BLUFFTON, IN. (WANE) — For years, when firefighters from the Bluffton Fire Department went to schools to demonstrate and teach fire safety, students would always ask where the Dalmatian was. Now, students will no longer have to ask. The department has welcomed its first fire dog, Patches.
“A former firefighter had a Dalmatian of his own. It wasn’t the fire departments and he put its picture on the wall just so we could have a dog,” said Bluffton Fire Chief Don Craig. “A couple of years ago a family friend and former member of this department passed away his family gave us a Dalmatian statue. Now when the kids show up we can actually say, there is Patches our fire dog.”
Dane Zoda is an Engineer Firefighter for the fire department and Patches’ handler. His family surprised him with Patches on Father’s Day. The new pup was just supposed to be the family’s dog. This all changed after some research, a few calls, and a donation for free training from Perfect Pet in Bluffton, Patches’ became the department’s newest recruit.
“Patches is very energetic,” Zoda said. “She is very loving and she always wants to play. That’s the biggest challenge is that during obedience training she just wants to play like we used to when she was a puppy.”
Patches’ is 6 months old and has just completed 5 weeks of obedience training. Over the next 6 months, she will continue to train to become a Public Safety Dog. She will go to public safety events and demonstrate actions like, stop, drop and roll, and crawling below the smoke.
“I think my favorite with having her hear with me would be to get into the public schools, get into public safety more, be more involved with the kids and show her off,” Zoda said. “And it’s nice to have your pet at work with you every day.”
Zoda says the goal is to have Patches trained and ready to go to schools by the time she turns one. However, it could be longer depending on the spread of COVID-19.
“A lot of us here at the fire department are dog people more than we are cat people,” said Chief Craig. “None of us mine having her around. She’s just adorable.”
To learn more about Bluffton’s new fire dog you can follow Patches on Facebook.