Rescued dog set to become rescue dog |

Rescued dog set to become rescue dog

Roger Peterson/Leadville Correspondent
Leadville/Lake County firefighter John Ortiz poses with Ember, a five month-old Labrador mix, who will help teach the community about fire safety.

In a county where backyard breeding of fighting dogs is not uncommon, where many pets are allowed to run loose or are condemned to endure the winter cold outdoors, fortune can still smile, rather than snarl, on unwanted animals. Such was the case for a black Labrador puppy that got a cruel start in life in the grip of a choke chain. She took a big leap earlier this month.

The dog, “Ember,” is now the official fire dog for the Leadville/Lake County Fire Department. Formally adopted from the animal shelter by the fire brigade on Nov. 26, the pooch is on her way to the limelight. Following basic obedience and other training, the 5-month-old canine soon will be a valuable teaching tool for the department.

“She’ll eventually become a certified service dog,” said firefighter John Ortiz, the dog’s handler. “She will know tricks and activities, and will be out in the community and considered a member of the fire department.”

As a service dog, Ember will enjoy similar status as that of a seeing-eye dog and other canines that provide specialized services to humans. She will be a frequent visitor to local schools and civic organizations, and will help teach fire-education workshops. With young children, Ember can demonstrate basic fire safety practices, helping them understand the difference between toys and potentially harmful tools, such as lighters and matches.

Ortiz was instrumental in initiating the service-dog program in Leadville. He researched the possibilities for a year before adopting the puppy. Ortiz will take Ember wherever he goes, including work, home and around town.

Local children were responsible for selecting the name Ember. Ortiz visited school classrooms, asking for possible names and promising a pizza party for the group whose name was chosen.

On Nov. 10, Ember appeared in the back seat of Deputy Charlie King’s patrol car while it was parked at Safeway. She apparently was placed there by a man who found her running loose in Stringtown.

The dog had a deep gash in her throat from the effects of a choke-type chain that reportedly knotted itself around her neck and cut through the skin. The original owners, apparently unable or unwilling to keep the puppy, reportedly took her to Dr. Dennis Linemeyer for treatment.

Ember’s adoption by the fire brigade came at the end of a period of convalescence at the shelter.

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