Dalmatians in the firehouse
Dalmatians are not for everyone, but if you can befriend these beautiful animals, you can have a dependable buddy that is sure to put a smile on your face
By Mick Mayers
As you are probably aware, the Dalmatian is associated with the fire service, and as it is, I have been “associated with” several of them in my career. I say associated with, because even if it lives in your home or your station, you never really own a Dalmatian.
I have read a number of accounts as to why the Dalmatian happens to be a “fire dog”," but the most common explanation is that Dalmatians tended to work well around horses when a horse-drawn fire apparatus was used. The spotted dog would run alongside the team and chase away other dogs, warn people away from the rig, and generally keep firefighters entertained.
I've personally had the pleasure of working alongside four dalmatians during my long fire career.
The station I worked at for a period in my career had a Dalmatian that was very much a local celebrity. Spanner was a fat, happy and very intelligent dog who had a mischievous streak a mile wide. Our training room in that station had a window that opened into the apparatus bay.
Once, while in class, we heard a ruckus, looked up, and saw Spanner running as fast as he could through the bay. Seconds later, a group of angry men also came running through the bay. When we went to investigate, we found that the men were construction workers at a nearby site. They put their lunches down and came back to find Spanner eating them all. Needless to say, we bought some lunches that day.
When Spanner eventually passed away, Kelly was the next Dalmatian to be our mascot. The guys all pitched in and built her a world-class doghouse, complete with a little pool. She was also entertaining, but had some serious shoes to fill after Spanner.
Kelly eventually was bred with another Dalmatian and she bore eight tiny sausage-like pups. In the course of that, a visitor to the station was too near the puppies and Kelly snarled at them. Even though she was a gentle dog, and while she never touched the person, it occurred to us all that having a dog in the station could also pose problems if someone, especially a child, were bitten. So once Kelly‘s puppies were weaned, one of the firefighters took Kelly to his home to live.
Being one of the firefighters who liked working with the dogs, I used to walk around the station with a puppy in each of my two coat pockets. I developed a bond with one of them, and when the pups were raffled off to the firefighters, Beau came to live with me.
He was a beautiful, gentle dog, and incredibly funny. We taught him to howl when he heard a siren, and if you pointed your finger at him and shouted “bang!” he would roll over and play dead. In the absence of a dog in the station, Beau became the default Dalmatian and would ride the trucks in parades, as well as be around for fire department events.
Beau passed away a while ago and these days, we are working on Rudy. He is still very young and very high-spirited, but he is beginning to show the signs of a reliable fire dog. He is all puppy and still chews things up, but not nearly as bad as it used to be.
Rudy marched in his first parade this year, escorted by my daughter Emma, and soon will get to star in some other events. In fact, our newest fire station, my old company, is located on Dalmatian Lane.
Dalmatians are not for everyone. They require a lot of attention and a lot of work. But if you can develop that bond and befriend these beautiful animals, you can have a dependable buddy that is sure to put a smile on your face.