Four-Footed “Tour Guide” at Portland Head Light
For those who visit lighthouses today, we have become quite accustomed – and very appreciative, of all of the hardworking volunteers and staff that open our historic sentinels to the public. Thanks to their care and dedication, we are provided opportunities to climb to the top of lofty towers, bask in the spectacular views of sparkling seascapes and learn a whole lot about the fascinating history associated with lighthouses and their keepers.
“Walking in the steps of the keepers” is an unforgettable experience – one we seek to repeat over and over again as time and place permits. But imagine visiting a lighthouse like Portland Head in the late 1930s and being warmly greeted by not only a keeper – but an intelligent and gentle four-footed friend who was more than happy to serve as your “tour guide” too?
Talk about the ultimate lighthouse visit! We may not be able to experience this touching scene today, but thankfully, accounts like the one below allows us to imagine such a time in our hearts and minds.
The following account appeared in the January 15, 1938 of the Rockland Courier-Gazette…
“More than a friendly human welcome – though there is that also – awaits the visitor at Portland Head Light Station. A handsome Chow dog named ‘Chang’ who is pictured above with his master, Robert Thayer Sterling, assistant keeper, is official host and greets all comers with dignity so typical of his aristocratic breed.
“Strangers who may at first be a trifle wary of the husky canine, are soon allayed of fear when a wagging tail and gentle overtures prove that ‘Chang’ is well trained in company manners. He escorts guests about the reservation with an air of pride and accompanies them to their cars in a courteous gesture of farewell.
“Dog lovers who understand the language know that their four-footed guide says to them in parting, ‘I hope you have had an enjoyable visit. Please come again.’”