Special to The Explorer
Jester, the Northwest Fire arson dog, retired on May 7.
Jester, a Black Labrador specially trained to pinpoint even minute amounts of accelerants, works his last day with partner Dennis Stiegleiter, Northwest Fire's deputy fire marshal. The two have spent almost every day together since they were paired and went through six weeks of training with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in Front Royal, Va., in 2003
Jester and Stiegleiter have been called to investigate fires in 17 different fire jurisdictions, and called out for ATF national response three times.
In between fires, Jester kept his skills sharp by training three times a day in a course set out by Stiegleiter.
"He really has had to work for his food," said Stiegleiter. Because Jester and Stiegleiter are an ATF team that can be called at any time to investigate a fire in the southwestern United States, Jester accompanied Stiegleiter to work every day, as well as much of the rest of the time, even to Stiegleiter's college classes.
"After people, especially my professors, understood that Jester is a service dog, they made him welcome," Stiegleiter said.
In retirement, Jester is remaining with his partner, but won't be coming to work with him anymore.
"It will be a big change for both of them, but Stiegleiter has been preparing," a release said. He built a large enclosure at his home that includes trees and a comfortable dog house. Stiegleiter gave away the koi from his pond so that Jester will have his own swimming hole to frolic in during the day.
When Stiegleiter gets home from work, "it'll be just like it has been, except that Jester won't have to work for his food.
"He'll be able to enjoy a whole bowl at once, instead of performing tasks to get small bites," said Stieglieter. "That will be his favorite part of retirement."