October 1 marks National Fire Pup Day, and with several fires currently facing California residents and firefighters, this is a good time to reflect on and appreciate the efforts put forth not only by the human firefighters, but fire dogs as well. The enormous human efforts put forth to control the fires and protect citizens is truly inspiring, but let’s not forget the dogs involved with the search and rescue efforts.
Search and Rescue
Many firefighting-related jobs have been taken over by machines, but machines have not completely replaced dogs in search and rescue efforts. In fact, many dogs still perform this important work. According to the Search Dog Foundation—a non-profit organization that helps partner rescue dogs with firefighters—the best rescue dogs have a bold, energetic personality, and a “don’t give up on the task” mentality.
Fire pups need to be able to focus and concentrate even when surrounded by loud noises or strangers, and they need to be healthy and athletic. Not surprisingly, common search dog breeds include retriever breeds like Goldens and Labradors, as well as herding breeds like German Shepherds and Border Collies
Fire Dogs in History
When you think of a fire dog, the image that comes to mind is a happy Dalmatian sitting in front of the fire station. How did this connection come about? Why do Dalmatians and firefighting just seem to go together?
It began in the days of horse-drawn carriages, when “carriage dogs” were a popular means of protection for the carriage’s occupants; carriage dogs were also seen as a status symbol. Dalmatians were a popular carriage dog breed, partly from their natural athleticism, and partly because they were found to be well-behaved around horses.
It didn’t take long for the Dalmatian to make the jump from carriage dog to fire dog. Early firefighting equipment was horse-drawn, of course, and Dalmatians were frequently used as “sirens” running along ahead of the horses, barking warnings that told people the fire wagon was coming and to “get out of the way.” They also guarded the wagons as the firefighters worked, and even did “chores” (like chasing rats) around the firehouse. All of these things contributed the Dalmatian’s rightfully-deserved image as a fire dog.
Today’s Dalmatians don’t run ahead of fire trucks, but they still maintain a visible presence at many fire departments as a mascot and fire-safety symbol: after all, how many countless schoolchildren have been delighted by these spotted fire “experts” at a school demonstration?
As the evacuation orders thankfully begin to be lifted for residents near the Valley and Butte California fires, we’d like to shout out our thanks to all the firefighters. And on October 1st—National Fire Pup Day—go ahead and take a moment to thank the fire dogs of the past and present for their amazing efforts in keeping us safe from harm.