The arson dog training program, sponsored by State Farm Insurance, has put more than 300 dogs to work in over 40 states and several Canadian provinces. These special animals are an arsonist's worst nightmare and a firefighter's best friend. Readers of the Washington Post agree, voting the National Fire Dog Monument as the top monument in Washington, DC!
Many folks have been following March Madness, the annual NCAA basketball tournament. The Washington Post newspaper decided to have its own competition, calling it Monument Madness.
Anyone could vote online. They selected thirty-two monuments in Washington, DC, and grouped them into four categories – Presidents and Founding Fathers, Arts and Sciences, War and Peace, and a catch-all category they called “What the heck is that?”.
After the first round of voting, the field was narrowed to a Sweet Sixteen, down to the Elite Eight, then to the Final Four. Much like this year’s March Madness, no one could have predicted the matchup in the final round. It was the National Seabee Memorial vs. the National Fire Dog Monument. And the winner is…
Well, the Seabees held a substantial lead going into the final hours but the voting was frenzied near the end. When the polls closed the National Fire Dog Monument had won the very first Monument Madness competition.
Fire dogs, or arson dogs, are highly trained animals that use their sensitive noses to detect about 60 different accelerants used to start fires. It used to be a race against time for arson detectives to assess a burned out area, decide how much material to take back to the lab for testing and try to do it all before the chemicals dissipated or evaporated. It may take a dog only a matter of minutes to sniff and alert its handler to a suspicious area.
The winning monument is aptly named “Ashes to Answers”. Sculpted in bronze by former firefighter Austin Weishel and commissioned by arson investigator Jerry Means whose dog Sadie served as the model, it is also one of Washington’s newest, dedicated just last year. It managed to beat out a statue of Jim Henson and Kermit the Frog, the Nelson Mandela statue, even the Lincoln Memorial and finally the Seabees to win the Monument Madness competition.
But winning is nothing new for Sadie. She was named the Law Enforcement / Arson Dog of the Year for 2011. As the Washington Post warned, “Don’t be fooled by her cuddly appearance. This dog is always sniffing out danger and finding a way to win.” Way to go, Sadie, and all the other four-footed heroes who help to serve and protect every day, when we’re speaking of pets.