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Texas Department of Insurance
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April 25, 2023

Dog burned in fire now helps state investigate fires


Harley was destined to be a K-9 arson investigator with the State Fire Marshal’s Office. When she was just 3 weeks old, a heat lamp burst in her kennel and started a fire. Harley's mother barked for help until the owners came to rescue her puppies.

The owners didn’t notice that Harley was stuck between a kennel and a fence until the fire was out. She was the only puppy hurt in the fire.

While Harley was getting treatment for her burns, the owners reached out to Tommy, a lieutenant with the Fire Marshal’s Office, about adopting the German shepherd as a family pet. His daughter and the owner’s daughter were friends.

Tommy said Harley was a handful as a puppy.

“She was like: Here, throw this toy; here, throw it again. She was always wanting to play,“ Tommy said. “She was always wanting to work.”

Harley joined Tommy’s other dog, Clear, on the family’s 165-acre ranch in Central Texas. Clear was Tommy’s K-9 partner, helping him investigate fires with the Fire Marshal’s Office. Clear’s job was to sniff out accelerants to learn what caused a fire.

As Tommy got to know Harley, he realized she had some qualities that would make her a good K-9 partner.

“When you can leave a toy in the pasture for a week, and she can go search for 15 minutes and find it, you think: Dog, you might have something here,” Tommy said.

When Harley was 2 years old, and Clear was 11 and ready to retire, Tommy proposed the idea to his captain. After a lengthy process, Harley was approved to start training in 2021. Tommy and Harley were certified as an accelerant detection K-9 team three months later.

K-9 handlers across the state have been impressed with Harley’s “nose on source” indications.

“She puts her nose on a source and lays down as flat as she can and holds still, waiting for a command to come get her toy,” said Tommy. “She really gets into her work.”

As for the kennel fire, Harley fully recovered from her burns and probably doesn’t remember it.

“She’s done with that,“ said Tommy. “She has other things to do.”