Wilshire, our own LA fire dog, was selected as one of three finalists in the “Chicago Fire” Top Fire Dog Contest. NBC flew the Dalmatian and his handler, Ryan Penrod (FS 10-A) to NYC for a Today Show appearance on September 24, 2013. “Yes,” says Ryan, “I requested that Wilshire get his own seat on the plane and NBC agreed!”
The three finalists, Dempsey from Indianapolis, Smokey from Jacksonville, Ill. and Wilshire were chosen from more than 100 firehouse dogs nationwide that entered the contest. After their guest spots on “Today,” the public was invited to cast votes for their favorite firehouse pooch on Today.com. The winner, in addition to being named “Top Dog,” would earn a cameo role on the popular primetime drama series about the Windy City smoke eaters.
“It was a whirlwind 24 hour turnaround trip,” said Penrod. “Besides doing the show, we only had time to see the 9/11 Memorial and FDNY’s 10 house.
The competition to be the alpha dog was pretty intense. Dempsey, a 2½-year-old Boxer/Mastiff mix, was intentionally set on fire by a juvenile in 2011. The fire burned all four paws, legs, his underbelly and part of his tail. Smokey, a Labrador Retriever mix, was inside a home that was engulfed in flames. Her lifeless body was brought out and, with the aid of a veterinarian, was kept on oxygen 24/7 for three days until revived.
In the end, Smokey, the pup from Illinois, received the most votes from viewers. Her win secured her cameo on an upcoming episode of “Chicago Fire.” Hope she’s got some TS on the books to take time off from her duties of helping kids learn how to stop, drop and roll.
But Ryan was not really disappointed. “It will be pretty cool to have a nationally recognized fire dog as the mascot for our education room at the museum,” he said. Ryan and Wilshire are currently working on plans to make Wilshire a “live” exhibit for school children at the LAFD Historical Society’s museum in Hollywood. Beyond showing proper stop, drop and roll techniques, Wilshire teaches kids about the importance of healthy eating and exercise by lifting a 100 lb. dumbbell and running on a treadmill.