Firefighter Says Emotional Goodbye To His Therapy Dalmatian

During our lifetime we get to meet many animals and people. We create connections and get close to some of them, but only few of those acquaintances turn into our friends who are meant to stay by our side forever.

For a firefighter named Aaron Salkill such friend for life was a Dalmatian whom he met when the puppy was only three months old.

When he first thought of getting a dog, Salkill had no idea it would be a Dalmatian. But when one of his friends told him about the puppy whose owners abandoned, he was eager to meet the little guy.

Speaking of the time of their first encounter, Salkill says it was love at first sight.

“I nearly jumped out of my shoes with excitement. I had been working as a firefighter for a little more than a year, but the idea of actually finding a Dalmatian puppy had seemed far-fetched to say the least,” Salkill, of Marietta, Georgia, told Love What Matters.

The puppy, whom he named Ember, was unlike any other Salkill ever met. This dog’s energy and stamina were incredible. Whereas most dogs love taking naps, Ember only wanted to play, run around, and go for long walks.

Salkill on the other hand, was happy to make the puppy’s days enjoyable and the two would always get engaged in a bunch of fun activities together.

No day would pass by without people, especially young children, approaching Ember. Everyone was so charmed by her vibrant personality that she was getting a bunch of pets and hugs wherever she went.

This made Salkill wonder what would happen if his dog became a therapy dog and be there for other children in need of love and a dog’s companionship.

“If Ember’s presence could bring about such a powerful response in healthy children, how much more of an impact would she have on children in a hospital? I knew I had to find out. The next day Ember and I started on our quest to become a certified therapy dog team,” Salkill explains.

Little time passed by before Ember passed the test for the Alliance of Therapy Dogs. She was ready to embark on new adventures and make sick children’s lives a bit brighter. Needless to say, she was amazing in doing so.

The first session of Ember as a therapy dog took place at a children’s hospital.

Salkill remembers how one of the nurses was dressed as Cruella de Vil, and it made him laugh.

“I watched a young girl of 7 or 8 get wheeled out of the elevator in a little red wagon. She was very thin, and obviously very ill. Her lack of hair told a story that no child should be a part of. Yet, in the next moment, all of that was forgotten. She saw Ember and let out the most joyous exclamation, “A DALMATIAN!” She climbed out of her wagon and came running to Ember and embraced her. She sat with us for several minutes before she finally left to go join the number of others that were telling Cruella to leave poor Ember alone,” Salkill recalls.

The girl’s mother said how it was the most her daughter walked in weeks because she was exhausted from the treatments she was getting. But she gained her strength for Ember who truly made her day.

“That single thank you was one of the most rewarding moments in my whole life,” he says.

“As many lives as Ember has touched, no one has been more impacted than me. She has been with me through good times and the bad. When I had no one else, I could always rest easy knowing my sweet girl would be waiting excitedly for me with all the snuggles I could handle,” Salkill recalls.

“Ember even helped give me a family of my own. On our very first visit to Northside Hospital, Ember caught the eyes of every single person in the building. Those eyes included the eyes of some of the nurses that set me up on a blind date with their beautiful friend. That blind date would turn out to be with the woman that has become my wife.”

Sadly, after five years of becoming part of Salkill’s life, Ember experienced kidney failure. Unfortunately, she passed away. 

“She went everywhere with me, and I refused to let her leave my side. We spent a few last days visiting kids at work, having multiple photo shoots with local fire departments, hiking to her favorite creek for a fun day in the water, and most of all, cuddling on the couch,” Salkill says.

It looked like this adorable dog’s mission in life was bringing smiles on the faces of people who needed it the most. 

“At the very end, when she was looking back at me, I knew she was ready to go. She was beyond tired, but was still happy with her little wagging tail. I believe she was sent to me with a higher purpose, and I think she knew she had done her job and done it well,” Salkill said. “Ember’s memory will live on in my heart, and in the hearts of the many others who loved her.”

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