National Fire Pup Day, a holiday meant to celebrate the noble legacy of fire dogs, lands on Oct. 1 this year. In addition to this observance, the Firefighters Memorial Weekend, in which families and friends of fallen firefighters are brought together to mourn, is also recognized between Oct. 8 and 9.

The noble history of the fire dog

Fire dogs have a long and proud history of being staples of fire departments throughout the U.S. before mechanical fire engines even existed. Hundreds of years ago, when fire equipment and passengers were carried in a horse-drawn carriage, fire dogs were used to keep the horses calm as firefighters worked to put out blazes and help others when disaster struck.

According to Cheryl F. Steinmetz, historian for the Dalmatian Club of America, some of the dogs would instinctively take point in certain positions around the back or directly underneath the horse. The Dalmatian was and still is the most common breed of fire dog.

Dalmatians have been used since 1870 when the Fire Department of New York City began adopting them. Dogs of this variety are ideal for helping firefighters because of their exceptional stamina and strength as well as their apparent comfort around horses. They also make for first-rate mascots because of their distinctive black spots! They’re common companions to groups that go into schools and other places to teach fire safety.

Beginning in 1910, the Westminster Dog Show began holding a new category for fire department Dalmatians. Its first inaugural winner was Mike, a Dalmatian from New York Engine Company 8 on 51st Street. This category persisted for 30 years.

Fire dogs haven’t gone out of style

We use National Fire Pup Day to honor the fire dogs that have served fire departments everywhere for over a century.

The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.The appearance of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.

Today, fire dogs perform a variety of tasks, including:

  • Working as therapy dogs to help first responders process their experiences.
  • Sniffing out causes of fires after it’s been extinguished, such as gasoline.
  • Searching for people who might be concealed under rubble

Honoring fallen firefighters

In addition to celebrating National Fire Pup Day, October is also the month when the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend is held. This time is set aside to honor fallen firefighters
Both new families and those who have participated before from around the U.S. join together to celebrate the lives of these fallen heroes. Special programs and public ceremonies are held to commemorate their sacrifices. Professional grief counselors are made available to speak with the bereaved on Family Day.

Those who attended previous Firefighters Memorial Weekends ceremonies at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial are crucial sources of support for the grieving. These returning families join together with new families to support each other through the grieving process.

The event is being held in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Firefighters who have lost a fellow firefighter are also welcome to attend. Volunteers can serve as Fire Service Escorts for the families of their lost friends. Acting as representatives for these individuals, many consider the experience unforgettable as they walk with the forever-grateful bereaved.

After families appear at the Memorial, they are then accompanied by their Fire Escorts and uniformed fire service personnel to perform the Walk of Honor® through the “Sea of Blue.” Representatives from the Honor Guard and Pipe Band Units also serve to help with the ceremonies as well as offer appreciation to the loved ones that have shown up to memorialize the fallen protectors.

This October, join us in the celebration of fire dogs as well as the mourning of those who have been lost in the line of duty.