EMMITSBURG, MD – A spotted dog with red toenails was remembered during a memorial service at the National Fire Academy on Wednesday as a special friend of the fire service.
Sparkles, adopted at four after being rescued from a home with 62 dogs, went on to have a television show and star in children’s books. She walked the halls of Congress.
And, she loved to show children how to drop and crawl low in case of fire.
With her owner, Dayna Hilton, a firefighter from rural Arkansas, Sparkles greeted thousands of children during her travels to various fire conferences around the country.
A crowd gathered on a brick walk – Sparkles’ Pathway – to pay tribute to the dog who brought smiles to young and old while teaching important life-saving skills.
Linda Hurley, chief of staff of the National Fallen Firefighters’ Foundation, remarked: “We are gathered here today to honor a special friend of the fire service, a friend of children and the NFFF. Sparkles was a true hero who saved lives…”
She added that it was fitting that the pooch “will be remembered here on Sparkles’ Pathway on the Walk of Honor where other heroes also are remembered.”
U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., also paid tribute to his four-legged constituent. “More than a mascot for fire safety, Sparkles was an ambassador of the spirit of Arkansas to schoolchildren across the United States…”
USFA Prevention, Leadership Development Chief Ken Farmer read the sentator’s comments that included praise for Sparkles for increasing fire awareness and teaching valuable lessons. “In particular, let us remember the role her teaching played in saving the lives of families of two children in Tulsa, OK.”
Farmer continued reading: “Sparkles was a good dog, and above all a good friend to Arkansas. I am thankful that our state was represented by such a loyal companion…”
Just after that statement, Siren barked. "I guess he agrees," Farmer laughed.
A little boy stepped onto a stool to reach the podium, and told the crowd: "My name is Ryan ( and I am Sparkles #1 fan. I watched her on tv with Firefighter Dayna. She taught me how to be safe in case of a fire. I know to check a door with my hand, get low and go like Sparkles. When I get out, I stay out and go to my meeting place. I met Sparkles once and gave her treats. I took many pictures and I am in one of Sparkles books. I liked meeting Sparkles. Firefighter Dayna skyped with my class & everyone thought that was really cool. I miss Sparkles. I love her very much."
NFA Instructor Mike Weller said Hilton should be praised for her tireless efforts in carrying the fire prevention and safety message across the country. He said it was gratifying to see a former student excel.
Weller told Hilton that Sparkles’ legacy will continue.
He also announced that students in his current courses had pitched in to purchase a brick on Sparkles’ pathway.
Hilton spoke proudly of her partner in fire prevention, and her voice cracked with emotion as she told the story of a child who got down and crawled to get out of a fire in her house. The girl told her teacher she did what Sparkles had taught her – get low and go. She also encouraged, and is credited with getting her father to do the same.
Hilton said she can’t describe how it felt to have Sparkles’ memorial at such an important place. “I just get overwhelmed. I appreciate everyone who made it happen.”