A Dalmatian in a firehouse — what could be a more perfect scene?
Firefighters said Chico, the Dalmatian mix puppy, snuck into a Florida fire house early Tuesday morning and immediately became one of the guys.
"There's nothing more American than a Dalmatian in a firehouse," said Corey Dierdorff, public information officer at the Hillsborough County Fire Rescue. "The fact that this guy was lost, found the fire house, and made himself at home, that was an incredible experience for everyone involved."
Overnight, a fire engine was returning back to the garage and as they were closing the main doors, that same Dalmatian came rushing in.
"He starts being really friendly around the crew," Dierdorff said. "He was a little dirty but not malnourished, not flea ridden. A healthy dog."
They knew immediately Chico was not a stray, and decided to keep him at the firehouse until they were able to track down his owners.
According to Dierdorff, "The dog took to the crew instantly."
When they weren't responding to emergencies, firefighters spent the day playing fetch, and keeping the lost pup company. Dierdorff said even he made a special visit to Station 5 to meet the Dalmatian.
They even picked up food and treats for the newest member of their team as they were picking up groceries, and created a makeshift bed of pillows and t-shirts for Chico to rest in.
"He was well mannered with big ole' floppy ears. He was a great dog," Dierdorff said.
To try to track down the owner, firefighters put together a video highlighting their day with the puppy and posted it to Facebook, hoping the rightful owner will reach out.
Sure enough, Chico's owners reached out later that same day.
"There were some very distinguishing marks the dog had on its body — oddly shaped marks only the owner would know about," he said. "We wanted to make sure it goes back to the rightful owner."
Despite the happy ending, Dierdorff said many firefighters had mixed emotions about the reunion: "It was a little bittersweet. They were sad to see the pup go. There was a long line of firefighters wanting to take the dog home."