Set afire and left for dead in 2011 at 8 weeks of age, a boxer/mastiff mix rescued once by an animal shelter and a second time by a Zionsville woman, now has an opportunity to become a celebrity on the TV show, "Chicago Fire."
Dempsey, now 2 1/2 years old and a resident of Zionsville with public educator Eileen Orban, is one of three finalists in a Top Firehouse Dog contest sponsored by the NBC series, which airs at 10 p.m. on Tuesday nights. Voting is now open at Today.com/TopDog for the public to choose one of the three finalists to make a cameo appearance on the show. Voting ends at 3 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30, and the winner will be named Wednesday, Oct. 1.
Already, Dempsey and Orban have made one TV appearance. They and the other remaining contestants were featured on "The Today Show" Tuesday, Sept 24.
"It's been a whirlwind," Orban said, explaining they arrived in New York Monday and returned Tuesday. "'The Today Show' paid for airfare and hotel."
But there were a few highlights: Orban said rocker Sting passed them in a hallway and spoke to them, and Dempsey got to potty in Central Park.
"I took a picture for his vet," she added with a laugh. "And I have a picture of Kathie Lee (Gifford) petting him."
Orban found out about the Top Firehouse Dog contest when her chief left a flyer on her desk. Then a friend emailed her and said she should enter Dempsey. So she did, she said, never dreaming they'd get this far.
"He is unique, but you never know what they're going for," Orban said.
Dempsey has a tragic, yet heartwarming story. After being intentionally burned, he was saved by the New Castle Animal Shelter, Orban said. Taken to a veterinarian for treatment, it was discovered he had parvovirus, a deadly canine disease. Orban said it's amazing he wasn't euthanized from the start, and then he survived his burns and parvo simultaneously.