Sparky, the Yongsan Garrison Fire Station Dalmatian Mascot

Contributor: Alex Temporado

I really appreciate the work you Yongsan Legacy are doing in capturing the historical and human stories surrounding Yongsan Army Garrison (Yongsan.). To me Yongsan…

Topic: dogs, fire, Yongsan Legacy
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I really appreciate the work you Yongsan Legacy are doing in capturing the historical and human stories surrounding Yongsan Army Garrison (Yongsan.). To me Yongsan has always been more than an Army Base but also about all the people that passed through Yongsan or that have had the chance to visit or live on Yongsan. As Pat and Tim Mitchell might have told you my name is Alex Temporado and I was assigned to Yongsan as the Fire Chief from March 2003 thru October 2015. I lived right on Yongsan in the Itaewon Acres Housing Division. During 2010 our Garrison Commander, the Col Huber, asked if we had a Fire Station Dalmatian Mascot. I told Col Huber that we had an older Dalmatian Sparky but that Sparky was already 8-years-old when it came to Yongsan and not good with children. Dalmatians are known to be very protective, since Dalmatians were originally breed to protect horse driven coaches in Europe.
As a group, our firefighters and leaders realized that we would have to find a puppy Dalmatian that would be raised around children and adults and would be people orientated. Thus, began our quest to find a puppy Dalmatian that was around 2-months-old and weaned from its mother. Our search went from Seoul puppy mills to one of our firefighters that found a person online selling 2-month-old Dalmatian puppies just north of Gunsan City. In order to get the pick of the litter, I and Assistant Fire Chief, Mr. Choe, left early on a June 2010 morning. We arrived near Seocheon and soon found the person selling the Dalmatians. The person selling the puppy Dalmatians was not a puppy mill person but raised Dalmatians as a love for the breed. I asked where the puppies are. He then whistled out and called all the Dalmatian puppies out to feed to include the mother and father Dalmatians that were wary of our presence, (reminded me of 101 Dalmatians). There were eight puppies, seven males and one female, including the soon to become Sparky. I watched the puppies play and eat for a few minutes, while the parent Dalmatians watched us very carefully. I noticed one puppy (Sparky) that was not interested in eating but just wanted to play with its brothers and sister. I looked at the puppy’s markings and it was beautifully marked with tiny black spots around its face and tummy. I chose the trouble maker puppy because it seemed to have an outgoing personality and was full of energy. I paid for the puppy and we were off back to Yongsan.
I carefully held the puppy in my arms while we drove all the way back to Yongsan. As the puppy whimpered, I was saddened by the fact that I had taken the puppy from its family, but felt reassured that it would be loved by our firefighters and community and that it would serve as a great Fire Department Mascot helping to spread fire safety throughout the Yongsan community. By the way, as I held Sparky on my lap, let’s just say Sparky did not like the ride back to Yongsan and had a little mishap on my white shirt! As I had guessed, everyone at Yongsan fell in love with the new Sparky and many people came to see Sparky at the fire station, to include Pat and Tim Mitchell. Sparky helped produce Public Safety Announcement videos and was always well received during our annual Fire Prevention Week Open Houses and Burger Burns.
As the new Sparky began to get older we realized that it was hard on Sparky, with me and my staff going home at night, and our firefighters busy at work and going to emergencies, Sparky was often left in his room alone. Given that the Yongsan Fire Station is located at a very busy traffic intersection on Yongsan we could not chance Sparky getting hit by a car, which actual did happen and we were very fortunate that Sparky only injured his left hind foot (paw). I soon realized that Sparky would be better off with someone that could give him full time love and care. That is where Pat and Tim Mitchell came in. Pat loved Sparky and would often volunteer to walk and care for Sparky. Although it was hard giving Sparky to the Mitchells, we knew it was in the best interest of Sparky and the Fire Department. Additionally, Sparky would always be part of the Garrison and Fire Department since the Mitchells lived on Yongsan. The rest is history. Sparky is a gorgeous Dalmatian with a firefighter personality, brave and serving. I still miss Sparky but know he is with people that love him very much.