Posted on Mon, Apr. 18, 2005
 
 
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CATCHING UP WITH ... JEFF CLARK

 

Sweet moment with Cinnamon ... timeless


 

Charlotte firefighter Jeff Clark and Cinnamon, a pregnant red Doberman, gained international exposure with this photograph snapped by the Observer's Patrick Schneider during a July 1999 house fire. Seen through wire services and the Internet, the picture has moved people around the world and is still a top reprint seller. Several readers recently wrote the Observer wanting an update. Cinnamon died in January, but staff writer Jennifer Rothacker checked in with Clark, 35.

Q. After that photo was taken, what kind of response did you get?

Oh my goodness. Patrick Schneider, a very good friend of mine, won a few national awards, but by no means because of me. I was the ugly one in the picture. People like the dog, especially licking somebody's face.

What was very interesting, the first couple of months, we started getting letters sent to the fire department and Patrick, who forwarded them to me, from all over the country. One woman in England was a member of the (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and a Doberman lover who runs a rescue.

It was amazing that people saw this picture and wrote letters. To me it wasn't any big deal, it's what we do every day. It was nothing out of the ordinary.

Q. What would people say in the letters?

A lot were "Thank you for doing what you do, thank you for your care and concern for an animal." A lot of people were surprised that we go in looking for anything that was alive. In the same fire, we brought out a snake and a parrot: neither lived.

Q. Do you have a personal copy of the photo?

Patrick got me an 8 1/2 by 11 photo. I'm not big on hanging anything, I keep everything in a file. I'm not a big display person. My wife ended up getting one framed, but it's not hung yet. My father has one hung in his house.

Q. Tell us about how the photo came to be. Apparently there are a lot of Internet rumors floating around.

We didn't do anything (special) to save Cinnamon. When we have a house fire, we have to do a primary search. There could be people home and inside. Our first major concern is life safety. That house was full of smoke and we couldn't see it very well. All I saw was a dog run out, and one was (already) in the backyard. I think Cinnamon got out the door herself.

The dog approached me. As soon as I knelt down and took my mask off, Patrick was coming around the corner of the house and took the picture.

Q. Have you kept up with Cinnamon?

The owners had contacted me a couple weeks later. Cinnamon was their baby and they were ecstatic she was alive.

Q. Are you still a firefighter?

I was at Station 4 downtown, but to broaden my training, I moved to 10 on Wilkinson, which is a special operations station. They run the dive team and urban search and rescue. It's been a good move, but I miss the guys at Station 4.

My wife and I are looking at opening a doggie day care.... Every day, I'm looking for that right piece of property.

Her Life

Cinnamon, the Doberman featured in the picture with Clark, died in January, owner Jane Cook said, after a tumor was found in her uterus. Cinnamon was 9. "She was the smartest dog I ever had in my life," Cook said.

Cinnamon had puppies -- Cook recalls she had five, all of whom were sold. The Cooks also received much public response from the Observer photograph, and have a big glossy copy of it.