Tilly the Dalmation works as the unofficial Poland Fire Rescue Department mascot

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Mark Bosse was a firefighter definitely not looking for a second dog.

Fate — and a friend of Bosse’s touring the local animal shelter — brought them together.

“She called me because she knew I already had a Dalmatian,” Bosse said. “She said, ‘If you don’t do something, you know how that goes.’ So I said ‘Fine, OK, put my name on the list.'”

An hour later, the shelter called to say the skittish, months-old puppy with a torn ear was his.    

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“(Tilly) wanted really nothing to do with anybody then,” he said, scratching her head as they sat in his office at the Poland fire station. “You wouldn’t know that now.”

Nine years later, Tilly is the unofficial Poland Fire Rescue Department mascot, an often-visiting Dalmatian who slurps water in the break room and keeps a sleeping spot next to fire Chief Bosse’s desk. She greets firefighters, rescue workers and visitors with a wagging tail and a lick.

“Isn’t every firefighter supposed to have a Dalmatian?” asked Bosse, who can rattle off the breed’s talents, traits and history.

A big, friendly dog, Tilly is especially popular with children. Although Bosse doesn’t generally bring Tilly to visit schools — he doesn’t know which students are allergic to animals or afraid of dogs — kids sometimes run into Tilly at the fire station. When visiting preschoolers recently saw her there one day but not the next, they demanded to know where she’d gone.

When not at the fire station, Tilly spends her days at home with Bosse and his wife. She used to share the home and the fire station with Bosse’s first Dalmatian, Tesla, but he died seven months ago at nearly 13 years old. Now she shares the home with the couple’s 5-month-old daughter, Maddison.

Black-and-white Tilly is one of the only things that catches baby Maddison’s attention. 

“They watch each other,” Bosse said.

Bosse uses Tilly’s full name, Matilda, only when she’s done something wrong, which is not often. She likes sitting by the campfire rather than running off when the family goes camping, enjoys gazing out the window at home rather than tearing apart the furniture. 

Raised around firefighters and the fire station, alarms and Bosse’s radio no longer startle her. Only an old-fashioned knock at the door gets her excited, and then only because she’s eager to see the person behind it.

“She’s got a mean bark,” Bosse said, “but she’s all love.”

Have an idea for a pet feature? Contact Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or e-mail her at ltice@sunjournal.com

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