TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) -- First responders deal with all kinds of difficult situations on a daily basis. Now, a new companion is helping take away some of the stress at one fire station in Toledo, Ohio.
Smokey is one of the first comfort dogs in the country working with a fire department. The hope is that one day there will be dogs just like him at all the Toledo fire stations.
Smokey is right at home at Station 5. After just a few weeks on the job, he is settling in to his new life.
Rachel Doran is one of the firefighters who helped set up the pilot program.
"He is the most laid-back, docile, cool dog in the world. The tones that alert us to a call don't scare him. The lights and sirens don't scare him," she said. "He brings a lot of joy and a lot of smiles to all of us. It is impossible to be in a bad mood when Smokey is around!"
In the short time he's been on duty, Doran said he's had a major impact.
"Everybody is happy. You come back from the tough runs, and it puts you in a good mood. There is nothing better than knowing there will be a little pup running out of the kitchen to greet you when you get back to the station," Doran said.
While life is good for Smokey now, it hasn't always been that way.
His owner died of cancer and he ended up at a kill shelter in Arizona.
Not long after he was rescued from that shelter, the Toledo Fire Department was beginning a search for a comfort dog. Tracy Spader is a Toledo woman who runs a non-profit called the K9 Defender Fund. The organization helps military and police dogs. It also provides pet oxygen masks to fire departments like Toledo.
Once Spader heard the department was looking for a comfort dog, she called a friend and the plan was quickly in motion to get Smokey to Toledo.
"And he just happened to be named Smokey already," Spader said. "When I heard that, I thought this has got to work, it was meant to be!"
Spader is proud to be part of Smokey's happy ending.
"What a powerful thing to see the impact he is having on all the firefighters, and to know that I had a small part in making it happen," she said.
While he's on the job quite a bit, Smokey is not at the station around-the-clock. He goes home with Doran every few days.
"He can go four to five tours in a row here and then he has to come home and de-stress," Doran explained. "He also gets to be with other dogs and get some time off to himself. "
While Smokey is enjoying his new life, he is facing a big battle. He was bitten by a tick in Arizona, and when he arrived in Toledo, they realized something was wrong. He's been diagnosed with Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Doran said the cost of diagnosis and treatment is in the thousands.
"Everything connected to Smokey has been donated, including his adoption to his plane ride here to his food. Everything involving Smokey and his care has been donated," Doran said. "We are not asking the fire department or the city administration for any money for him, but we are draining our personal accounts a bit right now caring for him. Any donation would be greatly appreciated."
Doran said it's been worth every penny to the people who love him.
"As much as he was meant to be there for us, we were meant to be there for him," she said.
Once again, all of Smokey's bills have been paid for by donations and the firefighters themselves. If you'd like to help, we've posted a link to the K9 Defender Fund where there is an account for Smokey. Go to the bottom of the K9 Defender Fund page, where you will find a link to PayPal. Click on that link and when you make your donation, specify that it is to go to Smokey's account. You can also mail a donation to the K9 Defender Fund at 8893 Summerfield Road, Lambertville, Michigan, 48144. Write, "Smokey's account" in the check memo line.