- Posted April 3, 2014 by
Washington, District of Columbia
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AMERICA SPEAKS: NATIONAL FIRE DOG MONUMENT VOTED MOST POPULAR
America has spoken, and one of the newest monuments in the nation’s capital has been voted its most popular. After a hard-fought final round, the National Fire Dog Monument took home top honors in the Washington Post’s “Monument Madness” tournament, besting some of the most worthy and famous contenders, including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and other longtime favorites by popular vote.
The monument honors the work that accelerant detection canine teams (commonly known as arson dogs and their handlers) do to investigate suspicious fires in homes and businesses around the country.
The challenge followed a bracket format with 16 monuments around the Washington, D.C. area filling out the field. A seven-seed, the National Fire Dog Monument faced tough competition in each round before making its Cinderella run to the finals.
The National Fire Dog Monument is a life-size bronze sculpture depicting an arson dog handler gazing down at his dog after a job well done. Austin Weishel, the monument’s sculptor and a firefighter himself, wanted to capture the powerful link between people, animals, and the world we share. His work captures the connection between arson dogs and their handlers, who rely on one another to do their heroic work.
Arson dogs are trained to detect common accelerants (including gasoline, kerosene, and lighter fluid) at fire scenes where fraudulent activity is suspected. If the dogs’ highly sensitive noses uncover the scent of one of these chemicals, they will signal to their handlers, who will remove a sample to send to a lab for analysis. Arson dogs have been instrumental in the arrest and eventual prosecution of thousands of firesetters and have helped curb rates of this deadly crime that costs hundreds of lives and billions of dollars in property damage a year.
The monument is the brainchild of Jerry Means, an arson dog handler with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Means was inspired to create the monument because of the noble work done by his previous dog, Erin. Now, Means and his canine partner Sadie not only work to bring suspected arsonists across Colorado brought to justice, but they help to educate others on the dangers of this crime. In 2011 Sadie was named the winner of the Law Enforcement/Arson category in the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards™, a celebration of the nation’s bravest heroes on both ends of the leash. Sadie, a black Labrador retriever, served as the canine model for the statue.
In 2012, the monument, which was co-sponsored by American Humane Association, the country’s first national humane organization, and State Farm, was brought to the nation’s capital following a two-week cross-country tour beginning at the state capitol building in Denver, Colorado. The 2,000-mile journey included stops in Topeka, Kansas; Jefferson City, Missouri; Springfield, Bloomington and Chicago, Illinois; Indianapolis, Indiana; Columbus, Ohio; Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; New York City; Trenton, New Jersey, and finally, Washington, D.C. The monument, which features painstaking detail from the stitches in the man’s jacket to the hair on the dog, was dedicated in October 2013.
“The National Fire Dog Monument is unique in that it honors the roles of both human and animal heroes who work to create a better world, protect our families and our communities, and save lives,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane Association President and CEO. “We have worked for 137 years to ensure the welfare, wellness and well-being of children and animals, as well as unleash the full potential of the bond between us to the mutual benefit of both. We are also humbled that this monument won the hearts of so many when we were in the same company with such iconic American symbols as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, and Arlington National Cemetery’s National Seabee Memorial. To win this challenge is an exceptional honor for both America’s human and animal heroes.”
As the largest private home insurer in the country, State Farm has long supported the work of arson dogs. For more than two decades, they have provided scholarship funding for the acquisition and training of arson dogs for law enforcement agencies across the country.
“We are so thrilled to have accelerant detection canine handlers, trainers, and canines recognized nationally,” said Heather Paul, State Farm Arson Dog Program Coordinator. “Accelerant detection canine teams find evidence that helps put arsonists behind bars and most of the general public doesn’t see or hear about their tireless work. To have such overwhelming public support and appreciation for these teams and for the National Fire Dog Monument is beyond words. We thank everyone for their support!”
The National Fire Dog Monument is on permanent display outside Engine Company 2 at 500 F Street Northwest in Washington, D.C., and is always available for public viewing.