The newest addition to the Holly Springs Fire Department family drools; loves to have his belly rubbed; has big, floppy ears; and chews – a lot. Meet 14-week-old Cinder, an Australian labradoodle.
Cinder is much more than a cuddly mascot with sweet puppy breath.
"He is a working dog," said Joe Harasti, Cinder’s main handler who serves as the Fire Department’s fire and life safety education officer and fire engineer.
The Holly Springs Fire Department frequently holds events, offers station tours and talks, and travels to schools and group gatherings to promote safety. Once trained, Cinder will reinforce the Fire Department’s educational efforts, especially those geared toward children.
Cinder will be trained to demonstrate how to stop, drop and roll; crawl low under smoke; and not reenter a burning building.
"He's cute and lovable," said Fire Department Chief LeRoy Smith. "Cinder will help us take our prevention education to the next level."
The department also plans to certify Cinder as a therapy dog to work with physically disabled people.
Cinder’s training begins within the week. Basic manners and commands will be followed by training to interact with other people and dogs. Then he’ll begin fire safety training and training to get him accustomed to life inside a fire station. While Cinder usually stays at Harasti’s home and also comes to work him, once Cinder is completely trained this fall, he'll live at Fire Station 1.
“It’s important to remember he’s still very much a puppy at this point,” Harasti said. "He likes to play and fetch, and he loves kids. He's also motivated by loving and interactions with people more than treats."
Already, Cinder has met guests touring the fire station.
"He's the rock star," Harasti said.
"The kids love him," Smith said, noting that Cinder can immediately brighten visitors’ moods.
The Australian labradoodle breed is known for having a good temperament and high intelligence, and for being hypoallergenic. Before deciding to get a puppy, Holly Springs Fire Department staff met with Garner Fire-Rescue, which also has a labradoodle that assists with fire safety education. Harasti thanked Garner Chief Matthew Poole and Firefighter David Young.
“They've been very helpful in providing us information and guidance and continue to be a resource,” he said.
Cinder was donated to the Holly Springs Fire Department by Shivering Rock Australian Labradoodles in Holiday, FL. K9 Solutions is donating the cost of Cinder’s training. Holly Springs Veterinary Hospital has donated food and veterinary services. Grooming services also were donated, and dog supplies have been donated by Tom and Dawn Smith, Alison Pekich, and Ben and Ashley Ballman.
“The folks who have donated have been very generous, and we greatly appreciate what they have done and continue to do for us and Cinder,” Harasti said.
The Holly Springs Fire Department continues to accept financial and in-kind donations to help support the department’s educational efforts with Cinder. The department currently is in need of an underground fence.
Interested in meeting Cinder? Schedule a visit at Fire Station 1 by calling (919) 567-4733. Individuals and groups can arrange a time to meet Cinder, tour the station and learn about fire safety. It’s all part of the free ongoing fire and life safety education the Holly Springs Fire Department offers.
“We're looking forward to getting Cinder in service,” Smith said.