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Firefighters at Fire Station No. 4 Make Room For Dalmatian Puppy
[February 20, 2011]

Firefighters at Fire Station No. 4 Make Room For Dalmatian Puppy

Feb 20, 2011 (Times Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- He's only been a Fort Smith firefighter for one week, yet he's already booted veteran firemen out of one fire station's recliners.

Mudd, an 8-week-old Dalmatian puppy, is the newest "member" of Fire Station No. 4 on Towson Avenue, and the tiny, tail-wagging canine seemingly has constant dibs on the station's two recliners. Named after an old fire department term that often meant stop, Mudd alternates his time in the cushy chairs taking long naps with cutting his small teeth on a few chew toys.

Capt. Stanley Releford said his station immediately was transformed by Mudd's puppy nature when the firemen purchased him from a Texas breeder Feb. 13.

"You see all of these tough guys here, guys who break through doors and crawl over and through things during fires, and they just baby Mudd," he said with a laugh. "Yeah, Mudd has nine baby sitters here." To date, Mudd is the only dog at a Fort Smith Fire Station, but that, most likely, will change, said Ryan Rains, a firefighter at Station No. 4.

"I don't expect that all of the stations will get a Dalmatian, but I bet one or two stations will get one later," he said. "Our Fire Chief, Mike Richards, is supporting us to get back to some of the old fire department tradition. Dalmatian dogs used to be fire department tradition, and we're wanting to bring that back." In the early days of fire departments, Dalmatian dogs rode and stayed on horse-drawn fire trucks and "kept the horses company" while firemen battled fires, Rains said. Dalmatians eventually became "fire department mascots," he said.

"It's been years -- a long time -- since a local fire station has had a dog," Releford said. "As long as all the members can agree on it, a station can have a Dalmatian." Richards called Mudd's presence a "morale-booster" for firefighters.

"A pet adapts really well if they have a caring environment," he said. "These guys and gals live at the station 1/3 of their entire life, and it's not necessarily just a place where they work. They live there with another group of people, just like a second home, and anything that can be done to increase the quality of that stay is huge." Following Richards' approval, Station No. 4 crew members purchased Mudd for $400, agreeing to take care of the puppy, Releford said. Mudd's home "is the station, 24 hours a day," he said.

"We all have dogs -- some of us have several dogs -- and so we knew what to expect with Mudd," Releford said. "We knew all of the responsibilities that come with having a puppy." Releford and Rains said they and their comrades plan to train Mudd, who already has gone on 10 "runs" with firefighters in Fort Smith.

"I thought the sirens would bother Mudd, but he didn't seem to mind them," Releford said. "He rode in the truck, and we're getting him a reflective vest. All firefighters have to wear reflective vests when we go out, so Mudd will get one.

"Mudd, he's a real probie -- a probationary fireman," he added. "Mudd has a real probie tag. He is official." In addition to riding in the fire truck during emergency calls, Mudd also will help play host to station visitors, as well as greet students and teachers when station members speak at area schools during fire-prevention programs.

"A dog like Mudd is a tremendous attention-getter for the kids," Richards said. "He will really help increase kids' awareness." However, life won't be all naps and food time for Mudd, Releford said.

"We are going to make Mudd prove himself, like all firemen on probation," he said with a laugh. "The probie period is for one year, but I think Mudd will have seniority on some by then." For Releford, the presence of Mudd is almost therapeutic. His soft, spotted fur and soft cries to be carried by the firemen are helping ease job stress, he said.

"Plus, a guy gets tired of looking around this station at all of these ugly guys," Releford said with a laugh. "It's nice to have a cute puppy like Mudd here." To see more of the Times Record or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2011, Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.

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