1980: Sparky the fire dog ignites controversy in Noblesville

Posted at 5:30 AM, Dec 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-10 05:30:46-05

NOBLESVILLE — Sparky, the fire dog, made headlines five years into his run as the mascot of Noblesville Fire Station 1.

Sparky, more specifically Sparky III, was the third canine to hold the fire dog title. He quickly became the most controversial Sparky in late 1980.

Sparky was no stranger to the streets of Noblesville. The fire department mascot had the freedom to come and go, thanks to a doggy door installed on the fire station's garage door.

Former Noblesville firefighter Rodney Reveal, who began working at the department while still in high school, says Sparky would often travel the streets of Noblesville seeking snacks and attention.

“He had a route in town,” Reveal said. “He used to go to the Uptown Cafe and get food out the back door.”

Sparky was also a regular at a pet store and convenience store in Noblesville. Reveal recalls that Sparky occasionally helped himself to a Twinkie from the convenience store.

Sparky also had goodies dropped off at the fire station, including a weekly steak from a firefighter from Fishers, according to Reveal.

But Sparky’s free-spirited ways drew the ire of some residents, including Noblesville councilman Thomas Holtkamp, who made it no secret that he wasn’t a fan of Sparky’s nomadic lifestyle.
Holtkamp’s grievance centered around a recently implemented ordinance intended to keep roaming cats and dogs off city streets.

Dogcatcher Bob Jackson faced criticism from Holtkamp and ticketed pet owners over what became known as "the Sparky exception.” The carefree canine was seemingly exempt from the ordinance.

But Sparky’s roaming days were numbered.

“Right now, Sparky’s job is in danger,” said Noblesville firefighter Lawrence Russell in a 1980 interview with former WRTV reporter Sy Jenkins. “He had broken the law a few times, yes.”

Jenkins also spoke with a man who felt that Sparky wasn’t getting a fair shake.

“I think our government has pardoned more criminals than Sparky,” Woodrow Matheny said. “I know some other crooks that are in town; they’re walking the streets. They get paroled. Why shouldn’t they work with him?”

Working with Sparky was an easy enough task, according to Reveal, who recalled Sparky’s ability to ride on the back of the fire truck.

”Sparky seemed to always know when to duck when there was a tree limb,” Reveal said.

But Sparky’s ability to duck the controversy around him eventually ran out.

Sparky, bottom left.

“He was pretty chunky towards the end,” recalled Reveal, who took custody of the dog at his 34-acre farm in February 1981.

After several reprieves, the decision was ultimately made to relieve the rotund dalmatian of his mascot duties.

Sparky joined several other dogs and lived out his life until his death on Sept. 20, 1989, at 13.

Sparky with one of his furry friends.
Sparky with Rodney Reveal's wife, Anita, and their other dogs.