I'm often asked at signings and talks about the beautiful Golden Retriever on the cover of my 2007 book The Lightkeepers' Menagerie: Stories of Animals at Lighthouses. That pretty girl, looking so alert and proud, was Lucy, the beloved pet of Ranger Diane Gardetto at Lime Kiln Lighthouse in Lime Kiln State Park on San Juan Island, Washington.
On a research trip to the San Juan Islands of Washington in 2006, Diane was my host at Lime Kiln Lighthouse. As I parked in the lot above the rangers' house, Lucy bounded out to meet me. If you have ever owned a Golden, you know how friendly they are! Lucy wagged her tail with excitement and wound herself around my legs, begging to be petted. We had a few minutes of introduction, and then she trotted ahead of me, showing me the way to the rangers' house.
Diane shared lots of information on the lighthouse and many pictures. We talked about the orcas that visit the area. Lime Kiln is an excellent whale-watching site, and the whales often upstage the lighthouse as a tourist draw. The whales weren't in that day, but Diane told me we'd know the moment they came near. Lucy would alert us; she was always the first to hear the whales. Diane dug out a photo of Lucy sitting on the rocks by the lighthouse.
"When Lucy hears them, she begs to be let out and quickly goes down to the rocks above the lagoon and sits quietly listening to them. It's as if she can understand everything they're saying!"
The moment I saw that photo, I knew I had to have it for a book I was finishing up for Pineapple Press. I asked Diane if she would be willing to let me submit it to the publisher for inclusion in The Lightkeepers' Menagerie. She readily agreed. When I emailed her several months later and told her the picture was going to be on the cover, she was delighted. Now that you see it on the cover yourself, I'm sure you understand why it was chosen by the book designer!
But that was just the start of a very fun couple of months. I sent Diane several "thank-you" copies of the book when it arrived. She was thrilled to see her sweet Lucy on the cover. She read parts of the book to Lucy, especially the chapter on lighthouse dogs, and sent me this cute photo. Lucy really did look like she was listening to the stories! (Notice Lucy was white-faced and in her senior years when the book debuted and this photo was taken.)
Lucy also had a book signing of her own. Diane bought a stamp pad of black ink, invited her friends and family to a paw party, and had Lucy put her paw print on copies of the book. It was Lucy's big moment of literary fame!
But then she got tired of being a celebrity and took a nap. I feel the same way some days, though I've certainly never taken a nap at a book signing!
Sadly, a few years after Lucy's debut as a cover girl, she quietly and peacefully passed away after a long and wonderful life. This is the bittersweet part of having pets, that they are with us so short a time. We love them like family. I'm getting misty-eyed just writing about it.
Lucy, however, will always be with us, memorialized as my favorite lighthouse dog and prettiest cover girl. RIP, Lucy.
(All photos, except the book cover, courtesy of Diane Gardetto.)