July 15 is Pet Fire Safety Day, intended to bring awareness to the importance of considering pets in the event of a fire emergency. To us, nothing symbolizes pet fire safety better than a Dalmatian and it quickly got us wondering why this unique spotted breed has been a trusted companion in firehouses for at least a century – so we took the question to the office halls. Initial guesses included that their coat would make them easier to ‘spot’ in a fire-filled emergency; that the breed has bad hearing, making them ideal for being on fire engines; or simply that they’re a brave and loyal breed that probably got grandfathered in as the mascot by some Dalmatian-loving fire chief way back in the day.
The real reason wasn’t at all what we expected, because it dates back to when we rode around in horse-drawn carriages and has nothing to do with fire. Turns out, these black and white canines would run next to the horses, keeping pace regardless of how fast or far they were going. As the dogs continued to show they were among the only breed that readily bonded with horses, they began protecting them from predators in addition to providing comfort if they got scared. Seeing as horse-drawn carriages were our emergency vehicles back then, the trusted Dalmatians cleared the path for the horses and were able to help inch them closer to the flames without fear, allowing them to better help the firefighters. As an added bonus, the animals kept one another company while waiting for the flames to be extinguished.
These days we have incredibly advanced vehicles to help fight fires, but there are still quite a few firehouses that maintain the tradition of having a Dalmatian as a mascot – many who help teach kids about fire safety and keep the firefighters company throughout their shifts.
In honor of Pet Fire Safety Day, do yourself a favor on or before July 15, and make sure your pet’s first aid kit is up to date as well as your home’s fire extinguisher; it’s a small step to preventing a big disaster.