It was easy for the Dalmatian to earn the nickname, “Firehouse Dog.” He moved into the firehouses with the horses. Coach dogs readily became Firehouse dogs in America as the man-drawn volunteer fire brigade pumpers and hose carts became horse-drawn. The breed’s built-in love for horses made it a natural. While other breeds and other animals also became firemen’s pets and mascots, the more colorful spotted dogs which ran ahead to clear the way became traditional features of city life.
This was particularly true in New York City where Captain Joseph C. Donovan was a Dalmatian breeder and delighted in furnishing a pup to a new fire-station or one without a mascot. On at least one occasion a New York firefighter showed a winning Dalmatian at Madison Square Garden.
This was Bessie of Engine Company No. 39 at the 1910 Westminster Kennel Club show. She was particularly fond of Lieutenant Wise who called her a natural-born mascot. He said, ”By instinct, she would run ahead of the horses whooping it up and getting people out of the way for us.
Kate Sanborn, who interviewed Wise in 1916 for her book, Educated Dogs of Today. seemed to think Bessie knew what her boss was talking about as she got up and put her head near his hand. Both of them had been transferred to Murray Hill, Flushing soon after the mechanization of Engine Company No. 39.
“She knows I’m talking about her,” Wise said. “If I died suddenly she would be in an awful fix. She’d keep looking for me. When we were at headquarters with three fine horses and plenty of work, she always followed me home on my day off.
I was living up in the Bronx then and of course had to ride Bessie would not stay in the engine house but would run after the car I had taken Finally I got a street-car pass for her and I guess she is about the only dog in this city that could hop on and off a car without causing trouble with the conductor training the dalmatians is easy compared to other breeds.
Her fire department badge, a little brass helmet swinging from her collar and her pass from the Street Railway Company made her safe. She knew the right corner as well as I did and traveled the line alone if by any chance she missed me. Her son Mike has the pass now. “I’m afraid she is the last of the mascots. The companies that have been motorized find their dogs will not run ahead of the gasoline engines and trucks. They miss the horses and I guess are afraid of the machine.
“Bessie would always follow me into a burning building in the old days and stay one floor below the fighting line, as the rule required, We had to establish that rule for fear a dog might cause a man to stumble if retreat was ordered, Bessie, I think, knew as much about the risks we ran as we did, but she stuck to the rules and always waited for a floor below the men handling the nozzles.”
Why Dalmatian Called As Firehouse Dog?
Bessie’s career had been doomed for a long time. When the first motor cars appeared on the roads in 1892 there was a cloud on the occupational future of the coach dog and the horse. Kate Sanbbm reported, For five and a half long years Bessie cleared the crossing at Third Avenue and Sixty-seventh Street for her company, barking a warning to surface-car motormen, truck drivers, and pedestrians and during all that time she led the way in every one of the averages of forty runs 4 months made by No. 39.
Then like a bolt from the sky the three white horses she loved were taken away, even the stalls were removed, and the next alarm found her bounding in front of a man-made thing that had no intelligence a gasoline-driven engine. Bessie ran as far as Third Avenue, tucked her tail between her legs and returned to the engine house.
Her heart was broken. She never ran to another fire, “At the time Bessie was shown at the Garden the Westminster Kennel Club offered a special class for Dalmatians, dogs and bitches, owned by members of the New York Fire Department.
The results of the show indicate that first place was won by Mike, owned by Mr Dan M. Lynx, breeder-owner. Bess, owned by Lieutenant Wise, was second. Smoke II, owned by Hook & Ladder No. 68, came in third and another Bess owned by Mr Pierre.
As firefighting equipment became mechanized in the early 1900’s many Dalmatians adapted to a less strenuous but still exciting role of riding to the scene of a fire on the equipment or stayed on guard at the station.