Toledo Fire Department dog meets people helping pay his medical bills

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TOLEDO (13abc Action News) - Workers at Hylant are able to wear jeans on Fridays.It's about much more than being comfortable, it's about helping others.The money raised goes to various causes and charities around the city.

Today workers were able to meet a furry friend that's benefited from their efforts.Smokey is a comfort dog with the Toledo Fire Department.
While he helps others every day, he's in need of help too.

Smokey had a rough start in life. His owner died of cancer and he ended up in a high kill shelter, but thanks to the efforts of a lot of people he's now a comfort dog at Station 5. However, his struggles aren't over. He's dealing with some major medical issues and complete strangers have stepped in to help.

Some of those strangers are now friends, and a lot of them were able to meet Smokey at Hylant today. Tracy Spader started the non-profit organization K9 Defender Fund. The organization's work includes providing oxygen masks for fire departments as well as helping police and military dogs.

When Tracy heard the Toledo Fire Department was looking for a dog, she stepped in to help,"It's great to see how he's touched people's lives and how he continues to touch lives. People just gravitate toward this dog, there is something special about him."

Tracy was a big part of getting Smokey his happy ending, "Everybody loves him. Everybody wants to pet him and everybody wants to be part of his story."

Smokey was rescued in Arizona and soon after arriving in Toledo, it was clear he wasn't feeling well. At first it was thought he had Lyme disease and rocky mountain spotted fever, but he was recently diagnosed with valley fever, "It's fungal and it's airborne. It goes into their lungs and then spreads. He has to be on medicine anywhere from 6 months to a year."

He's been on the medication for several weeks and is already showing a big improvement, but that treatment isn't cheap. Lt. Thomas Bartley says all of the cost is covered by the firefighters and donations, "we incur all the costs. We're responsible for the dog. We didn't want any burden on the taxpayers, this is 100% us."

The donation from Hylant will cover several months of his medication.
Adam Chow works at Hylant and says every week they raise a couple hundred dollars,"Hylant is built around family. It's a culture of giving, it's who we are. It's what we do. People who work here definitely want to be part of different charities. We're looking to improve not only Hylant but Toledo as a whole. The jean day fundraiser has been a great way to do that. Every week we raise anywhere from $200-$300."

Lt. Bartley says Smokey has had an enormous impact at the fire house,"He makes people happy, he makes them feel better. He just goes to people as soon as he sees them and sits down. He checks in on everybody. It's almost like he knows his job when he's there."

And he's a little spoiled, "He has his own recliner at the station. He thinks he's a lap dog!" They say every dog has his day and Smokey has certainly made a lot of days better for a lot of people.

Hylant hopes this inspires other companies to help with Smokey's on-going expenses or a charity of their choice.While Smokey is the first, the hope is to one day expand the comfort dog program to other Toledo fire stations.

If you'd like to make a donation to help Smokey, we've posted a link to the K9 Defender Fund site. Smokey has his own account through the fund. Click on the donate button, it will take you to PayPal. You can specify your gift for Smokey.