Recognition for sailors’ best friend
The promotion of Leading Seaman Ruby Flinders to petty officer early in August was a special milestone for the four-legged sailor and her proud shipmates.
Petty Officer Flinders is posted to West Head Gunnery Range on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, where she serves as the range’s mascot and brings joy to the ship’s company every day.
Petty Officer Flinders was born in 2007 and was recruited in 2009 from the RSPCA.
She followed in the footsteps of former mascots Roxy and Rose, continuing a proud tradition of canine service.
As the clever kelpie was deemed skilled to be a mascot – therefore needing no further trade training – she entered at the rank of Able Seaman.
She has now given 10 years’ service, equalling an impressive seven decades in dog years.
When wearing her winter ceremonial uniform, Petty Officer Flinders proudly wears the boatswains mate rate badge.
Her handler, Able Seaman Boatswains Mate Lee Darcy, said Ruby was perfectly suited to her employment category.
“She runs around yelling and barking her head off, like a true boatswains mate,” Able Seaman Darcy said.
Able Seaman Darcy said Petty Officer Flinders was an important member of West Head’s ship’s company.
“We arrive at work in the morning to a wagging tail and it brightens everyone’s day,” he said.
“Being in the Navy doesn’t give many of us a chance to have our own pets, so it’s a great feeling to be her handler and have opportunities to spend time bonding with her.”
As the unit’s mascot, Petty Officer Flinders is sometimes required to perform ceremonial duties.
“Ruby interacts extremely well with everyone,” Able Seaman Darcy said.
“She’s very friendly and knows that when her uniform goes on, she is going to get a lot of photos and attention. She’s more than happy to comply.”
He said looking after Petty Officer Flinders was a responsibility he and his shipmates enjoyed.
“Everyone at West Head Gunnery Range has pitched in in one way or another, from making her uniforms to participating in the parades, walks, vet trips and everything in between,” he said.
“She lives at the facility and the security staff feed her, while everyone else takes her for walks and other forms of exercise, washes her and gives her lots of love.”
Ruby was promoted by Commander of the Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead on parade during Ceremonial Divisions at HMAS Cerberus on August 2.
“She had already been trained to salute and shake hands, but for two weeks before the big day I came in to work early and continued her training with repetitive saluting, stepping forward and shaking hands,” Able Seaman Darcy said.
“Unfortunately, it was quite cold on the day of Divisions and she was more worried about trying to get to somewhere warm.”
Her proud handler said he would like to see more animals at Defence establishments and units.
“They bring everyone together and boost morale around the workplace, and when you’re having a bad day – spend five minutes with an animal and you feel much better,” Able Seaman Darcy said.
“The trainees that come through Cerberus have left their families and, for 90 per cent of them, their pets too.
“It’s surprising how much you miss just being around animals, so I 100-per-cent believe that all military bases should have some form of animal mascot.”