Liberty and littermate, Justice, have the best jobs you can imagine as Colonial Williamsburg’s (CW) animal ambassadors. Last fall, as a part of many new initiatives, these two one-year-old Briard puppies were selected as their official mascots. The Briard is an ancient breed of large herding dogs, originally from France. The breed is a perfect fit for life and work at Colonial Williamsburg. Their temperament is protective, obedient, loyal, faithful, fearless and intelligent. They usually weigh in at about 75 pounds, males slightly larger.
Liberty and Justice work in shifts but spend the entire day supporting and promoting Colonial Williamsburg’s mission. Everything you read about our founding fathers suggests they had a fondness for animals, particularly dogs. At Mt. Vernon, you can read accounts of George Washington’s affection for his dogs. It makes sense to include this aspect of our Colonial history to their programming.
During his lifetime, Washington kept almost every group of dog recognized today by the American Kennel Club. Records show that he owned French hounds Tipsy, Mopsey, Truelove, and Ragman – just to name a few. Greyhounds, Newfoundlands, Briards, and various types of spaniels, terriers, and toys also called his estate home. Colonial Williamsburg’s George Washington (Ron Carnegie) will often perform in the company of his new Briard companions.
Liberty and Justice spend every day in the highly capable hands of their two full-time handlers and trainers, Adam Claar & Taylor Nixon. Adam and Taylor came to Colonial Williamsburg as a team. They met and worked together at Petco for five years. Their animal careers were advanced by participating in various Petco programs, including dog training.
They are ardent students of Patricia McConnell Ph.D., who advocates positive reinforcement and often cite techniques from her book, The Other End of the Leash, as a wonderful guide to living/working with multiple dogs; including food and play motivation. They use these techniques daily to coach and train the dogs and from what I observed, it is highly effective.
Adam, Taylor, and the Briards work daily on positively representing Colonial Williamsburg but also on building their repertoire of commands, tricks, and behaviors. “We especially love seeing the faces of the very young Colonial Williamsburg visitors light up. They become enamored at the sight of Liberty or Justice. They never fail to bring smiles to their young faces.” said Adam.
“Our relationship with Liberty and Justice is built on trust and affection. Each day we see the benefit of their training. They are fast becoming Ambassadors of the Foundation, even meeting dignitaries like John David Rockefeller” says Taylor.
During the warmer months, you can find Liberty or Justice at the Colonial Williamsburg hotels or the Visitor’s Center, greeting young and old alike. The rest of the year, you can find them wandering their beloved DoG Street, meeting and interacting with hundreds of people and canine companions alike. Children, photo opportunities, and inviting sniffs are their specialties.
Colonial Williamsburg is very generous with sharing Liberty and Justice in the community, often supporting events and activities on and off property. Last fall they headlined the inaugural Dogs of DoG Street walk in partnership with the Heritage Humane Society (HHS.) They were also enthusiastically welcomed by the children at the HHS Kids Camp just recently. The second Dogs of DoG Street walk is scheduled for 15 October at 11:00 AM. Registration begins at 9:15 AM. There will be a Halloween Contest, special dog treats and much more. See Colonial Williamsburg’s website for details.
Adam and Taylor want to grow the program to incorporate relatable stories of dogs in history as part of Colonial Williamsburg’s programming. They also want to find “ways to help less fortunate pups in our community” by visiting area schools and expanding animal advocacy, training, and care programs throughout the region.
Paul Bennett manages the Colonial Williamsburg’s Coach and Livestock Department, which includes Liberty and Justice. So, what’s next? According to Colonial Williamsburg’s web site, it includes a breeding program for Cleveland Bays, evening carriage rides on Fridays and Saturdays, oxen wagon rides around Palace Green for the kids, a new home for our cattle here in the Historic Area, a milking program, and an 18th-century egg incubator at the Powell house! Paul also has plans for turning their offsite training facility into a driver training center for our coachmen.
Heritage Humane Society has a variety of dogs and cats who, with work and patience, could represent your business as Ambassadors or office mascots. Liberty and Justice have a major responsibility and therefore have expert trainers but office mascots would not need that level of investment. You may know of an animal that already fits into that role, like Spike and Ford. This arrangement benefits everyone. When their day’s work is done, they enjoy the love, attention, appreciation and affection of their forever families and/or co-workers.
Do you know a family, business or barn that would benefit from a Working Dog or Cat? For more information, contact the Heritage Humane Society located at 430 Waller Mill Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185 or call 757-221-0150.
Supporting the Heritage Humane Society
There are four wish list needs items set up on Petsmart.com for the Heritage Humane Society. They are for small pets, medical supplies, cats, and dogs. The wish list items can be shipped directly to HHS at 430 Waller Mill Road, Williamsburg, VA 23185. You can also donate directly to support other HHS initiatives. Tell them the Pet Reporter sent you.
Do you have a Pet Story? Contact the Pet Reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 757-784-3322. (Not affiliated with the Heritage Humane Society…Auxiliary volunteer.)