Marblehead siblings Joe and Camilla Cross pulled up in a Subaru Forester to the Swampscott Fire Station to make a special delivery on March 30.
The pair exited the SUV as a bay door rolled up to reveal a half-dozen firefighters eager to meet the fire company’s newest addition, an 8-week-old, 14-pound chocolate Labrador retriever whom they purchased for the fire station.
Camilla, 10, cradled the puppy as she stepped up to the bay area before Swampscott Fire Chief Graham Archer bent down so she could hand Ryan over to him.
“He just loves attention,” said Joe, 12.
The puppy is named after the late Swampscott Fire Capt. Mark Ryan, who died last September. The fire station will be his new home.
From the moment Ryan’s mother, Pearl, gave birth to him and his six brothers and sisters, Joe and Camilla cared for and raised them. Caring for another living creature — let alone seven puppies — marked a first for the young Marbleheaders. They took their puppy duties seriously, from playtime and socialization to feeding and potty breaks.
“It was a big responsibility,” Camilla offered.
Taking care of a litter taught the pair the importance of sacrifices. Joe spent less time playing video games, and Camilla gave up a few gymnastics lessons.
The siblings shared that Ryan has already shown an independent disposition.
“He was the first one born of the litter,” said Camilla.
They said Pearl walked into the kitchen, laid down on a couch, and Ryan popped out.
With an air of amazement, Joe chimed in, “He got born all by himself on the couch with no people around to help.”
The siblings expressed mixed emotions when they dropped Ryan off.
“We are happy we don’t have to take care of seven puppies anymore,” said Joe. “We are happy they’re going to good homes. But we’ll miss them.”
Swampscott firefighters are the beneficiaries of their hard work and sacrifice.
“He’s going to be a great distraction after tough calls to come back to this little guy,” said Swampscott Firefighter Connor Barton. “I could definitely see him inadvertently becoming a therapy dog.”
Archer said Ryan would inherently be a stress reliever for many of Swampscott’s firefighters.
“He’s honestly just going to hang out,” Archer said. “His presence will be a good thing for the firefighters.”
The chief said the past three years have been difficult for Swampscott’s firefighters from the loss of a fellow firefighter and COVID-19.
“It’s been shown that having a dog around has a lot of positive physical and emotional benefits for people,” said Archer. “If having a dog around sends our firefighters home in a better frame of mind, it’s good for everyone.”
Nearby, Ryan was already casting a spell over the on-duty firefighters standing in the bay area. They beamed as they took turns cradling the content puppy.