Thursday, October 15, 2009

Interview with Sparkles, the Fire Safety Dog, proud owner of Dayna Hilton

Woof! I'm excited to have as my guest this week a very special dog: Sparkles. Together with Dayna, her human writer mom who also happens to be a fire fighter, Sparkles does lots of school visits and teaches children about fire safety. That's why she's known as the Fire Safety Dog! She's been all over the country and all over the news. I'm sooooo jealous!

Hey, Sparkles, thanks for dropping by this side of the woods, girl! How did you come to live with Dayna?

Well, that’s a really interesting story. I was living in a house with 62 other dogs and was really miserable! Can you imagine living in a house with 62 other dogs? It was so crowded and I wanted to get out of there so bad!

Thank goodness I was rescued and taken to the animal shelter. From there, the folks at the Dalmatian Assistance League of Tulsa took me and my dal pals to foster homes for awhile. Boy, was it ever nice to be around people that wanted to take good care of me!

One day, my foster parents told me that I was going to meet somebody really special. I was so excited that my tail wouldn’t stop wagging! They knew that I needed to be with someone who really cared about me since they told me that I was a special dog. What does “special” mean?

Anyway, I met Dayna and I fell in love with her right away! She talked so sweet to me and gave me lots of hugs. She sealed the deal when she rubbed my tummy! I get all warm and fuzzy just thinking about that day! Best day of my life, I tell ya!

During the ride to Arkansas, I was so excited and couldn’t wait to live with my new family. That was in 2003, and I am still the happiest dog on the face of the planet! Those other icky days are now long gone and I am now doing what I was born to do, being a fire safety dog!

I hear she's a firefighter and together you teach children fire safety. How cool is that! How did that come about?

At first, I didn’t know Dayna was a firefighter. Heck, I didn’t even know what a firefighter was! When I got to her house, I saw all of her gear that she wears to keep her safe from fire. She told me all about being a firefighter and how she loved helping people. And, after meeting all of the firefighters at Johnson County RFD #1, I knew I wanted to help keep people safe too!

One day (now this is REALLY funny!), mom asked me to crawl low. What mom didn’t know is that I already knew how to crawl low. I crawled low the first time that she asked me to and she was so excited that she started jumping up and down all over the place! How funny is that? She took a video of me, but what I needed to do was take a video of HER! She looked so silly, but I could tell that she was happy, so I tried really hard not to laugh.

Then, Mom and I drove three hours round trip for eight weeks while I took a basic obedience class. Heck, I could have done the course in three weeks, but I just wanted to make sure that mom got her money’s worth! : )

I still needed more training to become a full fledged fire safety dog and mom was lucky to meet Kari who was taking classes at the local university and who also happened to be a professional dog trainer. BONUS!!!! Oh boy, was mom super happy about that! Kari spent time with me teaching me all sorts of cool things and I became educated in the ways of a fire safety dog.

One day, Mom put a shiny gold badge with my name on it on my work vest, and I was officially a fire safety dog for her fire department. Another very special day!

So tell us about Dayna's book!

If I have heard this story once, I have heard it a MILLION times! Mom tells it all the time! But, for you Amigo, I will share the story. : )

Mom always wanted to write a children’s book, but she didn’t’ know what she wanted to write about. One day, as she was putting on my red work vest… BAM!!!!!!!! The idea for the book hit her like a bolt of lightening! All I was doing was wagging my tail in excitement to go to work and see the kids, and next thing I knew, she’s writing a book, Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog, a story about me and my love for helping teach fire safety!

Now this next part is kinda funny, but it stressed mom out, so maybe it’s not so funny (sorry mom!). I’ve never told this story before, and I promised you a scoop, so here goes!

Mom and I were selected to be in a video by Oklahoma State University’s Fire Protection Publication’s to help other fire safety educators. Mom and I were known for having a really good fire safety reading program and they said that they needed a children’s fire safety book FAST. Mom, being the quick thinker that she was, said, “I have a book, but it’s raw and it’s not finished yet.” Do you know that mom finished her book in two days and read the book for the very first time in front of a kindergarten class and a camera crew? No pressure! Me, I had a ball and loved her book! I just sat there with my tail wagging and knew that we had something special.

Mom also has a Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog audio book. What’s really cool about the audio book is that it was made by three generations of firefighters: my Grandpa Glenn, my mom, and my brother, Michael. Spanner (my sister dal, also a rescue) and I also got to participate. The audio book even has cool sound effects, like the sound of a fire truck! So much fun!

How do you teach kids about fire safety? Don't they get distracted by wanting to pet you?

Mom’s really clever! She hides me while she and the firefighters talk about fire safety. That way, the children really listen to the important fire safety messages! It’s really important that the children know and understand the importance of fire safety. I help her, hmmmm, what’s that she calls it? Oh ya, I help her “reinforce” the fire safety message.

To reinforce the “Get low and go” fire safety message, I get in my bed and pretend to be asleep. When I hear, “Beep, beep, beep!”, I know it’s the sound of the smoke alarm and that it is telling me to “Get out! Get out!” I get out of bed and crawl low and go to my meeting place, which is a mailbox

Speaking of meeting places, where’s your meeting place, Amigo? I hope you have one! It’s important that you have one so that your family can meet there if there’s a fire. That way, the firefighters will know that everyone is safe and they won’t have to risk there lives to go find you if they don’t have to.

Anyway, since I am hidden most of the time, the children don’t get distracted, but when I come out, that’s a whole different story all together! Mom shares with them that if they sit still and listen, that each of them will get to pet me and get a special Sparkles’ sticker! That usually does the trick and you could hear a pin drop!

What's the most important fire safety tip you'd give to kids?

I have so many fire safety tips, but the one that is most important is that everyone has working smoke alarms. Test your smoke alarms once a month and change your batteries twice a year!

When you hear the sound of a smoke alarm, it is telling you to “Get out! Get out!” Get low to the ground (the air is cleaner and cooler there) and crawl low on your hands and knees and go to your meeting place. Your meeting place can be a tree, a fence, or even a mailbox, just like my meeting place!

Make an escape map with your family and practice your home escape drill at least two times a year. You can even include your pets! Firefighter Dayna and I want everyone to be safe!

How can parents and educators learn more about your work?

I have an awesome fire safety website for kids, parents and educators ( What’s cool about this site is that there are fire safety tips, videos, coloring pages and all sorts of free downloadable stuff on there! You can even see that video of me crawling low for the first time!

Looking for a fire safety blog? I have that too (! And don’t forget my twitter page ( and Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog Facebook page ( If you sign up on my Facebook page as a fan, we have drawings to win a copy of my, I mean, Firefighter Dayna’s book!

Another exciting project that I just started is helping my good friends, Wendy and her dog Cappy, on their A Dog’s Voyage Around the World blog. I’m Cappy’s fire safety friend and travel with him on his voyage, helping keep everyone safe (

I’m also sharing really cool fire and other safety tips on Wendy’s Animal Talk Blog ( Mom just got through writing a post about people making an emergency disaster kit for their pets. How cool is that? And, I better mention mom’s blog too ( You can follow mom and me as we spread fire safety all over the country!

Mom loves it when people put our fire safety links on their webpages and blogs. If you want to help us spread the fire safety message, please link to us! Here is a page with most of our links!

That would make me and my mom so happy, and, you would be helping us keep people fire safe!

Are there more books in the works?

Mom’s next book is called, Sparkles Goes to Boston. Last year, mom and I spent three weeks taking pictures of our friends, Firefighter Jim Peltier, Chief John Mauro, and all of their friends at the Southborough Fire Department, which is just outside of Boston. Did we ever have big fun taking pictures for our book! We hope the book will come out in the spring.

I also heard mom and her friend Wendy on the phone the other day and they are already sharing ideas for their next two books. Mom has at least six more fire safety books about me in her head! Makes me wish that I had thumbs so that I could help her write!

What the best part of living with a fire fighter author?

Hmmmmm. The best part? That’s a tough one!

The best part of living with a firefighter author is when we hear good news. In February we heard that our book helped save the lives of two children and their families ( Mom was so happy that day when she found out! It makes all of that hard work that we do worth it. We are so thankful that the two families are safe and it makes us want to work even harder!

Are your doggy friends jealous of your stardom? How do you handle fame?

Gotta admit it, being on FOX and Friends ( and on PBS KIDS Sprout on Demand and the Sprout webpage ( is way cool cause it’s a great way to share the fire safety message!

Being mentioned on the floor of Congress ( and at a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hearing ( was also pretty cool, but we keep things in check. My dog friends aren’t jealous cause they know that we are helping keep people safe and they really like that!

How do I handle fame? To me, it’s not about being famous, it’s about keeping children and their caregivers fire safe. For me and mom, it’s our job. : )

Thanks, Sparkles! You're doing an important job, girl!


  1. What a great story, Sparkles. You are an awesome fire safety dog. To save children's lives is quite an accomplishment. My daddy (my mommy Beverly's husband) is a retired firefighter. He said they had a dalmation that rode the truck with them years ago. They didn't teach children about fire safety, however. Even though I'm a cat, I like you, Sparkles.

  2. What a unique and fun Blog...way to go. AWESOME!! :)