New York City Firehouse Actually Has A Pet Dalmatian!

I was driving down Houston the other day when a firetruck raced by, sirens blazing…


Nothing unusual about that. But, just as it turned onto Broadway, something caught my eye: was that a dalmatian hanging its head out the window???


Seriously?? I’ve always assumed the firehouse dalmatian was the sort of thing you only find in Norman Rockwell paintings and old movies, certainly not at a modern NYC fire company.


But does Ladder 20 indeed have its own dalmatian? The other day, I took a walk to the firehouse, which happens to be around the corner from our office…


I knocked on the door, and a fireman opened it. I told him about seeing the truck, and asked him if they had a dalmatian. “Hang on,” he said, “Let me see if I can wake her up.”

A minute later, the firehouse garage door opened…


Another minute went by…And another…


And then, looking incredibly sleepy and very annoyed at having been woken up, a tired dalmatian shuffled out!


She came to the sidewalk and stopped, squinting into the sun…


…Then glanced at me like, “seriously, you woke me up for this?”…


…Then went back to squinting into the sun.


Ha, well, here she is! This sleepy dog is Twenty, Ladder 20’s firedog:


Now 10 years old, Twenty was donated to Ladder 20 to offer comfort after 9/11. The company lost seven men in the tragedy, along with seven men from Squad 18 which was temporarily housed in their building.


According to legend, the Dalmatian became associated with firefighting in the days when fires were fought with water pumps on horse-drawn carriages. Dalmatians, known to have an unusually good rapport with horses, would guard the animals from other dogs on the trip to the fire, then protect them from thieves as firemen worked to put out the blaze, which often required hours of arduous work.


Today, Twenty mainly serves Ladder 20 as a friendly companion, and can be seen hanging her head out the window of the firetruck as it zips through traffic. Keep an eye out for her on jobs – unlike the full-of-excitement temperaments of most dalmatian, she’s a bit lazy, but very friendly!


And with that, Twenty headed back into the firehouse to get back to sleep…


…at least, until the next alarm!


PS – A friend of mine who works with a dog rescue group in Florida is desperately looking for a loving home for two dogs. If you happen to be in that neck of the woods and looking for a new companion, click here for more info!

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  1. I love this! She’s adorable. How do you manage to stumble across all this great stuff. Never have you said “well I was out looking for material…” Keep it up!

  2. Love this–very interesting to read the history of this breed and firemen.

  3. I can totally relate to that dog, that’s exactly what I look like when someone wakes me up.

  4. Also, I’m pretty sure “repoire” is not a word. Did you mean “rapport?”

  5. How did you get that photo – do you walk around with your camera out, turned on and lens cap off? Great story, thanks again.

  6. My husbands old firehouse on W78th had a dalmatian too..But I can say..Not as friendly as Twenty!

  7. Thanks for the story. We used to have a dalmatian that SHOULD have been a work dog. She was strong, full of energy and had amazing muscles in her chest. She was one of those dogs that really should have been trained as a search and rescue dog, fire dog or carriage dog. We did try to find a job for her because she would have been much happier working than being a pet.

    I am glad you found a real life fire dog. It makes me happy to think of a “working” fire dog even if she is mostly a “companion” animal.



  8. Don’t let Twenty’s innocent face fool you; she can be found in the side alley (on the left) digging through the garbage when she’s not napping! And, when the fireman go to retreive her (I admit, I’ve tattled on her), she trots back into the house: hanging her head with feigned guilt.

  9. Here’s a picture of Twenty as a puppy, courtesy of the Daily News:

  10. Very cool. Thanks for sharing…

  11. The Dog Whisperer did an episode with a fire station and its misbehaving dalmation. Almost positive it was in NYC.

  12. I remember a dalmation at the firehouse on 9th Ave. in the ’50s. This was many years ago, pre-9/11. It looks like Twenty has a heart-shaped spot near her right rear flank. Sweet!

  13. Thanks for this… after 14 of the best years of my life I had to put my old dalmatian down. It’s been about 18 months since but I still hear him wimpering for me in the mornings. He was the best friend I ever had, and seeing this gal’s pics, especially watching over the truck and her men the way my boy watched over me, made my heart melt.

    Josh, KC


    Brooklyn’s LADDER 118 had “Smokey” the dalmatian in the 1980s.

  15. Awwww!

  16. find a wanna-be hero suburban volunteer fire chief and you’ll find a dalmation.

  17. Cute! I live in the neighborhood and thought i’d pop in to say that this dalmation has quite the bowel system, ie: Twenty poops a lot. It’s especially fun in the winter when her little offerings freeze and live on the sidewalk for a day or 3…but regardless, it’s fun to see a real dalmation at an awesome station. Glad to have it in the neighborhood.

  18. Great article, thanks for posting. I know another reason Dalmatians are used in firehouses: they are usually born deaf or with great hearing impairment. This is useful since the firetrucks have loud sirens–it doesn’t scare the dog.

  19. In addition to the qualities that you cited, oldtimers described another remarkable characteristic, prized in the day when all rolling apparatus were pulled by horse. It seems that the Dalmatian could run at the heels of the team, and from there was able to detect if a member was loafing. A quick nip at the heel of the offender was an effective “reminder” that got the team working as a unit. The quickness, intelligence, and harmonious way with horses were attributes that made the breed peculiarly suited for such duties.

  20. Enjoyed the new photos !!

    Thanks for sharing


  21. What a beautiful Dal! She looked like she is a liver Dal – brown spots, but I couldn’t be sure. I loved the pictures of her with her head out the window. Perfect!

    Dalmatians were Coach dogs in England and trained to run beside the coaches all day. This trait was used when they moved to America and you could find them with the Fire Trucks and Beer carts that had to be moving all day. This is why, if you own one, you need to make sure it has lots of exercise! My two are out for runs twice a day and play in the yard for hours. Inside they are couch potatoes. It’s funny to see.

    Bo- the deafness is sort of a myth. There is only about 7% that are born deaf. It is usually in a litter that was inbred or from a backyard breeder.

    • This is a wonderful story! WTG Twenty!!!
      Deafness in Dalmatians is NOT a MYTH. 30% of Dalmatians are deaf, either in one or both ears. The Dalmatian Club of America’s position statement on deafness states ALL deaf Dalmatians should be euthanized.
      I have worked years trying to change their position to no avail. Deaf Dalmatians are easy to train using ASL and hand signals. They make great companions. My org rescues them from euthanasia, trains them for therapy work and public safety programs. My oldest deaf Dal just retired from Fire Service after teaching over 10K kids how to stop, drop and roll. Deaf dogs can do anything a hearing dog can except hear.

  22. Where did you find the Norman Rockwell fire painting? I am doing a vintage theme fire truck nursery for my little boy and love this print!

  23. whoah this blog is wonderful i like studying your articles. Keep up the great work! You understand, lots of persons are looking around for this information, you can aid them greatly.

  24. Dalmatian please!
    Not dalmation.
    Just sayin …

  25. Twenty looks like a beautiful girl with a sweet disposition to match. Having said that, the girl needs to go on a diet. She’s probably at least 15 pounds overweight, which is a lot for a dog. I’m sure she is well loved and people are always giving her treats because Dals are always hungry! But she’d be more active, healthier, & happier if she’s not so heavy! If she always squints in the sun, she probably has ISD, an eye condition that doesn’t really cause her harm, but causes her eyes not to dilate properly in bright light. It’s more common in livers than in black spotted Dals. She’s a lucky girl to have found such good care and I hope she will enjoy her fire dog duties for many years to come! Trot on! Tibbie & CH. “Sparks,”CD,CGC,TDI & Fire Safety Dog

  26. Signal 5-5-5-5 has been transmitted (FDNY Line of Duty Death).
    14 years ago, the brothers of Ladder 20 accepted a dalmatian into their lives, donated by the Rochester Sheriffs Department shortly after 9/11/01.
    The pup was rightfully named ‘Twenty’. The pup brought smiles to the firehouse and was always ready to turn out with the brothers, even for a relocation or a stuck elevator at 2am.
    It is with great sadness, the Officers & Members of Ladder 20 must say good bye to Twenty today. Twenty stole many hearts of both the Members and Neighbors who walk by the firehouse. She was there to ease the pain of 9/11, and did a great job at it. -NYC Fire Wire


  27. The members of FDNY Ladder 20 are heart broken to announce that Twenty has answered her last alarm today. Twenty is now riding the big red tiller in the heavens.

  28. Thank you for posting this and the pictures. I used to see a Dalmatian around on a fire truck while I was at NYU and always felt like I was hallucinating (though I was also completely enchanted)! I saw in the news today that Twenty passed away and I knew it must have been her that I used to see. RIP Twenty.