Firefighters fight to save station dog

Posted: Sunday, March 07, 2004

TOPEKA, Kan. Smokey was small enough to fit in the palms of an adult's hands when a woman found him in a dumpster eight years ago. The tiny Dalmatian quickly grew to be a perfect fit in the front seat of a fire truck. Smokey was adopted by Topeka firefighter Jim Seichepine and has accompanied him to work every day since he was rescued. Now, firefighters are trying to save Smokey again.

He has been experiencing neurological problems and has an appointment at the Kansas State University School of Veterinary Medicine to find out what is wrong.

"He's not near as active, and he's running into things," Seichepine said. "He leans on stuff a lot. He just seems disoriented."

Seichepine thinks Smokey's problems may stem from an accident four years ago when Smokey was struck by a car. The dog recovered, but Seichepine said there may be a mass of scar tissue putting pressure on Smokey's brain.

Dr. Ed Kester visited Smokey on Thursday at Station No. 3. He said Smokey's problems were more in-depth than what he could diagnose at the fire station, so he suggested Smokey go to K-State, where he may undergo an MRI and an endoscopy. Kester said Seichepine should have the results quickly.

"Like people, it doesn't take long at all," he said. "They'll look at it right there with the radiologist looking at it."

Capt. Eric Bauer said the visit to K-State may cost $1,500 to $2,000, not including any needed surgery. As a result, Bauer set up a fund to help pay for Smokey's medical bills.

"Jim really didn't want anything to do with it, but I felt it was needed with all his time and effort," Bauer said. "He brought his dog to the station, and the kids have always enjoyed coming around to see him. I just felt like the fire department should try to help him out to find out what's wrong with him. Hopefully, they can get it fixed."

He said if the vets can't help Smokey, he would like to see Seichepine get a new dog. Seichepine has worked at the fire department for 11 years, so Smokey has gone to work with him for more than half of his time with the department.

"It's going to be pretty difficult," Seichepine said, clearing his throat, "if he doesn't."

At Station No. 5, Smokey often beat the firefighters to the truck and rode with them on all of their calls.

"He's inquisitive. He wants to get on the truck," Seichepine said. "He loves to ride the truck."

In fact, Smokey would get upset if he was left behind.

Seichepine trained Smokey to jump on his hind legs and use his paws to push the back door open at Station No. 5. Smokey refused to open the door one day after firefighters responded to a call without him, Seichepine said.

"He sat there in front of the door and looked at them like 'No, I don't think so,'" he said. "He was mad because he didn't get to go."

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