Dalmatian finds home, job at Pa. fire department
Ashes will replace the beloved Ember who "ran the station" for 11 years and died in December
By Mary Ann Thomas
The Valley News-Dispatch
TARENTUM, Pa. — For a Tarentum fire and ambulance company, happiness comes with many spots.
Eureka Fire Rescue on Wednesday welcomed a Dalmatian puppy, Ashes Teo of Akerue — Ashes, for short — to replace the beloved Ember who "ran the station" for 11 years and died in December.
Akerue is Eureka spelled backward.
Just as Ember had been escorted by fire truck for her final call at the vet's, Ashes kept the tradition and arrived at Eureka on Wednesday in a company fire truck.
She will join the company's other Dalmatian, Ramsey, who lives part time at the station. Ashes will be the only dog full time at the firehouse, which is staffed around the clock.
The nearly 12-week-old pooch bounded between firehouse personnel Wednesday. Although barely able to reach their knees, the puppy nonetheless stretched its tiny body and looked up at her new family.
Dalmatians have been revered for its more than century for protecting the horse-drawn fire trucks of yore.
The breed's affinity for horses led them to be used as coaching dogs, keeping horses in line and chasing away distractions, according to the American Dalmatian Club.
Today's firehouse Dalmatian plays a new and vital role: "Rescuing" the rescuers.
After tending to all forms of tragedy — about 3,000 calls a year putting out fires, freeing car accident victims, transporting the sick and the dying — Eureka personnel need a hit of happiness.
"No matter how bad the call, the emergency workers returned and would start talking to Ramsey and Ember," said Rich Heuser, Eureka's chief.
No one knows this better than Ron Hereda, 66, of the Kinloch Volunteer Fire Department in Lower Burrell, who has been rescuing Dalmatians and other dogs for more than 40 years.
Rescued animals scampered through his Lower Burrell living room Wednesday. One of the Dalmatian puppies wrestled with a tabby cat while an adorable Jack-Rat Terrier sauntered past.
"Two of them were thrown from a car," said Hereda, of his two terriers as he settled down next to the pen with seven Dalmatian puppies. Some had catchy firefighter names such as Ember, Hot Spot, Siren, Torch, and, of course, Ashes.
While the union of his two Dalmatians, Tiller and Bell, was admittedly a mistake, Hereda takes great pride in raising the puppies and giving them to people who he feels can handle the dogs' energetic lifestyle.
As of Wednesday, about five of the Dalmatian puppies were spoken for, he said.
Hereda has given the dogs to other firefighters from Fawn, Braeburn, Vandergrift and other departments.
"We are appreciative of Ron," said Shannon McKruit, Eureka's operations manager. "And, because he is a firefighter, he understands the tradition. Plus, he loves the dogs."
Ashes will need some time to acclimate to the fire company, with its revolving personnel shifts, sirens and other loud noises.
But it won't be too long before the pup will start riding in the fire engine for emergency operations and play its role in the community as a mascot for the fire company.
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