A FIRE-FIGHTER'S DOG

By Arthur Quiller-Couch

This is the story of a very distinguished member of the London Fire Brigade—the dog Chance. It proves that the fascinations of fires (and who that has witnessed a fire cannot own this fascination?) extends even to the brute creation. In old Egypt, Herodotus tells us, the cats used on the occasion of a conflagration to rush forth from their burning homes, and then madly attempt to return again; and the Egyptians, who worshipped the animals, had to form a ring round to prevent their dashing past and sacrificing themselves to the flames. This may, however, be due to the cat's notorious love for home. In the case of the dog Chance another hypothesis has to be searched for.

The animal formed his first acquaintance with the brigade by following a fireman from a conflagration in Shoreditch to the central station at Watling Street. Here, after he had been petted for some time by the men, his master came for him and took him home. But the dog quickly escaped and returned to the central station on the very first opportunity. He was carried back, returned, was carried back again, and again returned.

At this point his master—"like a mother whose son will go to sea"—abandoned the struggle and allowed him to follow his own course. Henceforth for years he invariably went with the engine, sometimes upon the carriage itself, sometimes under the horses' legs; and always, when going uphill, running in advance, and announcing by his bark the welcome news that the fire-engine was at hand.

Arrived at the fire, he would amuse himself with pulling burning logs of wood out of the flames with his mouth, firmly impressed that he was rendering the greatest service, and clearly anxious to show the laymen that he understood all about the business. Although he had his legs broken half a dozen times, he remained faithful to the profession he had so obstinately chosen. At last, having taken a more serious hurt than usual, he was being nursed by the firemen beside the hearth, when a "call" came. At the well-known sound of the engine turning out, the poor old dog made a last effort to climb upon it, and fell back—dead.

He was stuffed, and preserved at the station for some time. But even in death he was destined to prove the friend of the brigade. For, one of the engineers having committed suicide, the firemen determined to raffle him for the benefit of the widow, and such was his fame that he realized 123 pounds 10 shillings, 9 pence, or over $615 in American money!