Lucy the Pooch Rules Mackinac Island
By Brian E. Clark
Lucy, a miniature brown-and-white bull terrier, may well have the best job on Mackinac Island.
The friendly pooch is 18 months old, weighs in at roughly 30 pounds and is about half the size of a regular bull terrier. She has the unofficial title of assistant stable master at the majestic Grand Hotel, a National Historic Landmark.
Lucy’s duties include looking noble while she rides next to owner Ben Mosely on one of the several horse-drawn carriages that he drives around the vehicle-free, 4.5-mile-square island for VIP hotel guests.
“Why, Lucy even has her own employee ID card,” quipped Mosely, who is the Grand’s head coachman and manager of the hotel’s stables. “If she could talk, she’d probably tell you that she runs the place. She thinks she’s a rock star and certainly acts that way. She’s even popular on social media.”
Mosely first arrived on Mackinac Island in 1984 when he was working as a farrier shoeing horses as a seasonal job. The island’s natural beauty, history and romance drew him back. He met his wife there two years later. Lucy is one of several miniature bull terriers he has owned.
In 2005, Mosely was promoted to his current post – which he calls a dream job.
Mosely credits R.D. Musser, the late Chairman of the Grand Hotel, for being his mentor.
“He taught me how do tours, how to deal with movie stars and political dignitaries,” said Mosely, who wears breeches, dark boots, a white shirt, brown vest and a black top hat modeled after a 19th Century Victorian coachman when he’s driving a carriage.
“Though most people who visit the Grand are in a good mood, Mr. Mosely also taught me how to deal with unhappy folks,” he said.
Some of the celebrities he’s chauffeured in the hotel’s carriages include actor Robert DeNiro, actress Kate Upton, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and retired General Martin Dempsey, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Other famous visitors to the hotel guests include author Mark Twain, inventor Thomas Edison and five U.S. presidents.
Mosely said the tours he and Lucy conduct for guests of the hotel often go past some of the island’s lovely old homes, to Fort Mackinac – built by the British in the late 1700s – and Arch Rock, which rises 150 feet above the lake.
He also takes them to the hotel’s museum-like stables, which are home to more than 30 carriages that have been restored to near-pristine condition. Admission is free.
“I’m a lucky guy because I get to drive nice horses pulling lovely, beautiful, 100-year-old carriages and tell people stories about his wonderful island,” explained Mosely, who said some of the carriages are worth more than new cars.
He picks his guests up at the Grand Hotel, which is entirely white on the outside, contrasting with the internal decor of bright greens and reds.
Carleton Varney, a protege of renowned designer Dorothy Draper, decorated the hotel – which opened in 1887 – in a late 19th-century style. He intentionally designed the hotel interior so that each of the 393 rooms are unique in at least one aspect. In addition, seven suites are named for and designed by former First Ladies.
The hotel’s porch is reputed to be the longest at any hotel in the world at 660 feet. It overlooks a vast tea garden and a resort-scale swimming pool named for actress Esther Williams, who was popular in the 1940s and 50s.
The Grand was the setting for the 1947 musical comedy “This Time for Keeps,” starring Jimmy Durante and Williams. It also served as the backdrop for the 1980 film “Somewhere in Time,” starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. Every October the hotel hosts an annual convention for fans of this cult classic.
Mosley said he has a “huge amount of love” for the hotel.
“The Grand is a beautiful place and the colors inside are like a geranium, very charming and organic. A lot of other people feel that way, too, and keep coming back, both guests and employees. One fellow has worked at the hotel for 52 years.”
Mosely said he feels fortunate to be running the hotel’s stables and drive carriages as the head coachman.
“But Lucy’s ‘job’ is even better than mine because she gets to take more naps,” quipped Mosely.
Brian E. Clark is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer and photographer who contributes to the Chicago Tribune and LA Times on a regular basis. He also writes a weekly travel column for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. A native of Iowa, Clark is a University of Colorado, Boulder, graduate who focuses on adventure travel. He’s a veteran whitewater kayaker and skier who has lived in Norway, Sweden, Brazil and Bolivia. He worked for newspapers in Washington State and California for 25 years, including the San Diego Union-Tribune, before returning to the Midwest. He manages to head back West several times a year when he’s not off in other corners of the globe. Or poking around Wisconsin.