YORKTOWN, N.Y.-- To Eric DiBartolo , his German shepherd Blaze was more than just mans best friendhe was a best friend, a partner and a colleague.
DiBartolo worked alongside Blaze as Arson Investigators with the Westchester County Dept. of Emergency Services Cause and Origin Team.
DiBartolo, the current Highway Superintendent for Yorktown and former Yorktown Fire Chief, remembers the day he picked up his newest pet from Newark Airport who traveled from the Czech Republic.
Ive always loved animals, and Ive always loved dogsbut Ive never loved a dog as much as I loved Blaze, DiBartolo said.
DiBartolo's partner of over 1,000 fire investigations passed away last week, a month after they received a cancer diagnosis for the beloved member of the family.
We had a great run, from small car fires to a double homicide in Peekskill, DiBartolo said. But having Blaze in the house, that was the most rewarding part. He really made our house a home.
DiBartolo and Blaze worked side by side to investigate fires, and Blaze investigated accelerants.
You could just tell from his demeanor and the way he was breathing when we got to a call, he knew right away if there was something going on. He never missed anything, he said. He was an incredible dog, and Im not just saying that because hes my dogall service animals are incredible.
Despite his somber tone as reminiscing about the four-legged friend that would change his life, DiBartolo smiled when he recalled a memory he had of Blaze.
It was the funniest thing, he would never drink water out of a bowl at the calls. He would be on fire calls with us and see all of us drinking water, and he would only drink water out of a bottle with the rest of us, he said.
Loyalty is what DiBartolo said was the one characteristic to describe the animal he worked and lived alongside. Because of that loyalty, DiBartolo knows he eventually wants to get another dog, but because of Blaze's loyalty, he said it wouldn't feel right to work with another dog as his handler in the arson investigation unit.
With the exception of marrying my wife 24 years ago, Blaze was the best thing that has ever happened to me, he said. His loyalty to us was just incredible. All that mattered to him was where me and my wife were; as long as we were home or he knew where we were then he could do his job, but he had to know we were okay.
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