Yes, Warmheart is back and better than ever. If this little tale doesn't warm your heart, then I suggest ending it all now. Sit back, relax, and read on.

 

Sparky the Fire Dog Saves the Day!

 

For a lot of people, September 11th, 2001 was a bad day. They say it was a dark day that they shall never forget. For these ravaged souls, it was a day full of shock and sadness, anger and fear. But for me, and for those I came into contact with during that day and those that followed, maybe it wasn't so terrible after all. Maybe, just maybe, I touched a few people and lifted their spirits. How about you? Do you look back on those days with regret and anger? Should you? Nay, says I! So, put aside your emotions for a few moments and come with me, back through the swirling mists of time: back, back, to those fateful days. And if, by the end of my story, I have reached out and warmed the hearts of even just one of you, then every one of my actions and every one of my words will have been worthwhile. Yes indeedy, they will have been worthwhile.


My day started out like most: shocked by the news of the towers and saddened by the near miss at the White House. Disconsolate, I decided the best thing to do would be to go hunting. I just felt that that good old feeling of a shotgun blast kicking off of my shoulder as the neighborhood rabbits ran in fear would make me feel just that much better. But, after an hour or so of this, I guess I still felt like crap.

It was then I realized I had to change my perspective. I drove down to San Jose to visit my brother Kindheart, the kindly fire chief of that city. I knew deep in my heart that he would have some wisdom to share with me. Although he's my younger brother, he has always been there to lend a hand or offer a piece of advice when I needed it most. I was not to be disappointed because on this day I got, perhaps, the best piece of advice I have ever received.

Sullen and shaking, I walked into his office expecting to see him feeling the same as me. To my surprise, instead of sulking or complaining, my brother was on the phone and making things happen. There was a buzz in the very air and I felt my heart starting to perk up.
" Get those boots out on the streets, PRONTO", he was shouting into the telephone. He slammed the receiver down and looked at me with fire in his eyes.
" A lot of firefighters bit the dust in New York City this morning", he said through clenched teeth.
I suddenly realized that firefighters around the world were probably saddened by this turn of events and felt I should feign sympathy for my brother. I quickly sought the right words.

" Yeah" I said shaking my head sorrowfully, "they caught a real tough break pouring by the hundreds into those structurally compromised buildings. But what did you mean by 'get those boots out on the streets."

Chief Kindheart just winked and told me to follow him. We left his office and walked down a corridor. As we walked, I discovered a newfound respect for my brother. Firefighters who, moments before, had been sitting around with their feet up on tables were suddenly jumping up and dusting furniture or reading books upside down. Others who had been sleeping were suddenly looking around with looks of dumb attentiveness. To see this sort of reaction told me that surely my brother was a true leader of men.
" Come on outside", he shouted over the sudden din in the fire station, and outside we walked.
He stopped me and pointed towards the busy intersection near the station.

" See that there?", he said, pointing.
I looked toward him and saw that some sort of sticky substance was covering his pointing finger. I recoiled momentarily.
" Did you have a glazed donut or something this morning?", I asked.
" What's that? Uh...no." he replied, quickly wiping his hand on his pants leg. "But look there."

I followed his direction and there in the intersection were two firefighters, each carrying a boot. These men would approach cars stopped at red lights, say something to them, and hold out the boot. To my amazement, the people would - without question - shove money into that boot. Black people, white people, rich people and poor. It made no difference. The reverence these people felt for firefighters during those days was a site to see.

 

firefighter looking for cops

firefighters harassing drivers
firefighter looking around to make sure no cops are in the area
firefighters stopping traffic to "fill the boots". Closer inspection reveals gun in hand of firefighter near car

 

My brother must have noticed the quizzical expression on my face.

"Um, we're going to use that money to fund various projects to promote fire safety in this city. Yeah, that's it", he told me.

I stood there with my mouth gaping. I - was - awestricken. It was, quite simply, one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. My eyes mist up just thinking about those people unhesitatingly handing wads of money over because these guys were wearing fireman suits. Let me tell you now, my friend, I was truly inspired. So inspired in fact that I immediately came up with an idea that has provided the funds for many a warmhearted project I've carried out since that day.

I turned to my brother and said "Chief, I have a feeling your little operation here is going to be visited by someone special very soon."
" Why, who would that be, Warmheart?", he asked.
" You just wait and see", was all I said and with that I was gone.

In the space of a few minutes, I was in my car and driving hard to a costume shop I knew was nearby. It wasn't long before I was back in the lockerroom at the firehouse changing into the cute dog costume I had just rented.

Searching through the lockers, I found a firefighter uniform that fit over the costume. I then copped a helmet and wrote the word "Sparky" across the front. Another brief search turned up a large fireboot and I was on my way back outside.

You will no doubt remember that I was in all the news that day as the reporters found a real human interest story in this heroic fire "dog" named Sparky who was almost manic in his money collection. I was "on" that day, yessiree Bob. When my boot would get filled up with wads of green, I'd hide the money under my car seat and leap back out into the fray. I was at intersections, gas stations and even made a memorable trip through the downtown mall. The next day, and the day after, the hero Sparky the Fire Dog made appearances up and down the bay area waving at tv cameras and holding out that ever present boot.

I think we can skip the part of the story where the nosy TV reporter, Rigo Chacon, started asking pointless and inflammatory questions about what was happening with the money. Instead, I would rather we all remember the fun and excitement of those days. For example, I had discovered quite quickly that little children were strongly affected by their parents' reactions to the attack. They would have bewildered looks upon their little faces and it would make me sad. Then when they saw Sparky the Fire Dog, their faces would light up anew! It was a joy for me I will never forget. And, when those self-same children would run up to me, give me a hug and throw their quarters and dimes into my boot, well suffice to say that I was overcome with boundless joy.
And how could I ever forget those wonderful old people who, with a tear in their eye, would reach into shabby wallets and dig out a dollar. All it took was a little wimper from Sparky the Fire Dog and they would somehow find a few more dollars to donate.
It was beautiful. Oh yes, and then there was the young rich couple who were walking around a mall I was visiting, looking devastated. They were putting on quite a public display of shattered emotion due to the attack and so it wasn't long before they were joyously signing over the pink slip on their SUV to me in the name of firefighters everywhere.

Love and money, money and love: no matter how you put it, if it's rolling in, you're bound to have happy, happy days that you'll always remember and cherish. I would just like to take out this moment to thank those randy firefighters who put aside their own safety and raced into the World Trade Center that fateful day. Your families' lives may have become darker for a while, but your actions sure brightened up a stormy day for me and so many others in the San Francisco Bay Area. Yep, September 11th was a good day for me. Me and Sparky the Fire Dog.



Sparky the Fire Dog!
here's me as the heroic "Sparky the Fire Dog" just before leaving the fire house for the first time

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