The New York City Fire Department suffered a tremendous loss this past week when Twenty the Dalmatian died.
For nearly 15 years, this dog has been a proud member of FDNY. Shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2oo1, two sherriffs from Rochester, NY, delivered a dalmation puppy to Ladder 20 company. Ladder 20 Company needed a morale boost — the kind that only a puppy can bring — after seven of its members perished on the 35th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.
This beauty served alongside her human counterparts and provided a bit of hope in the dark days that followed 9/11.
On FDNY’s Facebook page, Lieutenant Gary Iorio wrote about Twenty: “She really helped to build the morale in the years following 9/11. I can’t say enough about what she did to help us. 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.”
Dalmatians have been affiliated with fire stations since the 1800s, and I’d venture to guess that none was as beloved as Twenty. Because early fire stations used horse-drawn wagons as fire engines, they also employed Dalmatians. It seems that Dalmatians are able to bond closely with horses, and because horses tend to be afraid of fire, Dalmatians were essential. Early accounts tell of horses being afraid to approach a fire and of Dalmatians distracting and comforting those horses, which allowed the fire wagons to get closer to the fire.
Lieutenant Iorio posted this sweet send-off to his colleague Twenty: “We offer our heartfelt thanks to her for being a loyal companion to FDNY members and the community for nearly 15 years. Today, Twenty has taken her final run to Heaven. Rest in peace, man’s best friend.”
Upon learning of Twenty’s death, FDNYdispatchers transmitted a specific message: 5-5-5-5. The fire code, which has been used in New York fire stations since 1870, signals the death of a firefighter.
5-5-5-5 for Twenty means she has been officially released from duty, and that her job has been done.
Want more stories of hardworking, hero dogs? Read this.
Photographer Charlotte Dumas has profiled many of those 4-legged heroes in her book Retrieved. It’s on my wish list.
One of the dogs in Retrieved is Bretagne (pronounced Brittany), a Golden Retriever who is reported to be the only surviving rescue dog from the Twin Towers disaster (one other dog, a springer spaniel named Morgan who worked at the Fresh Kills site at Staten Island, is still alive). A Golden Retriever is also on my wish list, BTW.
Bretagne was trained in and lives in a suburb near mine in the great state of Texas. Her very first assignment was search & rescue at Ground Zero. She was just 2 years old when she was deployed, along with her handler Denise Corliss.
The absence of any human survivors at Ground Zero was unimaginably difficult for everyone involved in the recovery effort — including the dogs. Despite the fruitless search, the dogs worked tirelessly among the perilous conditions that included broken glass, twisted metal, and hazardous emissions. The human searchers were protected by heavy gloves, boots, and masks; the dogs, however, relied on their bare paws for balance, their exposed claws for traction, and their sensitive noses for any whiff of human remains.
Bretagne spent 2 weeks working 12-hour shifts in the dangerous conditions. Her handler recalls that on her very first search, Bretagne slipped on a metal beam that was wet from the fire hoses that still doused the smoldering wreckage. Corliss was nervous, but said that Bretagne “pulled herself back up onto the beam with her front paws and continuing to sniff intently as if nothing had happened.”
Corliss recalls how Bretagne seemed to make a point of putting herself in front of weary first responders. Several times, Bretagne left Corliss’ side to greet shell-shocked firefighters. Corliss gave the command for Bretagne to come back, sit and stay, but was rebuked. Corliss was shocked that the usually well behaved dog disobeyed: “I was surprised that she wasn’t listening to me, but she really wasn’t — it was like she was flipping me the paw.”
One of the veterinarians who looked after the search & rescue dogs at Ground Zero founded the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. Dr Cindy Otto realized that the dogs working at Ground Zero supplied much more than search & rescue or recovery: they provided great comfort to the first responders. She says, “You’d see firefighters sitting there, unanimated, stone-faced, no emotion, and then they’d see a dog and break out into a smile. Those dogs brought the power of hope. They removed the gloom for just an instant — and that was huge because it was a pretty dismal place to be.”
At the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, the puppies in training are named after the dogs who worked Ground Zero. Bretagne met her namesake, who now lives with a man who has Type 1 diabetes. Bretagne 2 alerts her new master if his blood-sugar levels get out of whack.
Cheers to Bretagne and the next generation of 4-legged heroes. May your treats be plentiful and your belly rubs never-ending.
On my way home from carpool #1 this morning, I was driving down my street, minding my own business, when I saw a tiny white dog running full-speed down the sidewalk. With no humans in sight, I figured this little dog had escaped. I pulled over to get a better look at the dog and to see if he had a collar and tags. He had both, so I got out of the car and called him over. He came right away and was quite friendly, and his tiny body was shivering from the 43-degree morning chill.
He’s a friendly little guy, and was happy to drain the water bowl I set out for him. I tried his owner’s phone number a dozen more times, each time getting a busy signal. Just as Pedey the Weasel Dog was getting upset about our visitor, and just as our queen-bee piggie was considering whether this littler furball was edible, inspiration struck and I called the vet listed on Maxwell Chambers’s rabies tag.
The vet said that yes indeed Maxwell Chambers was a client of theirs, and she gave me another phone number to try for his owner. I told her that my animals were about to riot and rather than keep Maxwell Chambers while I tracked down his owner, I’d just bring him to the vet and let the owner pick him up there.
Clearly he’s used to being indoors. He made himself quite comfortable on the bathroom rug and tunnelled under the wet towel a certain girl left on the bathroom floor this morning.
He was a good passenger briefly.
After my #1 son got out of the car, Maxwell hopped into my lap, and before long, he barfed all down my shoulder, covering my seatbelt, spraying the inside of the door, and drenching the carpet in the backseat.
Gross. Really, really gross.
There wasn’t a good place to pull over for a while, so I could feel the undigested kibble he had for breakfast seeping through my sweater. The smell was less than pleasant. I scooped out as much as I could into the street as soon I pulled over, exhausting my glove-box supply of napkins and dousing myself in hand sanitizer.
When we got to the vet, I handed Maxwell Chambers over and big him adieu. I was tempted to tell the vet tech to have Mr Chambers’s owner call me to discuss the car-cleaning bill, but I did not.
I sped home and employed every cleaning technique I could: first sucking up the remaining chunks with the shop vac, then using the Shark hand-vac to get the gunk in the crevices where the driver’s seat moves back and forth on the little track. Who knew there were so many nooks & crannies in which bits of doggie barf could land? I sanitized the door, seatbelt, seat, and carpet as best I could with Lysol wipes, then finished it off with a coat of Meyers Clean Day lavender all-purpose spray to get the smell out. The final step was to Windex the windows and leave the car wide open in the garage to air out.
Perhaps no good deed goes unpunished, but this is ridiculous.
Yes, it’s National Pig Day, and at our house, that’s reason to celebrate. What’s it all about, you ask? It’s about sweet piggies like ours.
Created in 1972 by sisters Ellen Stanley and Mary Lynne Rave, this day gives us an excuse to party and, according to the holiday founders “to accord the pig its rightful, though generally unrecognized, place as one of man’s most intellectual and domesticated animals.” Hear, hear!
Our entry into the world of all things pigs started about 10 years ago, when my favorite girl could barely walk & talk. Bypassing the usual little-girl favorite animals of kittens and horses, she fell in love with pigs. It wasn’t long before she started asking for a pig, and every time she brought up this seemingly crazy subject, we’d tell her sorry, baby, but people don’t have pigs as pets. Problem solved, right?
Not so much.
Once my favorite girl realized she could look things up on the Internet, probably in 1st grade, she discovered that why yes, people certainly do have pigs as pets, and fine pets they are.
We were in very big trouble.
Every year, my favorite girl would have a pet pig at the top of her wish list for Christmas. When the blessed holiday came and went without a piggie under the tree, she began asking for a pet pig for her birthday. We put her off as long as we could, but knew that eventually, we would have a pet pig. When she made this list
we knew the deal was done.
My girl did her research (again), contacting local breeders via email with her list of preferences and inquiring as to whether they had a pig that met her criteria (her words, for real). She wanted a female, preferably black & white (in the pig world, this is called a tuxedo pig). She set her sights on this little beauty
and it was all over.
but quickly warmed up once she realized we were the keepers of the cherry tomatoes. That remains one of her most favorite foods, followed closely by wasabi peas. Yes, you read that right: our pig LOVES wasabi peas. She will be sleeping the sleep of the piggie dead, dreaming piggie dreams and snoring in her piggie way but will bolt upright the second she hears the can of wasabi peas being shaken.
Grass is delicious!
One of my blog friends shattered my heart last night. She didn’t mean to, I’m sure. I read her post about her sweet dog Jazzy and crumbled. I went to bed thinking about Jazzy and woke up thinking about her. I’ve never met Jazzy or her owner, but my heart hurts for them.
Reading her post took me back to Maddy, aka The Best Dog Ever in the History of the World. I have never blogged about Maddy. I’ve blogged about Harry and about Pedey, but not Maddy. It’s not because I don’t love her as much as I love Harry and Pedey; in fact it’s just the opposite.
Maddy was my first dog as an adult, and I saw her being born. She was the pick of the litter, and she lived up to that honor every day of her life.
One day I will write about her and share all of the unique Maddy-ness that made her The Best Dog Ever in the History of the World. But not today.
Today belongs to Jazzy.
Rest in peace, sweet girl.
Our little piggie Piper turned one on Sunday, and we went a bit hog-wild celebrating her first birthday.
My favorite girl is quite the party planner, and this shindig was top-notch. She started planning the menu a week or so in advance and it underwent several revisions before she settled on grilled fruit kebabs, BBQ chicken sandwiches, twice-baked potatoes, Ramen-almond salad, and carrot cake.
Now, if you’re inclined to leave any comments pertaining to bacon bits or pulled pork, resist the urge or I’ll set the birthday pig on you, and let me assure you that she has no mercy when it comes to porky jokesters. She’s vicious when it comes to that.
Party preparations started early and lasted all weekend. The first order of business was to make a party wreath for the front door. We are fortunate to have an artist at the ready, and he created the focal point of the wreath. He’s also the creative genius behind the logo that graces the front page of this little blog.
Next came the gathering and placing of various pig-related decor:
And the custom-made bow for the birthday girl. Amazing how cute it turned out considering it was made from a $1.50 bow from the grocery store, a flower clip from the clearance aisle at Hobby Lobby, and a candle sticker from the scrapbooking aisle.
Making the party favor goodie bags kept my little social butterfly busy for awhile, and she was quite pleased with the results. She decorated the cookies herself with a pig snout and pig-shaped sprinkles delivered across state lines from Pennsylvania to Texas by our uber-thoughtful friend, Debbie.
Birthday gifts for our little piggie included all of her favorites: cucumbers, wasabi peas (yes, she likes it spicy!), and strawberries. Part of her birthday feast was a chunk of watermelon, which she thoroughly enjoyed and hastily demolished.
Two thumbs up for the twice-baked potatoes, which disappeared before I had a chance to snap a photo. My favorite girl has always had a huge love affair with potatoes, so it was no surprise to find them on the menu.
And then came the highlight of the evening: the birthday cake! We scooped out a little of the cake batter and added extra carrots to bake a special (and portion-controlled) cake for the birthday pig. Miss Piggie needed a little help blowing out the candle; we were afraid she’d eat the whole thing, flame and all!