Eagle fire district'S new 4-legged mascot
By SAMANTHA PHILLIPS
The city’s newest firefighter dog has big paws to fill.
Daisy, a four-month-old Dalmation, is the Eagle Joint Fire District’s new mascot, and firefighter Fred Behnke’s furry companion. Her job is to help keep kids engaged when firefighters go to Hubbard Elementary for Fire Safety Day, and to make public appearances with the firefighters.
Daisy is following the pawprints of the last mascot, Ash, who also belonged to the Behnke family.
Behnke said the puppy will ride along with the firefighters in the fire truck during the St. Patrick’s Day Parade as Ash did, with green-painted spots, for years.
“We would bring Ash out of the fire truck at events and kids would be estatic. Ash loved kids – some Dalmations aren’t friendly but Ash was. I think Daisy is going to be the same way.” Behnke said.
Firefighter Matt Halicki rescued Ash from a breeder who was going to euthanize her because of her cherry eye, a condition that affects a dog’s eye gland. But Ash and Halicki’s dogs didn’t get along, so Halicki proposed that Behnke adopt her.
“We fell in love with her, so we took her home,” Behnke said.
Ash continued to live with the family throughout her life, attending events with firefighters and playing with the two kids born to Behnke and his wife. Ash was the only dog to be featured in the firefighters’ group photo.
When Ash was 14, she had kidney disease. In August 2017, she had to be euthanized.
On her last day, Behnke got permission from fire Chief Ron Stanish to give her one last ride in the fire truck. Behnke and his wife, along with Halicki’s son, rode with Ash to a veterinarian clinic in Howland.
The department mourned the loss, as everyone had known the dog for more than a decade. But for his kids, who had grown up with her, it was especially hard.
“My son was really attached to Ash, and the kids really missed her, so we got them a dog for Christmas,” Behnke said.
Finding a Dalmation for sale was difficult because they aren’t common, but they ended up finding the perfect one on a Facebook sale listing. They drove to Kentucky to pick her up from a breeder, and surprised their kids on Christmas morning.
The family has had Daisy for about two months now.
Behnke said he found the history of Dalmations working with a fire department interesting.
“Everybody thinks it was so the dog could find the fire hydrant, but that’s not the case,” he said.
Dalmations were used by firefighters in the 1700s to bark and alert people when the firefighters’ horse-drawn wagon was coming, and then the dogs would run alongside the wagon to protect the horses from anything that might attack them.
Then, the dogs would stand by the horses while the firefighters put out a fire, in case someone tried to steal from the wagon or the horses.
Daisy is spared from running to fires, and instead runs and leaps for a short time before falling asleep in Behnke’s arms.