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Stray-turned-accelerant detection dog dies at 15

Ashly was trained to sniff out more than 20 materials that can be used to set fires

By Claire Z. Cardona
The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — Ashly, a Dallas Fire-Rescue accelerant detection dog that helped start the department’s canine detection program, died Monday at age 15.

For the first six months of her life, Ashly was a stray. She plodded around a cow field and would walk up to people’s homes and wait for them to feed her. But there was something special about her.

In the early 2000s, Dallas Fire-Rescue Section Chief Debra Mullins began talking to officials about starting a canine unit. Around the same time, a colleague mentioned that there was a smart and social stray hanging out around his neighborhood.

Ashly was adopted, and, thanks to volunteer contributions, the Labrador-collie mix was trained to sniff out more than 20 materials that can be used to set fires.

“When we first got her, I thought she would help out a little, but we didn’t count on the fact that she was as smart as she is,” Mullins told The Dallas Morning News in 2004. “She has a maturity that goes far beyond her years.”

Not every fire scene Ashly investigated was arson, such as one that caused more than $11 million in damage to the North Dallas mansion of local entrepreneur Scott Ginsburg.

But when she did detect an accelerant, Ashly would sit by the site and wait for Mullins so any evidence could be collected and tested. Having a dog help process the scene also saved the department thousands of dollars.

In December 2003, as neighbors looked on, Ashly and Mullins walked through a small one-story white home in the 1900 block of Farola Drive. The bodies of a man, woman and 7-year-old girl had been found in the home after a fire was extinguished.

Dallas fire officials would later determine the fire had been intentionally set by a man who stabbed his wife and daughter several times before setting the house ablaze and shooting himself in the head.

Ashly, who lived her life as a ranch dog, retired in 2012 at 70 dog years, but still kept up appearances, attending department functions and other events. She was the first fire dog inducted into the National Kids N Cops Program.

She was also instrumental in obtaining grants and funds to host the annual Texas K9 Conference and North American Police Work Dog Association conference that ran at no cost to police and fire K9 teams from 2003 to 2012, the department said.

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