Remembering The Bell-Ringing Dog At Wood Island Lighthouse
Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England radio personality and may contain the individual's views, opinions or personal experiences.
There are some stories in Maine's rich history that can put a smile on your face and this is one of them.
Wood Island Lighthouse in Saco Bay is incredible in its own right. It's the second-oldest lighthouse in Maine and the 11th oldest lighthouse in the United States, and it still shines a strong beacon of light today.
But it's some of the history behind the lighthouse, and one of its keepers and his dog in particular, that once brought much fame to an otherwise quaint little structure.
According to the American Lighthouse Federation, Thomas Henry Orcutt took over as the keeper of Wood Island Lighthouse in 1896. When he arrived, he brought along his 2-month-old puppy named Sailor to join him during his tenure.
Sailor was thought to be a Scotch Collie who took a fascination to vessels that passed by the lighthouse. Eventually that fascination turned to action for Sailor.
When ships would sail by and sound their horns, Sailor would run to the lighthouse fog bell and ring it as a response. This delighted ship captains, spurring stories of the fog-bell ringing dog that began spreading across the country.
Here's a photo of Sailor ringing the bell in 1903, via the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse
And those stories most certainly spread. Stories about Sailor popped up in newspapers in states like Georgia and Wisconsin. Eventually, Sailor became so famous that local tour boats would divert close enough to the lighthouse to trigger Sailor into ringing the fog bell for fascinated tourists.
Sailor spent all 9 years of his life as keeper Orcutt's partner at the Wood Island Lighthouse. Just a few short months after Sailor's passing, Orcutt himself passed away from an illness. But the memory of Sailor lives on as perhaps Maine's very first celebrity pet.