I don’t what official company policy is, but I don’t ask firefighters to pay to park their firetrucks in the parking lot. It seems wrong for me to hassle them for five bucks when they could be called away at any moment to risk their lives to protect people and trees.
On a Sunday afternoon when my shift was almost over, three Forest Service firetrucks pulled in, and I waved them through. Moments later, a county firetruck pulled in, and I thought What the hell, and waved it through too. I’m not going to play firefighter favoritism. Either all firetrucks get in for free or none do. That day it looked like I was going with all.
I’d seen this county firefighter before, but it had been weeks, maybe month, and I don’t think we’d done more than exchange hellos in the past.
I hadn’t even been thinking about the firefighter until a car exiting the parking lot stopped and the driver leaned his head out of the open window. He said, firefighter…something something…let dog out…something…dog ran away…firefighter chasing dog…something something…
I looked at the driver and wondered what in the hell he was talking about, but I just said ok. (I’m trying to learn not to jump up and volunteer to be part of other people’s dramas.)
Some minutes passed, when who should stroll up but the county firefighter with a medium-size dog on a long, green leash. He looped the leash over the iron ranger and told me Fido (not his real name, as far as I know) was going to stay right there. I protested that I’d be off work in thirty minutes and said Fido was not leaving with me. I told the firefighter I live in my van and cannot have a dog. I was a little bit panicked. I can barely take care of myself. No way can I be responsible for a dog.
The firefighter told me the dog’s people were on the trail, and he wouldn’t try to leave the dog with me. He said he wanted to move his firetruck into one of the spots my co-worker and I try to reserve for people with disabilities. I told him fine. Who am I to go against a firefighter in the midst of an official dog rescue?
As he was moving the firetruck, three little Latina girls came up to visit the dog. I told them I didn’t know the dog and didn’t know if it would bite. Really, this dog was super mellow. He seemed to have no plans or desire to bite anybody.
The word had already spread through the parking lot that the dog had been left in the truck by its people. The little girls thought it was really mean of the people to leave such a nice dog in the hot truck. When their dad walked up, the girls told him about Fido’s plight, and they all solemnly agreed they would never leave their dog alone in a hot car.
After the firefighter parked his truck, he filled me in on what had happened. He’d come along and some “concerned citizens” had alerted him to the dog left in the hot camper shell on the back of a pickup. He opened something (I didn’t exactly understand his gestures of explanation), and Fido jumped out and took off running. So the firefighter had to chase Fido down and get him on the leash. (I’m sorry I missed seeing that part of the show.)
The dumb thing about leaving the dog in the hot camper with no water—where he could have died—is that dogs on leashes are allowed on the trail. I don’t know if the long green leash was Fido’s or if it belonged to the firefighter. Maybe Fido’s people had left him behind because they didn’t have a leash for him. (I’ve seen a surprising number of people this summer who have a dog in their vehicle, but no leash for it.) Fido couldn’t have been left behind because he was a nuisance; during the half hour he sat with me, he did not bark once, and he never strained against the leash. Mostly he just lay quietly and looked around.
After he got Fido’s people’s license plate number, the firefighter stood around to see if Fido’s people would show. He said no way was animal control going to come all the way out there, and he said he couldn’t give the people a ticket for leaving Fido in the heat. (I guess writing animal cruelty tickets is out of his jurisdiction.) He did say he was going to ask the sheriff to send the people a ticket through the mail. He also said he wasn’t one to yell, but he was getting more upset at Fido’s people the longer they were gone.
Then the firefighter said he and Fido were going to walk the trail and try to find the dog’s people. Soon after they left, my shift ended. As I was packing my chair and my backpack, a big, blue pickup truck with a camper on the back stopped near where I was standing and the driver (who was firmly middle-age and old enough to know better than to leave an animal in an enclosed space on a hot day) said he’d heard a fireman had his dog. I told the man that the firefighter was looking for him and had walked off with the dog in hopes of finding him.
The man in the blue truck drove off, but was back when I returned from putting my co-worker’s bucket in the storage room. He said he’d gone to the campground next door, but the firefighter and the dog weren’t there. I pointed to the firetruck and told Fido’s man that the firefighter would be back eventually.
Eventually? he asked, as if he just couldn’t believe how he was being inconvenienced.
The man was pacing at the front of the parking lot. I got in my van and made the loop to exit. As I pulled out onto the highway, I saw Fido and the firefighter walking toward Fido’s man.
Now I have a little crush on the firefighter. I don’t much about him other than his name, his profession, and that he likes dogs, but I keep making up little stores about him in my mind. (Hmmmmm, I think little stories like that are called “fantasies.”)
I’d never realized rescuing a dog could make a man so seem sexy.