Engine 266’s Rescue — Holli the Dog

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FDNY’s Engine 266 in Rockaway Beach does more than rescue people—they also rescue dogs. Holli of the Holland House, a pitbull/ boxer mix, recently got off probation. And while she still might not be ready to ride along on the fire truck, she’s certainly found her place in the hearts of her rescuers.

According to Firefighter George Cuello of Engine 266, the guys of the firehouse located at 92-20 Rockaway Beach Boulevard, had been entertaining the idea of getting a firehouse dog for a few years. The firehouse hadn’t had a dog since the 90s, with a short stay of a Dalmatian that left an unwanted gift in the shoe of a chief that it didn’t take a liking to. The dog soon after became someone’s personal pet, but the firehouse wanted to resurrect the idea of having a firehouse dog once again.

A little more than a year ago, Cuello went to a shelter in Brooklyn with his son, to pick out a possible new firehouse recruit. Before going into the rescue, Cuello explained to his son that they should go through all of the dogs before making a decision instead of settling on the first one. But it only took a few steps into the shelter for an adorable face to make Cuello abandon his own advice. “As soon as I walk in, I see this one dog laying there, looking up at me with puppy eyes, and I fell in love. My son was like, ‘but you just told me not to pick the first one!’ And I said, ‘But look at how cute she is, I love her.” Cuello and his son did try to stick to the plan and continued looking at all the dogs, but the face of the young grey and white pitbull/boxer mix, named Kola at the time, had already captured their hearts.

Cuello brought the dog home for a few days before introducing her to the guys at the firehouse in February 2018, but as soon as he did, they knew the dog would be there to stay. “The guys fell in love with her and that was pretty much it,” Cuello said. “She’s here for life.” The firehouse is now Holli’s 24/7 home.

Cuello explained that with the firefighters having differing opinions on a firehouse pet, a vote was held, as with all firehouse decisions. The majority decided Holli was cut out for the job. Cuello kept a record of the vote so the guys couldn’t change their minds later on.

Early on, some may have had second guesses, as the one-year-old dog proved to be a bit of a handful. “It was hard at first because she was still a puppy. She started ripping up couches and some were thinking maybe this was a bad idea, but we got her a cage and started training her and getting her used to the firehouse,” Cuello said.

Holli has since made the place her own. “Now she has her own little couch, the one she ripped apart. We wound up cutting it in half and now she’s got her own couch,” Cuello said. However, she’ll sometimes nap with the guys, and she’s picked her favorites. “She knows when the tours change, so she knows who’s coming when. She goes out to the window and watches everyone coming in, and she must think, ‘oh, it’s that guy’ and she’ll say ‘woof,’ but when she sees me or some of the other guys she loves, she jumps off the couch and runs to the door and greets them,” Cuello said.

Besides giving up a couch, the guys have had to make some other adjustments with Holli around. “The first summer we had her, the door was open because we were cleaning the rig and she ran right out on to Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Luckily, there were no buses or cars coming. Now I tell the guys not to leave the door open,” he said. Holli has also decided when the guys can watch TV. “We were watching some Netflix documentary and there’s about 10 minutes left and she starts going crazy, barking, jumping. This usually means one of three things; she wants to eat, go out, or play. I knew she had eaten already, so I go to let her out and that wasn’t it. She grabbed her toy and starts running around. The other guys had to tell me the end of the documentary,” Cuello said.

There’s one important time that Holli knows not to get in the way—in an emergency. You won’t find her on the fire truck. “When the tone alarm comes on and we have to go on a run, she’s not in our way. We run to the fire truck and she runs to her couch. We don’t have to worry about running her over,” Cuello said. While a good thing, Cuello believes this stems from a past of abuse. “She doesn’t like loud noises. I think she was traumatized. She runs to her couch until the noise stops. You can tell she was abused because if you yell ‘stop,’ she responds as if she’s going to be hit,” he said.

The signs of abuse were also made evident when the guys noticed early on that Holli had a limp. “We called the adoption center and they didn’t know anything about it, so we took her to the vet and it turns out her right leg was broken when she was a puppy and it never healed properly,” Cuello said, adding that Holli’s condition has since improved.

Knowing the young dog had possibly come from a dark past, those at Engine 266 thought it was fitting to give her a new name for a new beginning. “Her original name was Kola, but after we noticed her limping, we decided she needed a new name,” Cuello said. The guys started to brainstorm, with fire-related names like Smoky, being tossed around, until someone suggested Holli. “Our firehouse is nicknamed Holland House because the area, now Rockaway Beach, used to be called Holland. We thought that was pretty good and it stuck,” he said.

And it seems Holli has stuck on everyone. “She’s become popular around here. Now with the weather being warmer, a lot of people come up and ask about her. The cops next door love her. She even has her own Instagram account,” Cuello said. That account@holli_fdny has more than 1,000 followers.

 If you’d like to keep up with Holli’s antics, make sure to give her a follow!

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