Fire dog helps teach children fire safety
BY LAURA SUMMERS World Correspondent
Sunday, March 28, 2010
3/28/10 at 5:42 AM
BARTLESVILLE — Central Fire Station's top instructor on fire safety issues sleeps close to the ground and frequently carries a blanket in his mouth.
Lump, the fire station dog, is one of the department's best tools for teaching kids how to respond should they ever find their clothing igniting. The station mascot is always happy to oblige in a lesson for students by showing them the proper way to "Stop, Drop and Roll" away from fire.
"He's an extremely intelligent dog," Assistant Fire Chief Bill Hollander said. "We have taught him all kinds of tricks, including stop, drop and roll. He's an excellent educational tool for the kids."
A mixed breed "mutt," Lump has been a part of the downtown fire department staff for three years or so. He joined the Central Fire Station crew after coming home from a fishing trip with some of the firefighters who became acquainted with him along a river bank in the Grove area.
Though he bunks with three separate crews of roommates who trade off shifts during the week, Lump does his best to be a friend to all with whom he comes into contact. He never chooses one firefighter over another — unless food is involved.
"He plays favorites with the ones that give him treats," Hollander said. "He's kind of adopted all of us."
Lump bunks with the firefighters in their upstairs quarters, sleeping in his own dog bed during the evenings. During the day, he has a favorite blanket he drags from place to place in his mouth so he'll have a cozy place to lie down when he's ready to settle in for a nap.
Fire dogs traditionally were used in the days of horse-drawn carriages to clear a path for the vehicles bearing down the road with firefighting equipment in tow. Dalmatians are known as the most common fire dogs, though history shows many departments chose mixed breeds plucked from the streets in the same tradition as Bartlesville's own Lump.
These days, mascot dogs at fire stations are more rare. Hollander said he does not know of any other stations in the area with a dog in residence. For Bartlesville, having Lump has worked out well for both man and beast.
In return for companionship and educational outreach with children, Lump gets room and board, along with free health care.
A canine epileptic, Lump suffers from frequent seizures. Firefighters in the department chip in to pay for his medication and doctor bills. And, of course, if the dog needs assistance, he is surrounded at all times by residents trained for medical emergencies.
"He's led a pretty charmed life," Hollander said.
Lump recently wandered away for a time during a night when the firefighters had a busy schedule of calls and their canine mascot was suffering from multiple seizures. Neighboring business owners saw the dog outside the fire station suffering from a seizure, then he disappeared.
Eventually, after a two-day manhunt complete with a public appeal for help, Lump was found by a family in a nearby neighborhood who returned him to the loving arms of dozens of happy firefighters.
Most days Lump is a home-body, sticking close to the station where there is no shortage of company for a dog in the mood for tricks or treats. Hollander said Lump occasionally accompanies the crew on a training run — especially those that involve outdoor exercises at the lake.
"He's really a very friendly dog to all," Hollander said. "He's always thrilled to see everyone here and he's great with the groups that come to the station. We have a couple of individuals that come by just to visit him and bring him treats. He is the bomb."
Lump the fire dog sits on the bumper of a fire truck with Bartlesville firefighter David Taylor. The dog, which has been adopted by Bartlesville firefighters, bunks with them at the main fire station. He is also used as a teaching tool for children. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World
Lump stands in a Bartlesville fire truck. STEPHEN PINGRY / Tulsa World