Picayune continues arson dog services

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Back in 2008 I was introduced to a new member of the Picayune Fire Department who became my favorite firefighter in Pearl River County. No offense to those firefighters who don’t have four legs and a keen nose.

Her name is Joanie, and she is retiring with the introduction of her replacement, Izzy. In Joanie’s golden years she will no longer use her keen senses to locate accelerants, instead she will eat out of a bowl just like all other canines.

You see, while Joanie was on the job, as with other arson dogs, she only ate when she located accelerants to keep her trained as part of the training program’s food reward system.

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During her nearly nine years on the job, Joanie has provided her super powered nose to arson investigations not just across Pearl River County, but also across the state.

Now, Izzy will fill that role.

Now, when you think of fire departments, most people think of Dalmatians, the iconic white dog with black spots, possibly riding in a fire truck to calls.

According to the history of popular culture, Dalmatians became functional members of the department because of their fondness for horses. As the horses would pull firefighting equipment, the Dalmatians would run alongside the horses.

When not responding to fires, the dogs provided a level of protection for the horses and other firefighting equipment. Later, when horses were replaced with engines, the dogs became mascots.

Today, Picayune’s Fire Department has a new mascot who is just as hard working as any Dalmatian, the arson dog.

But these dogs don’t have black spots on a white coat, their coat has only one hue, black. Joanie and Izzy are both Labradors.

In my opinion, every fire department should have a canine. But to have one that is specially trained to help in arson investigations is an added bonus.