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While most pups love helping their humans, Molly The Fire Safety Dog takes service to a whole new level. This altruistic dalmatian has made fire safety presentations in 43 states and 23 countries—and because of those lessons, she’s helped save the lives of children and their families. We spoke with Dayna Hilton, Molly’s human and a firefighter herself, about how she knew Molly was destined for hero status and how she can help you and your pups stay safe too.
How old was Molly when you brought her home?
I was actually supposed to pick her up at 8 weeks old from New Orleans. But as it turns out, Hurricane Irene was in full force that week so I had to wait. So Molly was 9 weeks old when I got her.
What made you choose Molly?
The breeder shared that Molly had received little interest because of her patch ear. But I knew I wanted a Dalmatian, and that a difference like that would actually help us better connect with kids during fire safety lessons! It helps the kids realize that something they might be insecure about is something that actually makes them special.
When did you realize Molly would be good at working with kids?
While I knew from the get-go that Molly would have a lot of energy, I understood that it would help motivate her to train hard and get excited about our work with kids. So once I brought her home, I took her out only a few days later to share tips on fire safety. She was great! Very sensitive to the kids, while still being eager to please and learn.
What inspired you to train Molly?
I became a volunteer firefighter in 2000. In 2003, I adopted a dog named Sparkles. It is Sparkles’ legacy that inspired me to train Molly. While Sparkles had a rough start (she was rescued from a home with 62 other dogs), she helped thousands of people learn about fire safety during her life. She was an amazing ambassador for the fire service. In fact, she ended up saving 7 children and 2 adults. After seeing the impact Sparkles had on her community, I knew I had to continue that work once she passed away.
What was involved in Molly’s training?
I started training Molly when she was 9 weeks old. Dalmatians have a lot of energy, so we spend time doing exercises whether it’s practicing fire safety tricks or doing little jobs around the house. She likes having a job to do. She’s actually a trick dog champion and knows over 80 tricks!
What specific things does Molly do to teach fire safety?
Molly teaches four things: firefighters are your friends, how to make an escape map, how to crawl low under smoke, and how to recognize the sound of a smoke alarm. Whenever Molly and I talk about the escape plan, she will hold up her own plan to show the kids. She can test a smoke alarm with her nose. She also turns the page of our fire safety book during our Skype sessions. And she loves to ring the fire bell.
What is one of the most surprising fire safety facts Molly teaches families?
Many people are surprised to learn their homes can become engulfed in flame(s) within as little as 2 to 3 minutes. I’ve noticed on many occasions people may not think that a fire can happen to them, but when you ask if they have a fire safety plan for their pets, it’s a different story—creating a plan suddenly seems more urgent. And that’s the thing about Molly—I can talk about fire safety all day long, but our love for pets makes things stick.
Congratulations on Molly’s recent hero award nomination! What makes her a hero in her community?
I think Molly is a hero because she really wants to help keep children safe. She genuinely enjoys doing what she does, whether it’s interacting with kids or even helping the Salvation Army volunteers ring their bells during Christmas time. She’s an honorary fire marshall for the Little Rock Fire Department. She’s a friend to all, and my personal hero and partner.
What can humans do to help Molly’s cause?
Listen to Molly’s message: Have a plan in case of a fire, and go over the plan with your family so you’re all on the same page. You can also check out the Keep Kids Fire Safe site, plus follow Molly on Facebook and share her page with your friends to learn about important fire safety tips!
Can you share a memorable story about someone Molly has helped?
We were at a block party and a group of teenagers came up to us—I quickly realized they were deaf. One of the boys walked right up to Molly and you could see the connection between them instantly. They looked into each other’s eyes for minutes, and I’ve truly never felt anything quite as powerful as their ability to communicate without words.
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