The New York City Fire Department said goodbye this week to a beloved member of its team: A Dalmatian named Twenty who served as both companion and pillar of support for her firefighting friends for almost 15 years.
Twenty joined the Ladder 20 company shortly after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Seven members of the company had died on the 35th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower that day.
The dog -- then just a puppy -- was a gift from two Rochester sheriffs who had come to the firehouse in the aftermath of the attacks to offer their condolences.
“She became our mascot and companion,” said FDNY Lieutenant Gary Iorio in an emotional tribute posted on Facebook. “She really helped to build the morale in the years following 9/11. I can’t say enough about what she did to help us. She went on all the runs, she’d jump in the truck, stick her head out the window and bark. She became a local celebrity.”
In the Facebook post, liked more than 64,000 times to date, Ladder 20 expressed its gratitude to Twenty, who died on Wednesday.
“We offer our heartfelt thanks to her for being a loyal companion to FDNY members and the community for nearly 15 years,” said Iorio. “Today, Twenty has taken her final run to Heaven. Rest in peace, man’s best friend.”
The tradition of Dalmatians in firehouses dates back to the 1800s when horse-driven carriages were used as fire engines.
According to Mental Floss, Dalmatians are, more than any other breed of dog, able to form incredibly close bonds with horses. As a result, Dalmatians were kept in firehouses to serve as both watchdogs and also companions to their equine friends.
“When a fire alarm sounded, the Dalmatians would run out of the firehouse, barking to let bystanders know that they should get out of the way because the firefighters’ wagon would soon come roaring by. Once the wagon was out on the street, the Dalmatians would run beside it,” writes LiveScience of the dogs’ firefighting role. “The brave, loyal dogs also served an important purpose once the wagon approached a fire. Horses are afraid of fire, and the Dalmatians' presence could distract and comfort the horses as they pulled the wagon closer to a blaze.”
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