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A furry fire survivor nails her TV debut



Smokey hangs out set with 'Chicago Fire' actors Charlie Barnett (left) David Eigenberg. | Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Smokey hangs out on the set with "Chicago Fire" actors Charlie Barnett (left) and David Eigenberg. | Elizabeth Morris/NBC

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Updated: May 5, 2014 1:09PM

A white stretch limo pulled up on the set of “Chicago Fire.” Behind the tinted windows sat the VIP guest starring in next week’s episode.

Make that the VID.

A dog named Smokey is the performer getting the red-carpet treatment.

The Labrador-retriever mix from downstate Jacksonville beat out roughly 100 firehouse canines to win the NBC drama’s “Top Dog” contest. The prize: A cameo in the season’s penultimate episode Tuesday and an afternoon of star treatment on the West Side set.

“My wife and my kid don’t even stand like that when I come home from work,” said David Eigenberg (Lt. Christopher Herrmann) about the small crowd of show staffers eagerly awaiting Smokey’s limo exit.

Eigenberg and co-star Charlie Barnett (Peter Mills) presented Smokey with a swag basket full of doggie treats: a pet toy made from a fire hose, a bag of Blue Bones dental chews and a certificate signed by executive producer Dick Wolf, among other things.

At the craft services table, a bowl of water and biscuits waited for Smokey near the coffee and crullers.

The pooch patiently sat in her personalized director’s chair, waiting for her scene to be called. While “Chicago Fire” marks Smokey’s primetime television debut, she’s no stranger to performing.

“She does public education for us, demonstrates stop, drop and roll,” said Jacksonville Fire Department Lt. Todd Warrick, who nominated Smokey in the “Top Dog” competition. “She’s a part of the community. She gets more Christmas gifts than I do.”

Smokey almost didn’t live to see her first Christmas. In October 2009, the home that the 6-week-old puppy lived in burned to the ground. The dog was unresponsive when firefighters pulled her from the flames. They put her in a makeshift oxygen tent and fed her by hand for three days, nursing her back to life.

“The people who had this house fire lost everything,” Warrick said. “They couldn’t afford the vet care and were going to have her put down. We brought her back to the fire station. All the odds were against her, but we never quit.”

Smokey brought that same dogged determination with her on set. Surrounded by extras, she obediently sat in the hallway of Firehouse 51 for repeated takes of Jesse Spencer (Lt. Matt Casey) and Lauren German (paramedic Leslie Shay) walking by. The scene has Spencer stopping to say hi and giving her a quick pat on the head.

“I gave her a little doggie treat so she liked me,” said Spencer, who’s worked with a barnyard’s worth of animals during his acting career. “Horses. Sheep. Dogs. Pigs. It never goes smoothly. But Smokey was good.”

That’s not always the case with Pouch, Firehouse 51’s resident dog.

“Pouch can be a little naughty,” Spencer said. “Smokey is much better behaved.”


Twitter: @lorirackl

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