Dalmatian, the firefighter’s favourite breed

Dalmatian, the firefighter’s favourite breed

The image of this photogenic dog alongside a firefighter is ingrained in our minds. Here’s why.

October 12, 2019

Did you know that Dalmatians get along well with horses? Back in the day when firefighters travelled by horse-drawn carriage, Dalmatians were also part of the convoy. Faithful companions for the horses, they were equally important as guard dogs at the firehouse.

As soon as the fire alarm sounded, Dalmatians sprang into action, barking to clear the way for the fire carriage. And, because they have long legs and energy to spare, they would run alongside the horses—primarily to scare away stray dogs who would lunge at the horses’ legs. Dalmatians also proved critical in comforting their equine friends when they had to get close to flames.

It may be a century and a half later but the tradition continues. And even though firefighters’ trucks have changed almost beyond recognition, Dalmatians still have their place in the firehouse … and in the hearts of firefighters!

For sure, other breeds have also worked with firefighters. This photo, taken in Montreal in the 1860s, shows the firefighter William Orme McRobie (sitting in the carriage), with his dog Carlo (and a very impressive looking horse!). Despite his diminutive size, Carlo was an expert at protecting horses from the city’s mutts, proudly recounted his master in Fighting the Flames, published at that time.

To this day, Dalmatians continue to be associated with firefighters. They’re frequently mascots at ceremonies and fundraisers, and contribute to educational activities and fire-prevention programs. Some even have their own Facebook pages, including …

  1. Molly

Molly lived for a while in a Virginia shelter before being adopted by Terry Von Zuben, a fire-prevention officer in Whitby, Ontario. According to her master, Molly takes her role as a mascot very seriously. She helps spread awareness of fire-related dangers among children, by showing them what to do if a fire breaks out … such as “stop!”, “sit!”, “roll!”, and much more.

  1. Wilshire

This Dalmatian was given by a young girl to the firehouse on Wilshire avenue in Los Angeles. The child was convinced that the firefighters would be the best people to look after Wilshire when her parents were no longer able to. Since 2006, the Dalmatian has not only helped children learn about fire safety, she’s also been able to heighten awareness of abandoned animals.

  1. Freckles

On her Facebook page, Freckles tells us about her many friends in her Chicago neighbourhood and how they frequently drop in to give her hugs. She talks about her days at the firehouse and her evenings and nights, which she spends with members of the firefighting team and their friends. Freckles isn’t really into snow or cold weather but is, however, partial to walks and treats!

  1. Twenty

On September 11, 2001, 7 firefighters from FDNY Ladder 20 in Manhattan lost their lives at the north tower of the World Trade Center. In the following days, two sheriffs from Rochester, NY, brought a gift—a Dalmatian puppy—to their devastated colleague firefighters. “Her name was Twenty, and she became our mascot and companion,” wrote FDNY Lieutenant Gary Iorio, when the dog passed away in 2016. “Twenty fit right in at the station and really helped boost spirits during an extremely difficult time. She went on all the runs, she’d jump in the truck, stick her head out the window and bark. She became a local celebrity. Twenty has taken her final run to Heaven. Rest in peace, man’s best friend.”

Photo 1: Fireman William Orme McRobie with his dog Carlo

Photo 2: Molly and Terry Von Zuben

Photo 3: Wilshire and his pals after an information session for kids

Photo 4: Freckles taking a break

Photo 5: Twenty, a pillar of joy


Photo 1: Musée des pompiers de Montréal

Photo 2: Terry Von Zuben

Photo 3: Page Facebook, Wilshire the Fire Dog

Photo 4: Page Facebook, Freckles The Firehouse Dog

Photo 5: Page Facebook, New York City Fire Department (FDNY)

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