From the farm to the Big Apple: Alumna delivers puppy to New York fire department


The joy a puppy can bring to someone is unlike anything else. When that joy can be brought to a New York fire department still feeling the emotions surrounding the 9/11 attacks, it is even more special.

Sara Rubin (‘15 animal science) grew up around Dalmatian dogs and is continuing her family’s business of raising and selling them out of her rural Perry, Iowa, home.

Several years ago, Rubin heard about Twenty, the female Dalmatian that was donated to Ladder Company 20 in lower Manhattan, New York, by two Monroe County Sheriff’s Office deputies in the weeks following the World Trade Tower attacks. The two deputies, Sandy Robinson and Kathy Cahill, now retired, felt a new puppy would help lift the spirits of the fire department still reeling from losing seven firefighters during the North Tower’s collapse.

After Twenty passed away in 2016, the New York City Fire Department made a post on their Facebook page honoring Ladder 20’s mascot and companion. Rubin commented on the post, saying if they were interested in finding another Dalmatian, her mama dog was expecting a litter of puppies to be born soon.

Fast forward a couple of years, and the department announced they were ready to open their hearts to another dog. The two retired sheriff’s deputies reached out to Rubin earlier this year, saying they were looking for a Dalmatian puppy to donate to Ladder Company 20, this time in honor of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

So Rubin, her mom, and Tank, the puppy, boarded a plane to New York earlier this fall to make the special delivery.

“I think my favorite part about the trip was literally just seeing the big, burly firemen just being like, ‘oh my God, look at the baby!’ It was so cute and none of them were ashamed of it, either – they were so happy,” Rubin said.

Tank, originally called “Orange” due to his identifying collar, was Rubin’s favorite puppy of the litter.

“He was actually the one I was hoping they’d choose so then I’d get to follow his story,” Rubin said with a smile.

The name Tank is a nod to Ladder Company 20’s former fire chief, Michael “Tank” Toal, who recently passed away due to health conditions brought on by the attacks. As it turns out, “Tank” was one of the top names the fire department had chosen for their new puppy, and it just stuck.

According to Rubin, the adjustment from country life to big city life was fairly quick for Tank after a bit of getting used to all the sights and sounds.

“That first day when we were walking around, he was looking back and forth and hearing the cars and the horns. He wasn’t afraid of it, but he was definitely trying to look at everything and didn’t quite know how to take it,” Rubin said.

Even the sirens on the fire engines didn’t bother him.

“I think he was more upset that all his of friends left him than he was about the noise,” Rubin said of the first time Tank heard the sirens as the firefighters were leaving.

Eventually, Tank will go with the firefighters when they respond to some calls. Rubin also discussed with them the possibility of enrolling him in search and rescue classes so he can help find fire victims.

“He’s really just a moral support and to have that extra buddy there when they’re working,” Rubin said.

Especially on the year of the 20th anniversary of the attacks, the emotions surrounding that tragic day still weigh heavy on the hearts of the firefighters and first responders, as well as many Americans.

“I feel like it was a really great experience for me and for them. I got to give, and they got to open their hearts again to a new dog [that symbolizes healing and happiness],” Rubin said.