When visiting the Weston Volunteer Fire Department, guests are greeted by Halligan, the department’s 6-year-old Dalmatian.
He has become the face of the department in many ways, and when he is not lounging around the station, he is visiting Lewis County schoolchildren during Fire Prevention Week every October or greeting people as they walk down the sidewalk in front of the station, located in downtown Weston.
Halligan has come to represent a bigger cause over the past five years, however: Halligan’s Drive to Make a Difference. The annual drive collects donations for the Lewis/Upshur Animal Control Facility, located in Buckhannon. Since its start in 2015, the drive has gotten bigger, with more individuals and even a few local businesses joining in to help shelter pets.
WVFD Assistant Chief Keith Talbert said the idea for the shelter donation drive came about at the same time he was looking for a dog of his own. He visited the shelter, which left him feeling downcast about the state of affairs for those discarded pets.
“It was sad,” he said.
That bitter moment turned a little sweeter, though, when he became the face of the donation collection.
“Halligan is such a well-known entity, so we figured we’d use him to be the mascot for the Drive to Make a Difference,” Talbert said.
How did Halligan come to live at the oldest fire department in Lewis County? Firefighters will often visit stations when they are in other towns or cities. One day almost six years ago, a former firefighter from another town walked into the WVFD and asked why it did not have a Dalmatian in the station.
That same firefighter offered not only the name of a breeder, but to purchase the dog, as well.
Talbert was president of the WVFD at the time, and at its next business meeting, members voted to get a Dalmatian.
Talbert and three other members traveled to Pennsylvania to get Halligan. He was the runt, and at 12 weeks old, he was the same size as the 8-week-old puppies that were also on site.
“He was a leftover. I just felt like he deserved it (a chance),” Talbert said.
When it came to naming the dog, members knew they wanted his name to have relevance in the fire service, said then-Fire Department Chief Kenny James.
“Two or three names were tossed around, and members decided on Halligan,” James said.
The name comes from a firefighting tool, a Halligan bar, which is used for prying, twisting, punching, or striking. It can be used to sink a pick into a door frame near the door handle and then force the door. Other options are to use the tool to pry the door off the top hinges, knock down a wall in a house to get to another area, make a purchase point on a car hood to cut the battery, break glass on a car or building for access or ventilation, or make a roof foothold for firefighters.
“We carry one on every truck,” James added.
Requested items for Halligan’s Drive to Make a Difference include collars and leashes, dog food and cat food (wet or dry), dog and cat treats, toys (but no stuffed animals), cat litter, bleach or bleach wipes, and paper towels.
Talbert said collars and bleach are needed the most, but every donation is necessary and benefits shelter pets.
Donations will be accepted through Wednesday, December 23, at the WVFD.