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Bilbo the Lifeguard Dog A True Story of Friendship and Heroism

Updated on December 25, 2017
LiveMusicLoverLyn profile image

Lyn loves to read fiction and non fiction and share her passion for reading. With a love of many genres of fiction, there's a lot to share.

Cover | Source

Bilbo the Lifeguard Dog ~ by Steven Jamieson

When Steve Jamieson, head lifeguard of Sennen beach in Cornwall, met a chocolate Newfoundland puppy called Bilbo, little did he know that the bundle of fluff would grow to take up a huge space in his heart and change his life forever.

Partly autobiographical but mostly about Bilbo the book has an easy style as the background is set and the story of Bilbo is told with warmth. Like so many who make their living from the sea, it was a way of life that Steven Jamieson grew up with and he begins the book by saying that he feels privileged to be a waterman, someone who makes their living from the ocean and understands the weather and tides and the sea. Born and raised at the opposite end of the British Isles in Lerwick the main port of the Shetland Isles off the coast of Scotland, Jamieson was to live most of his life in the most westerly part of Cornwall and sharing part of it with his companion and best friend Bilbo.

The Brown Ball of Fluff with Amber Eyes

Jamieson or J’mo as he likes to be called gives the reader an interesting glimpse into the life of a UK lifeguard, a job he started in 1978. The reader is drawn into the action of rescues, surfing and risk. J’mo explains how in 2000 he became head lifeguard of Sennen cove a beautiful beach and surfers paradise on the most westerly part of Cornwall in Britain, near Lands End the famous landmark that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.

On page 23 J’mo meets a furry chocolate brown ball with huge feet and little does he know that that ball of energy would change his life and save at least three others. Initially, Bilbo was bought by J’mo’s boss and as the little ball of fluff with the amber eyes grew and grew there was clearly a strong connection between J’mo and his canine chum.

Eventually, as fate took a hand, Bilbo went to live with J’mo in his tiny cabin on the cliff top.

Chocolate Newfoundland Puppy

Not Bilbo, this is Bella, but what he may have looked like as a puppy.
Not Bilbo, this is Bella, but what he may have looked like as a puppy. | Source

Bilbo says......

— Jamieson Steven

Educating the Public

Integral to the story of Bilbo’s life is the work he did educating people and especially young children about safety on the beach and J’mo would take Bilbo into schools to meet the children and teach them how to stay safe on the beach. He devised a theme “Bilbo says....” and of course the children would do as Bilbo says, even the ones who might not have taken the advice on board from a parent or other adult, they would take notice of Bilbo the by now huge chocolate brown dog with the kind amber eyes.

In the centre of the book are the photo’s, mainly of Bilbo and finishing with a wonderful picture of Bilbo and J’mo together.

Bilbo with J'mo on the Lifeguard Quad

One of his favorite spots?
One of his favorite spots? | Source

An Unbreakable Bond

Anyone who loves dogs will know about the strong bond that often forms between a human and dog, it is said that we all have that one special dog in our lifetime, a soul mate if you wish, certainly a relationship that is so strong and tight that it could not be any other way. There is no doubt that Bilbo was J’mo's dog of a lifetime. Yet, as this book tells he was so much more and meant so much to so many people.

There is no doubt reading the book that they shared an unbreakable bond, built on mutual respect and love.

Bilbo had that star quality and touched many lives with his charisma.

You can almost touch the sand and smell the sea air, almost stroke the soft silky fur...

At times Bilbo’s character jumps out of the page and he seems to be there with the reader, more like a Siamese cat, winding around the reader as they are immersed in certain parts of his story; his presence insistent and almost tangible as part of his incredible life story is explored through the pages of the book. Sometimes, it is possible to feel the sense of the moment, of the lives he touched as the pages turn frantically at times to find out what happened next and at others trying to stay in the moment, not wishing to break the spell of a particular adventure or the feeling that the reader is right there on the sand or in the surf with Bilbo and the rest of the lifeguard crew.

Big Softy

Bilbo loved to meet his public and children loved him
Bilbo loved to meet his public and children loved him | Source

The Book

The paperback is 233 pages long with the addition of those 8 special glossy pages of photograph prints in the center and the front cover features a picture of Bilbo with Sennen cove behind him and wrapping around the back of the book.

We saw it all happen. We were just getting changed, as we had not even officially started work. We charged across the beach in our Speedos just to get to them in time. The father had also seen what had happened and had jumped in after them. Now he was caught up in the rip tide and was in as much trouble as they were...

— Jamieson Steven

The Newfoundland

Of course those who know about the Newfoundland dog breed will not be surprised by Bilbo, his life and his heroism. The breed is famed for having a docile temperament, intelligence and courage and they have a long history of helping Newfoundland fishermen. They love children and are friendly and social. The Newfoundland dog is big! They are one of the larger breeds weighing in at between 100 and 150 pounds and standing at 26” – 28” at the shoulder and made to look even bigger by their thick brown water-shedding coat. The breed also has big webbed feet that help them in the water.


Bilbo’s life could have been so different, yet this dog was blessed with a life that was so well suited to his character and he was such a credit to the Cornwall lifeguards and education on water safety, read his story and you will consider it a surprise that there are not more dogs around the beaches doing what Bilbo used to do, literally helping to save lives, raising awareness and softening the lifeguard message. If you love dogs, surfing or Cornwall this is a must read book, yes it touches on sentimentality, how could it not? But it gives the impression that it is really an account of the life of a very special dog and importantly his relationship with his human.

The book Bilbo the Lifeguard Dog will appeal to many, suitable for adults it could also fair well for an animal loving teenager who is a reluctant reader. The style is friendly and easy to follow and there is a nice flow to the book that works hard to concentrate on the important aspects of Bilbo’s life and work.

Alison Bowyer is credited "with Alison Bowyer" on the inner title page.

© 2017 Lyn


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    • LiveMusicLoverLyn profile image

      Lyn 2 months ago from England

      Thanks, Obviously, I recommend it, I love Cornwall and go there quite a lot, I always try and read some Daphne Du Maurier when I am there!

    • bloggermelive profile image

      Donna 2 months ago from East Yorkshire, UK

      This is on my holiday read list. I love dogs and I love Cornwall so this ticks a lot of boxes for me. Dogs really are man's best friend. Thanks for posting this review.