One of Mississauga’s most valuable ‘firefighters’ does his duty on four legs

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Published March 10, 2023 at 1:48 pm

Ajax, shown here in 2021, has become one of the most valuable workers for Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services. (Photo: Facility Dog Ajax Twitter)

One of Mississauga’s most valuable and well-loved “firefighters” has never driven a fire truck or helped extinguish a stubborn blaze using a water hose.

However, he has more than likely familiarized himself with a fire hydrant or two in his nearly four years with Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services (MFES).

More importantly, though, the four-legged fire station regular who goes by Ajax provides comfort and companionship to any and all Mississauga firefighters who want to spend time with him.

The friendly and, by all accounts, lovable Golden Retriever/Labrador mix, who seems to have become a rock star of sorts within the department and even has his own Twitter account (Facility Dog Ajax), was brought on board MFES in 2019 as a service dog.

“Ajax’s purpose is to assist our members process some of the trauma that we frequently encounter during the course of our regular duties,” fire department officials said in a Twitter post this week showing Ajax with the latest group of Mississauga firefighter recruits. “He is part of our department’s Workplace Fitness Initiative.”

Known, technically, as a facility dog, Ajax performs a duty that might be just as valuable as the one performed by frontline firefighters–he helps them deal with job-related trauma, as needed, which better prepares them to face their duties moving forward, officials say.

While it appears Ajax and his handler haven’t posted to their Twitter feed in a while, numerous posts there have endeared him to members of the fire department.

The furry “firefighter” has donned bunny ears to wish colleagues a happy Easter, an Irish scarf to say happy St. Patrick’s Day and once took to Twitter in search of a valentine, asking “Will you be mine?”

When Ajax was brought on board in 2019 to help the first responders deal with anxiety, stress and trauma and to help them speak openly about tough experiences, he was the first such accredited facility dog at an Ontario fire department.

“We’re beyond excited to welcome Ajax to the City of Mississauga family. Our furry friend will provide comfort to our fire team and promote open and honest conversations around mental health,” Mayor Bonnie Crombie said at the time. “As a leader in first responder mental health services, we’re hoping to set an example for other municipalities to follow. In the short time that Ajax has been on the job, we’ve already seen his uncanny ability to break barriers and encourage our firefighters to speak more freely about how they are feeling.”

Mississauga fire officials said at the time that “Ajax will not only help our staff with stress relief, but also provide them with the mental health support they need in a high-stress environment. We want our firefighters and staff to understand there’s no shame in asking for help. Having Ajax will provide the team the emotional comfort they need to get through difficult experiences.”

Ajax was donated to MFES in 2019 by National Service Dog, where he had been trained for two years.

When not on the job, he lives with his primary handler with MFES as part of their family.

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