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Jake introduces himself.
Stop, drop, roll... and sit posted on 04/01/2017

Joe Schwab, a Senior Firefighter/Paramedic at the Hoodland Fire District (HFD), notes that most people in the community probably don’t know the names of the district’s firefighters. However, there is one member of the district that is instantly recognizable and easy to remember: the four-year-old purebred Dalmatian, Jake the Firedog.

“There’s a face on the fire district even if it’s spotted and wants to lick you,” said Schwab, Jake’s handler and caretaker.

Jake arrived at the district four years ago when he was just nine weeks old, sometime after the district responded to a house fire where responders had to use an oxygen mask designed for a human to save a dog’s life. Schwab, who has been with the district for 10 years, and Jake now help raise money to provide oxygen masks designed for animals to smaller fire districts in the state.

HFD has such masks on all of its response vehicles, and thanks to Jake and Schwab, more than 230 sets of masks have been given to other districts.

“I never thought it would get this big,” said Schwab, who noted they have raised more than $23,000 so far. “He’s exceeded every expectation.”

The pair raises money through the Emma Zen Foundation, a nonprofit organization, and Schwab notes that while the HFD has not had to use an animal oxygen mask yet, other districts that have received their donations have, including the Pendleton Fire Department using one to save a lizard.

Jake’s role in the district goes well beyond the oxygen masks, too, as he serves as a way to get conversations started, break down the barriers and spread fire prevention lessons.

“It’s amazing how many conversations that dog has gotten me into,” Schwab said.

Jake also assists with station tours, demonstrates how to wear the pet oxygen masks, performs other demonstrations (although Schwab said Jake needs to get more consistency on the “stop, drop and roll” drill) and also serving as a calming influence on the staff, as Schwab noted that Jake will seek out anyone who’s stressed and “hole up with them for a while.” Jake has also been a boon for interacting with people living with disabilities, as Schwab noted, including children at the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp.

“He doesn’t care about wheelchairs or disabilities,” Schwab said. “He’s just a dog and they’re a kid. That’s been a real cool thing.”

Schwab also hopes to bring Jake to the Welches School to help kids with reading, noting that dogs don’t try and correct kids when they make a mistake in pronunciation.

“Dogs don’t do that to you,” he said. “You can sit and read at your own pace.”

Schwab noted that he’s always wanted a Dalmatian, which have historically been associated with the fire service, including protecting horses and equipment in the early years. He added that while Dalmatians in general aren’t ideal for this kind of work, fire dogs like Jake have been specially bred to have a good disposition.

“It’s hard to find a dog that’s willing to socialize with 100 people,” Schwab said. “Jake is ideal for that, his disposition is perfect.”

For more information, visit www.emmazen.com.

Donations for Jake’s team should be noted as for “Team 02 Oregon.”

By Garth Guibord/MT

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