TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Most people would picture a Dalmatian dog as the typical fire department mascot, but Nicol Volunteer Fire Department's mascot is a Dalmatian who is more likely to cluck than bark.
"She's a cutie," said Gaston Wilson, Nicol VFD's chief, when describing the department's as-yet-unnamed 1-month-old Dalmatian chicken.
The speckled black and white bird is the grand-chicken of Allan Jr., the Nicol VFD's original mascot. He was named after the department's first fire chief, Steven Allan Sullivan, who died in 2008.
She's the third generation in her fowl family to proudly carry on the Nicol VFD mascot tradition.
The story of how Allan Jr. became Nicol VFD's mascot — and in the process became a celebrity chicken — dates back to 1999.
Members of Nicol VFD say it began as a practical joke and that they were egged on by some visiting firefighters from Chicago.
The Chicago firefighters boasted about their station's well-trained Dalmatian. They said that their precocious pooch could drive a fire truck.
One of the Nicol firefighters grew tired of hearing the tall tales of this Chicago wonder-dog. He grabbed a spotted black and white chicken that ran by, declaring the Dalmatian chicken the Nicol VFD's mascot, Wilson said.
The legend of Allan Jr. quickly spread through media reports and by word of mouth.
Allan Jr. even inspired the department's motto: "Nicol Volunteer Fire Department: Home of the Dalmatian Chicken. We Got You Under Our Wing."
"People from all over were calling to ask about the chicken and to donate money and supplies to our fire department," Wilson said.
The Allan Jr.-inspired donations allowed the Nicol VFD to feather its nest.
Nearly $10,000 from donors all over the country allowed the department to get a fire truck, hoses, nozzles, lights, radios and other supplies.
The donations came from Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Florida, Connecticut and other states.
Fourteen years later, people still remember Allan Jr.
"People keep calling about the chicken," Wilson said. "A lady from Clearwater, Fla., called recently and asked how Allan Jr. was doing."
Sadly, Allan Jr. has passed away into that Great Big Chicken Coop in the Sky.
Now, members of the Nicol VFD hope that his granddaughter can equal his fundraising feat and generate some scratch for their needs.
The Nicol VFD, which is in a converted chicken house, needs a new building, and members say they hope the new Dalmatian chicken will be the cash cow they need to raise money.
Donations can be made to Nicol VFD, 14105 Old Lock 15th Road, Tuscaloosa, AL, 35406-9020.
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