Monday, January 6, 2014


Dalmatians have long been associated with fire stations, but their service goes back to at least the seventeenth century. The breed has a calming effect on horses, and this made the dogs a valuable asset. Generations of the familiar black and white spotted dogs, also called Coach dogs, traveled with carriages and stagecoaches. They ran alongside the coaches in pairs protecting the horses from other dogs that ran out as the horses passed by. The special connection Dalmatians seemed to have with horses persisted. Fire houses across England, Canada, and the United States kept Dalmatians. They guarded and protected the valuable spirited horses that pulled the fire wagons. They slept with them at night, ran alongside them on the way to calls, and calmed them as they worked with the firemen. Their appeal persisted into the twentieth century. In 1947, a Montana highway patrolman noticed a half-starved black and white dog running in the open prairie between Helena and Montana City. The Helena Fire Department adopted the female Dalmatian and named her Queenie. For nearly ten years she was a fixture at the Civic Center station.

Queenie wore this badge on her collar. Courtesy Sean Logan.
Queenie would only ride in the ladder truck and she preferred to return to the station on foot. School children visiting always included Queenie in their drawings of the station. She presided over flag raisings and Christmas deliveries to the children at Shodair and fiercely kept other wandering dogs away from her territory. Once, during a sold-out big name musical performance in the Civic Center, Queenie found her way to the wings and calmly walked across the stage to thunderous applause. Queenie died of old age in 1957. Her quiet passing left a great hole in the community.

This photo appeared in an undated newspaper clipping on Queenie's death in 1957. Courtesy Sean Logan.

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