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The Canine in Conversation
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Sparky, the fire dog. The National Fire Protection Association uses a stylized cartoon version of the traditional Dalmation as its mascot. Their web site tells Sparky's “story,” though you know it is a contemporary version because “Firefighter Janet” plays a lead role.reference 1 The use of dogs in fighting fires goes back at least 300 years and Dalmations were indeed one of the leading breeds used for the task. In their book, The Firefighter's Best Friend, Trevor and Drew Orsinger cite three characteristics as making this breed especially apt for the role: they were known for their abilities to calm horses, who are notoriously (and reasonably) afraid of fire, they were good at protecting horses from theft, and they were good at catching and killing rats.reference 2 Sparky became the official symbol for fire protection in 1958.reference 3

1. National Fire Protection Association. 2006. Sparky the Fire Dog. The Story of Sparky. NFPA. Accessed Jun 1 2006 from http:// story.html.

2. Orsinger, Trevor J., and Drew F. Orsinger. 2003. The Firefighter's Best Friend: Lives and Legends of Chicago Firehouse Dogs. 1st ed. Chicago, Ill.: Lake Claremont Press. 3.

3. Ibid., 130.

About the illustration: Okay, this is not the official Sparky, but it is the classic Dalmatian posed in front of a pumper. Courtesy of the The Animal Photo Archive.
see also: dogs (andirons) Last updated: May 26, 2008
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