Fire department welcomes ‘Hero’

Published 3:39 pm Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Chelsea Fire Department has a new Hero on board.

The department recently got a Dalmatian dog, 11-month-old Hero, to act as its mascot and to help with public education, especially for kids.

Lt. Don Williamson, Hero’s handler, said the dog has already proven to be extremely popular with the younger set.

“We took him to the school this morning, and I was kind of nervous about him because it’s a lot of money and a lot of time invested in him,” Williamson said. “I said, ‘OK, y’all can pet him,’ and you couldn’t see the white on his back because there were so many little hands petting him. But he was just wagging his tail.”

The fire department has been the beneficiary of private donations, mainly from Wal-Mart and Superior Bank, to help pay for Hero’s care.

The dog’s obedience training and veterinary care is also being taken care of by Creative Dog Training in Cahaba Heights and Vestavia Hills Animal Clinic.

Hero came to Chelsea in the middle of October and was promptly sent out again to spend three weeks in obedience training.

He’s spent the last few weeks getting accustomed to life with Williamson, and he’s finally ready to step into his role as the canine face of the fire department.

“The No. 1 most frequently asked question when kids come by the fire station is, ‘Where’s the dog?’ Now we’ve got a dog,” Williamson said.

Hero will be a huge help with kids, said Chief Wayne Shirley.

“Kids love Dalmatians. Kids relate to Dalmatians,” Shirley said. “When we use the dog in our public service stuff, the kids will remember it more.”

Hero got his name through a contest sponsored by Superior Bank, where Chelsea schoolchildren submitted names for consideration.

Four kids suggested the name “Hero,” and all four got $50 savings accounts at Superior Bank. All four will also march in the Chelsea Christmas parade alongside Hero.

Heather Greene, a Chelsea Intermediate fourth-grader, was one who suggested “Hero.” She said she was just naming the dog after what he already was.

“I thought the dog was being a hero by saving people,” she said.

Hero has already proven himself worthy of the name, as far as Williamson is concerned.

“I’ve been in fire stations for 28 years and I’ve wanted a Dalmatian from day one,” he said.

“This is part of my dream come true.”