebrity has a habit of biting back hard. Just ask Bilbo, the UK's first and only lifeguard dog. Where there was once adoring schoolchildren, a book deal, a fan club, Japanese TV crews, photo shoots, dog food sponsorship deals, star turns at Crufts, even talk of a movie deal, there now lies shattered dreams, bitterness and even a hint of professional jealousy. And it appears to have all been snatched away by that most ubiquitous of killjoys - the faceless bureaucrat.

"Bilbo, a six-year-old, 14st chocolate-brown Newfoundland, has been pacing the sands of Sennen Cove in west Cornwall for two years, ever alert to the dangers of the popular beach's pounding Atlantic breakers. Last August, he made headlines for trying to stop a swimmer from entering the water by blocking her path. When she went in anyway, he swam in front of her to protect her from dangerous currents. He is said to have rescued three people.

"Having passed rigorous safety and fitness tests under the guidance of his owner, 53-year-old Steve Jamieson, who has been a lifeguard at the beach for 32 years, Bilbo became an official member of the Penwith district council lifeguards in 2006. He is trained to paddle out to distressed swimmers and pull them back to shore using a lifebuoy. Try to think of a Hasselhoff-St Bernard cross.

"But this summer, the RNLI takes over the lifeguarding responsibilities for the beach - and the council has served notice that Bilbo will be liable to a £75 fine, just like any other dog, if he sets paws on the sand again.

"Bilbo has previously sidestepped this ruling by travelling around the beach on his owner's quad bike, but the RNLI said this presented a 'health and safety' risk. However, facing a hostile reaction during a phone-in on BBC Radio Cornwall this week - and perhaps sensing a PR blunder - a RNLI spokesperson tried to shift the blame on to the council. The council responded that the RNLI need only register him as a working dog to qualify for an exemption.

"Janeta Hevizi, the co-author of Bilbo's 'autobiography', says the RNLI, one of the country's largest charities, is being a 'little too pedantic and short-sighted' by 'sacking' Bilbo. She suspects that some within the RNLI's top brass do not like a dog getting more public adoration than its '100% human' lifeguards. 'Bilbo is a health and safety asset, not a liability', says Hevizi.

Meanwhile, Jamieson - in the wake of a meeting with his RNLI bosses yesterday - says that Bilbo is oblivious to the fuss. The RNLI has agreed to let Bilbo work on the neighbouring beach, where dogs are allowed, and to continue doing 'meet and greets' with beachgoers at the lifeguard cabin at Sennen. It seems there's life in this old sea dog yet."

* * * * * * * * * *

Those who cannot do, govern.
Those who cannot govern, continue to govern.

16 comments:

Gizmosav said...

They obviously have their heads in the sand!!!
Quite unbelievable really...
Bilbo should be honoured with a medal instead of being banned from the beach....
go figure...
Giz

Anonymous said...

Stupid humans.

Flanaghan the Newfie said...

Yes, dogs are wiser than men.

Flanaghan the Newfie

pPaula said...

What a disgrace, To take Bilbo off the beaches after he has already proved he is an asset to swimmers. With his bright vest clearly putting a safety message across and the fact a newfoundland dogs intuition is to save lives in water and spot swimmers in danger, The RNLI need to admit they made a mistake and let him get back to doing what he has already proved he is capable of (SAVING LIVES)I would be happy to see live saving dogs on every British beach they are as vital to us as police dogs, guide dogs sniffer dogs etc. GET HIM BACK WHERE HE BELONGS.!!

paula1330 said...

I have met Bilbo who is very friendly and his very responsible owner and handler. I think its a fantastic way to put a message across to people with the dogs bright vest, but to have such a valuable safety asset on the beach where a Newfoundland dogs instinct to spot swimmers in danger is amazing. Why take him off the beach where he is making it a safer place for swimmers to enjoy. More rescue dogs should be put onto beaches NOT taken off. The RNLI need to admit that they made a mistake and let Bilbo carry on doing what he has already proved he is capable of (saving lives)

Anonymous said...

Yes, what a sheer and utter disgrace. But you see this not only in the U.K. but moreso in the United States. For example, at Ocean Beach in San Francisco, people did every year on the few very hot days when the GGNRA knows people will go into the riptide. They provide no lifeguards at all, and have consistently turned down offers to have Newfies there to act as lifeguards. This is beyond negligence and into recklessness. Shameful.

paula1330 said...

Well as we all agree that Bilbo needs to stay put shall we start a petition? anything that helps? i have not not seen Bilbo on the Beach just at Crufts but i would never visit that beach unless he was there now just to show my support. He was one of the reasons i got my beautiful newfoundland after researching them on the net and then to find he was on a stand at crufts the same day i was i felt i'd met a star for sure. Better than any human celeb. I came across him on the net along with the Karazans absolutely wonderful dogs and most enjoyable web page.Lets give him 100% backing??

paula1330 said...

Ref to Giz. Ellie says, "She agrees with you totally and says keep up the support".XXX

onecoatsam said...

Paula -

Let's start up an online petition. There are several dog groups just in the Bay Area that would get behind it.

Satch & 'Drew's dad

paula1330 said...

Onecoatsam....

I think thats a great idea i know there must be thousands who will back him, i know we are obviously dog lovers but it goes beyond that doesn't it he is such an asset for the beach safety,do you know how to start an on line petition im not sure but if you want to do one i will back you as much as i can. There is also a site called woof woofington where he's getting a lot of backing via comments we need to find away of connecting everyone together.Im happy to spread the word on as many places i see people backing our lovely Bilbo if you want to start the site?? I deep down believe this will make Bilbo more popular than he already is. Where as from a lot i've read people who had wills donating money to the RNLI have changed their wills and others who would happily donate are now not doing so.They have lost a lot of public confidence over this where as our Bilbo is as popular as ever. X

onecoatsam said...

Paula -

We can always start a blog like this. Using blogspot.com is free and we can feed all the coverage into one forum. What do you think?

paula1330 said...

Onecoatsamm..

Excellent what are we waiting for lets get it going. If you don't mind setting it up. You are a hero!!I have emailed Bilbo's Captain and told him you are helping. (United we Newfoundland lovers stand.)XXX

paula1330 said...

Hiya Onecoatsam

Ive just been reading thisiscornwall.co.uk and its looking like Bilbo is going to get his job back, nothing is for certain yet but its looking good, just thought id let you know incase you were still working on his case...buy the way you are very kind for the offer to help him. X

onecoatsam said...

Paula -

If things do not work out and he doesn't get his job back, let me know and I'll start up a blog. You might want to think of a name you would like for the blog.

Thanks.

paula1330 said...

onecoatsam..

Thanks i will keep scanning the news and see whats happening i think if the RNLI. changed their minds now there would be up roar with all who love Bilbo and Jmo. All he ever did was do the best for his dog and for everyone who visits the beach and its sometimes just a case of not letting idiots get away with making stupid decisions..Beats me how they didn't see all this bad press coming, would you take a guide dog off a blind man or a sniffer dog off the drug dept. he's just a dog doing a good service a very much loved dog at that but then again who couldn't love a newfoundland!!!apart from the RNLI????

Anonymous said...

Firstly a very big thank you for your interest and support of Bilbo - West Cornwall's unique surf lifeguard dog. I'm the co -author of his recently published book and have been overwhelmed by the strength of feeling the nation has for Bilbo, (including the few odd ones that seem to have it in for him). My viewpoint is that Bilbo represents all that is good, innocent, happy and honest in this world, which is in stark contrast to all the other awful news stories that fill up the media everyday. Bilbo needs the ongoing support of you all - please do what you can to sign his petition or start one yourself, to keep him high profile on his local beach, which in turn leads to greater awareness of his beach and sea safety message, his unique skills as a life saver that is special to the Newfoundland breed. Any letters of support or your petitions can be sent to BILBO, c/o TOWER CLOSE, SENNEN, PENZANCE, CORNWALL, UK TR19 7AD. Thank you we intend to show this all to the patron of the RNLI, the organisation who initially wanted to get rid of Bilbo, but have now given him back a meagre 2 hours twice a week on his beach as rescue dog. His owner head lifeguard Steve Jamieson is totally brilliant at informing and educating people about Bilbo and his sea safety message, and bBilbo is barely given long enough to demonstrate his rescue skills before he has to depart - it's weird, and I myself wonder why he can't remain on duty full time, like he used to do - someone high up just can't be bothered to pass a sensible re-decision about Bilbo. Anyway - I've rattled on I see Bilbo every few days, and he's a beautiful temperament, instinctive. highly skilled precious dog, that we should all be proud of ~ with love on behalf of Bilbo incidentally his web site is www.bilbosays.com xxxx