Last week we learned about how Justice Facility Dog (JFD) Lucca spent much of his career supporting the mental health of hundreds of victims and witnesses of crime and trauma, specifically as these individuals progressed through the criminal justice system. (Read Part One here). Today we are sharing how this four-legged, gentle soul has had an incredible impact on the victims and witnesses of critical incidents across Vancouver.
Lucca spent his career in the VPD’s Victim Services Unit (VSU) alongside his handler, and VSU Coordinator, Sue Baker. The Victim Services Unit provides support to victims, families, and witnesses of all types of crime and traumatic incidents in the city of Vancouver. Services include emotional support, practical assistance, information, and resources.
In addition to his court accompaniment duties that we learned about last week, Lucca has also been part of many VPD responses following critical incidents in settings such as schools and workplaces around Vancouver. For example, he and Sue might get called to attend following a serious injury or tragic death at a school or jobsite – sometimes for several days in a row – to support students/staff/employees. Lucca provides a healthy distraction and offers comfort in these difficult and sensitive community environments.
“He is a calming presence in crises where there may be heightened emotions and high levels of stress, which can help facilitate a healthy expression of those emotion,” explains Sue. “Lucca really has had the capacity to intervene at any point where there is need following a critical incident or crime.”
Lucca has also assisted with peer support here at the VPD during critical incident diffusings. In fact, he had such a positive effect on the wellness of both sworn and civilian VPD employees that he inspired the placement of two new full-time canine support roles in the VPD’s Employee Wellness Unit and Internet Child Exploitation Unit. Accredited Facility Dogs Zen and Sadie have been working at the VPD supporting officers and civilian staff with much success for almost two years now.
“I was very excited when Zen and Sadie arrived,” says Sue. “It’s been very exciting for me to see more PADS dogs joining the VPD and providing that specialized support.”
Similar to anyone who works full-time, Lucca can get tired after a hard day’s work – particularly if he has been helping a client with considerable emotional support needs. Part of the responsibility of a handler is to be able to recognize signs of stress and fatigue in the dog.
“Just like humans have to find ways to decompress at the end of the day, I also have to facilitate that for Lucca,” explains Sue. “What I notice in him is a lot of fatigue, so I ensure he is able to get lots of sleep and rest.”
Over the course of his career as a Justice Facility Dog, Lucca and Sue endorsed the work-hard, play-hard philosophy in that Lucca regularly receives plenty of TLC, exercise, and time to just be a dog and have fun after his workday and work week. Lucca loves going to the park and going for long hikes.
“The trails are his happy place. He is very curious and loves to sniff everything. He is very playful in that environment and will often get into the zoomies. He also loves to play with other dogs and has a particular love of small sticks. He will often go on a full walk holding a small stick in his mouth.”
In retirement, Lucca will get to do much more of this. He will also get some much-deserved rest, snuggles, naps, and even more bananas – one of his favourite treats. Lucca and Sue will stay bonded together in his retirement and he will continue to be an important member of Sue’s household. Only now, Lucca has a new four-legged brother – Justice Facility Dog Sydney – who will try to fill his big shoes/paws as Sue’s new partner on the job in VSU.
To realize the significant impact Lucca has had on so many people is really quite remarkable. And here at the Vancouver Police Foundation, we were lucky to be able to get to know Lucca very well over the years as his office was right next to us at VPD HQ. We will miss his frequent visits for cuddles and treats, but we are also very excited for him to relax and enjoy retired life with his family.
Happy retirement Lucca!
The Vancouver Police Foundation supports programs and initiatives that fall under one of four pillars: Youth Programs, Mental Health & Addictions, Community Outreach & Engagement, and Technology & Special Equipment. You can help build a safer Vancouver by donating to the Vancouver Police Foundation.