Friday, March 5, 2010

Dayna Hilton & Sparkles

Who is in the photo at right?

Hi. I’m Dayna Hilton from Clarksville, Arkansas. I am a volunteer firefighter, fire safety educator, children’s book author, blogger, CEO of Firehouse Dog Publishing as well as the Executive Director of Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation. Pictured along with me is my good friend, Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog. Sparkles is a Dalmatian, and is 11 years old.

What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?

Sparkles and I have so many exciting fire safety projects going on each day that we start our day very early. Because of this, I require lots of coffee to wake me up and engage my brain to handle such a packed schedule. This morning we are up very early to work on media requests.

What's brewing?

Couldn’t start my day without Dunkin’ Brands coffee with vanilla creamer added. The coffee isn’t complete until it has a dash of Splenda added. Today, I am having my coffee in my new Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog coffee mug [photo, left] which just came in the mail yesterday.

Any goodies to go with the coffee?

If I am home in Arkansas, like today, I have cereal with blueberries and toast with my coffee. If I am traveling, I usually have a blueberry muffin.

Any treat for Sparkles on this occasion?

Sparkles is enjoying a small peanut butter treat to start her day.

How were you and Sparkles united?

In April 2003, I began to look online for a Dalmatian to adopt and found "Daisy" on the Dalmatian Assistance League of Tulsa website. The site noted that “Daisy” was calm and loved children. After seeing the look in her eyes, I fell in love with her.

After a lengthy adoption process, my husband and I went to Tulsa to meet her. The children that were in attendance at the adoption event were in love with her and when she rolled over and let them pet her belly, I knew immediately that she was the dog for me. She was so very affectionate to the children as well as to my husband and myself.

Once Sparkles became acclimated to her new surroundings in our home, I took her out to the fire station to meet the firefighters one evening. When I asked them for suggestions for a name, they came up with several wonderful ideas. Then, all at once, it hit me-- "Sparkles!" It was the perfect name for her since she had such a amazing "sparkling" personality. She was so HAPPY to be out at the fire station and was totally in her element.

Sparkles and I have been together ever since, and I love seeing her so happy helping teach fire safety and being around children. Sparkles truly found her calling and I am so thankful to be in her life.

Would you tell us about the work you and Sparkles do for fire safety education?

Sparkles travels with me across the United States as we represent her foundation, the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation. Together, we have reached millions of children and their caregivers.

Sparkles has had the good fortune of appearing on PBS KIDS Sprout On Demand and currently appears on the PBS KIDS Sprout website sharing fire safety tips. We were also very fortunate to appear on FOX and Friends. Sparkles is the star of the children's fire safety book and audio book, Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog.

Sparkles is busy dog, sharing the fire safety message on her website, blog, Twitter, and Facebook pages.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2007 there were more than 1.5 million fires reported in the United States. These fires caused 3,430 civilian deaths, 17,675 civilian injuries, and $14.6 billion in property damage. In that same year, there was a civilian fire related death every 30 seconds. Sparkles and I hope to help change these unfortunate statistics, one presentation at a time.

Who is the most famous person Sparkles has met?

Probably the most famous person that Sparkles has met was Kiran Chetry. Kiran is now an anchor on CNN America Morning and at the time Sparkles met her, she was on FOX and Friends. Sparkles also met Alisyn Camerota at that time.

Where is Sparkles' favorite place for an outing?

Sparkles’ favorite place for an outing is anywhere that I am. She is truly a devoted dog. When I put on my firefighter clothes or gear, Sparkles’ tail wags a mile a minute and she knows that we are going to see children and do a fire safety presentation or other fire safety related activity. Her favorite place for an outing is a trip to our fire station (Johnson County RFD #1), a ride in a fire truck, or a trip across country to see her friends at the Southborough Fire Department (MA).

Who is Sparkles' best pet-pal?

Currently, Sparkles has more friends than I do as she is such a likeable dog! She has over 1800 dog pals and their humans that follow her on Facebook page.

Three of Sparkles’ best pet pals live with us. They are: Spanner (also a rescue), Tango (new to the family two years ago), and Sprinker, a white Holland lop bunny with black spots. Sparkles has a new pet pal, Frankie the Walk ‘n Roll Dog, and the two have started working together to promote some very important messages. Their new blog is called “Frankie and Sparkles” which very recently debuted. Frankie and Sparkles will Skype with each other tomorrow for Clarksville Primary School students where they will be sharing fire safety messages for those with and without physical challenges.

What is Sparkles' best quality?

Sparkles is a good soul. She has an unselfish quality in her willingness to help share the fire safe message. Even though she has a rough start in life, I realized early on that she truly found her calling and that she was a true credit to the fire service. She absolutely loves being around children and firefighters! Another endearing quality that makes her special is that she tries so hard to please me and make me happy. The look in her eyes is indescribable as she devotes herself to helping share the fire safety message.

If Sparkles could change one thing about you, what would it be?

That’s a challenging question and one that I have never been asked before. If Sparkles could change one thing about me, I believe that she would wish that we could be out among the public more. She knows that that would make us both happy to be in an element that we truly love.

What's Sparkles' proudest moment? Her most embarrassing?

Sparkles proudest moments have been working with PBS KIDS Sprout and being on FOX and Friends. She also got a big kick when her picture appeared on Times Square. In addition, Sparkles was honored by having her book mentioned in Washington, DC during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Community Preparedness Sub-Committee meeting and on the Floor of Congress. These were good moments, but the highlight of her life was when she learned that she had helped save the lives of two children and their two families. We thank God everyday that they and their families were safe.

As to her most embarrassing moment, she’s too much of a lady to divulge her most embarrassing moment.

You wrote a book about Sparkles. Please tell us about it.

Sparkles is the star of her own critically acclaimed award winning children's fire safety book and audio book, Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog. The book is not only fun, but educationally sound and based on the latest fire safety research for children. Proceeds from the sale of her book benefit the Keep Kids Fire Safe Foundation and enable us to provide no or low cost materials to fire departments and schools. View the trailer for the book here.

You may read more about Sparkles here and watch a video that we have developed for children.

--Marshal Zeringue