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Felix Was Only A Dog ….. "Only" A Dog
A Historical Vignette
by Tom Parquette
Part Two of Three
(Part One is HERE)
Felix Joins the Fire Service
Just like every other firefighter, Felix didn't start out as a hero. In fact, Felix was a bit of a bum when you get right down to it. In fact, he didn't even start out as 'Felix'. One day sometime in 1919 Felix walked into the Molis Coal Company office near Canalport Avenue and 22 Street in Chicago. Mr. Molis, the owner, kind of liked the dog but he couldn't keep him. So he leashed him with a rope and walked him to the nearby fire house of Engine Company 25 and talked the firefighters into adopting the half breed, sort of Boxer sort of Terrier, or something, hound. The dog took to the fire house and especially followed one of the firefighters around all the time. The firefighter's name was Felix so all of the other firemen took to calling both the dog, and Felix, well, Felix. And it stuck.
Felix (the dog) quickly figured out he had a good thing going with these sort of wacky firemen. They weren't chasing him out. They were feeding him good food. And they seemed to like him. He knew he had a good gig. So, Felix, like any smart dog, figured he better learn the ropes if he was going to keep this 'job'. After all, every dog needs a 'job'.
Felix quickly learned the alarm bells in the station and what the fire fighters did in response to each set of rings. Pretty soon, when an alarm sounded, Felix was on the engine even before the first firefighter got down the pole. And, every alarm, any time of day, saw Felix front and center ready to go to work! And work he did.
As with any 'lore', there is often, over time, exaggerations and coloring. Think of Paul Bunyon as an example. And there are some exaggerations in fire dog lore too. Sometimes. What you read here comes from a discussion with a 92 year old brother of a deceased gentleman who worked at 25 Company at the time Felix was in residence. The information is deemed legitimate and uncolored. The CFD has not documented the history of Felix and has very little on him.
Felix soon taught himself how to climb the company ladders at a fire. Rung after rung, quickly and steadily until he got to a window or entrance. Then, with the help of one of his human comrades, he'd jump on the back of a firefighter for a ride down the ladder when the time came. Felix soon was credited with repeatedly entering the fire scene (via ladder) and searching for survivors, room by room along with his human associates. Often as not, Felix found the victims before the firefighters could through the smoke and haze. Once when the crew from Engine 25 fought a fire in a three story and thought they had the residents all accounted for, Felix refused to leave the burning, smoke filled apartment and with his paws up on the window ledge, kept barking and raising, well, hell. The fire crew knew something was wrong so they re-entered the third floor and Felix led them through the smoke to a baby laying on the floor. A baby soon to die from inhalation, if not rescued. The baby, along with Felix, made it out and all survived that inferno. Thanks to Felix. Repeatedly at fires, Felix would show the firefighters the way to safety.
In one multi alarm fire, 5 members of Engine 25 were trapped on the second floor of the dwelling. The heat and smoke was so intense they had become disoriented and blinded. Felix was on the job. As he snooped and sniffed his way through the fire scene, Felix apparently realized his fellow fire fighters were trapped and lost. With the piercing bark and aggressive behavior he had come to exhibit, Felix led all five of the firefighters to a safe window exit and was credited with saving all five.
Part Three: The Community Recognizes Their Hero! is HERE.
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