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Statue honors loyalty of Butte dog in tragic 1895 explosion

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dilis dog.jpg
Posted at 7:24 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 21:24:36-04

BUTTE — A class at Margaret Leary Elementary in Butte unveiled the statue of a dog that is part of Butte’s rich folklore -- borne out of a tragic explosion that killed more than a dozen firefighters 125 years ago.

The unnamed black dog belonged to Butte firefighter William Copeland, who died in the 1895 Kenyon-Connell warehouse explosion. The dog survived and stayed by his master’s side, even in death.

The students in Maria Robinson’s fifth-grade class gave the dog a name, which is the Irish word for "loyal": Dilis.

“I was one of the few that cried, so that was a pretty big part. It was a very sad story since dogs are man’s best friend, so it's just really sad to see him with Dilis, with his owner sticking through every hardship,” said student Bryson Hibbert.

The story goes that the dog stayed with his master after Copeland was killed in the explosion, followed him in the funeral procession, and even stayed at his grave at Mount Moriah Cemetery, where the dog soon died.

“The dog just showed his loyalty and faithfulness to the master and you can’t beat that, so we thought that had to be incorporated into the story because it’s a big part of the whole tragic story,” said Jim McCarthy of Butte Historic Memorials.

Dilis is certainly living up to his name of loyalty, and Mrs. Robinson says she wants this poor dog’s story to be a lesson to kids today.

“Just to be loyal and always be there for someone when they need help -- oh God, I don’t know why I’m crying -- ok, yeah, just being the best versions of themselves,” said Robinson.

The statue will be a part of the memorial outside Butte’s Uptown fire station.