The Story of “Hoser”

Time-honored Dalmatian Mascot of the Vigilant Hose Company

It’s likely that only a few in our community know the significance of the Dalmatian Dog graphics affixed to the larger emergency vehicles of the Vigilant Hose Company (VHC) of Emmitsburg. While many have probably noticed the graphic representations of “Hoser,” they may not have paused to reflect on what the graphics actually represent.

As a very young puppy, Hoser arrived at the VHC fire station on West Main Street just off Town Square in October 1993. Named by VHC members Frank Davis and Steve Hollinger, she loved the firehouse life—and all who came to visit.

For years, she happily greeted hundreds of attendees at numerous FD-sponsored affairs, like the Annual Fire Prevention Open House events held each October, as well as station visits year-round by students from nearby schools. At nearly age 13, it was indeed a sad day when she left us in January 2006.

As tributes to her memory, Hoser is easy to spot on the sides of VHC apparatus. Her images vary slightly based on the role a particular vehicle plays: firefighting, emergency medical work, etc. When looking closely at her photograph, it’s easy to see she had one brown eye and one blue eye (something not altogether uncommon in the breed).

It was in Appleton, Wisconsin, back in 1995, during the pre-delivery final inspection of then new Tower 6, when the late Charlie Stouter, a past VHC chief/later president and area businessman, noted a blank space on sides of the aerial bucket, which seemed to potentially need something more. His observation led a graphic artist, based at the Pierce Fire Apparatus fire truck manufacturing plant, to create Hoser in the graphic form from an actual photo of Hoser, as taken by area photographer and VHC member, Bob Rosensteel, Sr.

History of the Breed

Dalmatians have long been associated with firefighters, but most do not know precisely why. Dalmatians originated from a historical region of Croatia, in southeast Europe known as Dalmatia, and are famed for their spotted coat and unique job description. Horses and Dalmatians get along well together. Dignified, smart, and outgoing, their temperament is naturally protective of those with whom they live.

During their long history, these “coach dogs” or “carriage dogs”—as they were also known—accompanied horse-drawn rigs of nobles (even gypsies) and firefighters. In larger cities during the 1800s, long before motorized fire engines became the norm, heavy firefighting vehicles had to be pulled to fire scenes by horses. Dalmatians, as often depicted in old-time romantic paintings, drawings, and photos, proudly rode on or ran alongside fire engines and ladder wagons pulled by horses.

Soon after arrival at what was certain to be an hours-long fire incident, the teams of fire horses would be disconnected from their rigs and moved to safe locations around the corner or down the street to protect them from flying embers, falling building timbers, etc. Being very protective, Dalmatians were ideal companions for horses at those long-duration fire scenes.

Dalmatians were especially well-suited to both guard unaccompanied horses and also to keep them calm. These roles became unnecessary once horse-drawn fire engines gave way to steam and then gasoline-powered apparatus. Some fire departments continued using horses on into the early 1920s. In TV ads showing Clydesdale horses pulling Budweiser Beer Wagons, Dalmatians were aboard for their calming effect while wagons were being unloaded.

Hoser’s Loyal Following Here

In addition to her many friends from far and wide, Hoser once got to meet then U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton. It was on July 3, 1994, when he stopped by the VHC while on his way back to Camp David from a day of playing golf in nearby Carroll Valley, Pennsylvania. The front page, above the fold, of the Tuesday, July 5th USAToday, showed the President getting a kiss from Hoser out front of the fire station. Additionally, four similar photos showed up on the front pages of many major metropolitan newspapers, nationally, as well as on the front page of the Frederick News-Post.

Jay Leno, during his July 5 late evening opening monologue on the Tonite Show, showcased one of the photos to joke about how “Sox” the White House Cat may have been just a little bit jealous. In the days following, many former residents of greater Emmitsburg wrote or called area family members and friends to say how proud they were to see Emmitsburg and its fire company in the news.

Probably the most famous Dalmatian ever would have to be “Sparky the Fire Dog,” who helps teach fire safety to children. Sparky focuses on home and building fire safety, while his good friend “Smokey Bear” helps focus the attention of both adults and children on wildfire prevention. Both Sparky and Smokey are frequent VHC visitors. So now you also know the story of Hoser and her important connection to the men and women of the Vigilant Hose Company / Frederick County Station 6.

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