A Toronto police officer is mounting an uphill battle to support a four-legged friend to victims of crime and sudden tragedy.
Superintendent Heinz Kuck is fundraising for Victim Services Toronto’s (VST) Trauma Dog Program by scaling three Adirondack mountains in three days – a total of 15,000 feet of elevation dubbed The Climb for VST. The adventurous fundraiser has run, paddled, dogsledded and pushed weighted sledges through the city to raise funds for the independent non-profit agency that helps victims through tough times.
“One homicide is one too many. One sexual assault is one too many. The loss of a child becomes too much to bear. With all that tragedy, something happens. Victims and first-responders come to know and share a common sorrow. One of the ways that the Toronto Police Service has helped ease that sorrow has been through our affiliation with, and support of, Victim Services Toronto and the essential, fundamental work they do,” said Kuck, who has seen the amazing work of the city’s first trauma dog, a two-year-old yellow Lab named Dandy.
Trauma dogs calm those who are excessively agitated. After spending time with Dandy, victims and witnesses are able to talk more easily to Victim Services counsellors or police investigators.
Recently, Dandy was utilized for a number of anxious clients waiting in the Victim Witness Room at Toronto’s Old City Hall Court. The dog’s value and importance were observed first-hand by Detective Stephanie Paraskevopulos, of 11 Division CIB.
“I was with several victims, some of them fairly traumatized. Once Dandy was in the room, you could see a physical change in all the victims. To say that I was fascinated by the effect would be an understatement. Instead of focusing on their own fear, pain and sadness, they transferred their attention to giving love and affection to the dog,” Paraskevopulos said. “In return, Dandy gave them affection, but she was also incredibly calm and passed that calmness onto the victims. At one point, a victim broke down in tears and was hugging the dog, and the dog showed genuine concern for the victim and nudged her and licked her. It was incredible. I cannot state how impressed I was with this interaction.”
Kuck said the Service recognizes that working in partnership with Victim Services Toronto and other agencies has led to better outcomes for victims of crime and offenders.
“We respond to calls for service, we protect those who are vulnerable, arrest those who offend, and forge community partnerships. Through time and experience though, much of our frontline efforts transition wonderfully towards social justice, restorative justice, and victims’ advocacy,” Kuck said.
The Trauma Dog Program, funded solely through donations, is used to assist and benefit all victims, with a primary focus on younger victims. Of the 20,000 people Victim Services Toronto assists each year, more than 7,000 are children.
Kuck has committed to climbing three famous peaks in the Adirondack range, chosen for their elevation, ascent steepness and terrain:
- Mount Marcy is the highest of the 46 Adirondack high peaks, towering 5,344 feet above sea level. It is one of the most distinctive features of the Adirondack landscape. Mount Marcy is home to Lake Tear of the Clouds, the highest lake in New York State at 4,292 feet, and the source of the Hudson River
- Algonquin Mountain is the tallest peak along the MacIntyre Mountain Range and the second-highest in New York State with an elevation of 5,114 feet
- Whiteface Mountain: With an elevation of 4,867 feet, it is the fifth-highest peak in New York State. However, due to its formation, Whiteface provides the greatest continuous vertical drop in eastern North America at 3,430 feet
Click here to learn more or donate to The Climb for Victim Services Toronto