Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog's Legacy Lives ON

by Caroline Golon

Dayna, Sparkles and SpannerIt may seem unusual that a dog would have a place of honor on the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation Memorial Walk, but Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog, who touched many lives and even saved a few, was no ordinary dog.

Sparkles, who passed away last October, spent the majority of her life helping her owner, Firefighter Dayna Hilton, spread the message of fire safety to millions of children across the nation. Today, Dayna and two of Sparkles’ adopted brothers, Tango and Siren, carry on the legacy that Sparkles left behind.

Dayna adopted Sparkles in 2003 from the Dalmatian Assistance League of Tulsa, which had rescued Sparkles from a home with 62 other dogs. “I just fell in love with her at first sight,” she said. “And when I saw children come to her at the adoption event and she rolled over and let them pet her belly, I knew she was a very special dog.”

Sparkles’ way with children made her a natural partner in the Fire Safety program Dayna was developing for schools. And, when Sparkles showed that, on the first try, she could “crawl low” like Dayna taught kids to do in fires, the firefighter was amazed. “She knew exactly what to do. I couldn’t believe it!” Dayna said.

Angelica and SparklesDayna, Sparkles and another adopted Dalmatian, Spanner (who died in 2008), taught kids critical fire safety skills through classroom presentations, their own TV show on PBS’s Sprout channel and a children’s book, Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog.

But Sparkles’ work became life saving when two little girls from the same school but different families were involved in house fires. The girls, who had attended Dayna and Sparkles’ presentation only weeks before, remembered the fire safety lessons that Sparkles had taught them and were able to escape their homes safely.

Still emotional to this day, Dayna shares the story of one of the little girls, Angelica, who told Dayna, “I was under the ‘cobers’ and the smoke came and I got out of bed and got low just like Sparkles did!”

“I could not believe it,” said Dayna. “What’s even more amazing is that little girl helped her father, who was disoriented from smoke inhalation, get down on the floor and crawl to safety.”

Tango and SirenToday, Dayna, Tango and new Dalmatian puppy Siren continue to build on the program that Sparkles made a success. Through in-school presentations, books, a webcast and Keep Kids Fire Safe, a foundation started in Sparkles’ honor, the trio continue to teach kids – and their families – about fire prevention and safety.

Tango and Siren each bring their own talents to the program. Tango has taken the lead on the education programs and Siren is learning to ride a skateboard and surf, which helps the team engage older kids, Dayna says.

But Dayna will never forget the special dog who made such an impact on so many people. “Sparkles touched many, many lives. When she died, I thought, ‘What am I going to do without Sparkles?’ But now I know. Sparkles laid the groundwork for this program and we’ll be able to take it and continue to do great things with it. “

To honor the amazing work Sparkles, Spanner, Tango and Siren have done to help spread the importance of fire safety, Freekibble.com will be donating 5,000 meals to the Dalmatian Assistance League of Tulsa.


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