Every dog has its day

Published on LEUT Sarah West (author), POIS Nina Fogliani (photographer)

Location(s): HMAS Cerberus, VIC

Topic(s): HMAS Cerberus, West Head Gunnery Range

Reviewing Officer, Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead, AM, RAN, and Ruby's handler Able Seaman Lee Darcy, promoting Leading Seaman Ruby Flinders, the West Head Gunnery Range dog to Petty Officer Boatswain, during HMAS Cerberus Ceremonial Divisions. (photo: POIS Nina Fogliani)
Reviewing Officer, Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead, AM, RAN, and Ruby's handler Able Seaman Lee Darcy, promoting Leading Seaman Ruby Flinders, the West Head Gunnery Range dog to Petty Officer Boatswain, during HMAS Cerberus Ceremonial Divisions.

Leading Seaman Ruby Flinders was promoted to the rank of Petty Officer last week in what 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.

Ruby was born in 2007 and was recruited into the Navy 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 to already have the skills to be a mascot - therefore needing no further trade training, she entered at the rank of Able Seaman. 

She has now given 10 of years of service to the Royal Australian Navy, equalling an impressive seven decades in dog years.

When wearing her winter ceremonial uniform, Ruby proudly wears the Boatswains Mate rate badge.

Reviewing Officer, Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead, AM, RAN, and Ruby's handler Able Seaman Lee Darcy, promoting Leading Seaman Ruby Flinders, the West Head Gunnery Range dog to Petty Officer Boatswain, during HMAS Cerberus Ceremonial Divisions.

Reviewing Officer, Commander Australian Fleet Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead, AM, RAN, and Ruby's handler Able Seaman Lee Darcy, promoting Leading Seaman Ruby Flinders, the West Head Gunnery Range dog to Petty Officer Boatswain, during HMAS Cerberus Ceremonial Divisions.

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,” he said.

Able Seaman Darcy said Ruby was an important member of West Head’s ship’s company.

“Ruby is very important.

“We arrive at work in the morning to a wagging tail and it brightens everyone’s day.

“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,” Able Seaman Darcy said.

As the unit’s mascot, Ruby is sometimes required to perform ceremonial duties.

“Ruby interacts extremely well with everyone.

“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,” Able Seaman Darcy said.

He said looking after Petty Officer Ruby 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.

“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,” he said.

Ruby was promoted to Petty Officer by Commander Australian Fleet, Rear Admiral Jonathan Mead, on parade during Ceremonial Divisions at HMAS Cerberus last Friday.

“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,” he said.

The proud handler said he’d love 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.

“The trainees that come through Cerberus have left their families and for 90% of them - their pets too.

“It’s surprising how much you miss just being around animals, so I 100% believe that all military bases should have some form of animal mascot,” he said.

As for Ruby, she will now continue her duties at West Head Gunnery Range at the esteemed rank of Petty Officer.