Courtice artist honours police dogs across Canada with portraits

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Published August 8, 2023 at 9:00 am

D/Cst Hannah Elkington and PSD Kaos watch the funeral procession for Toronto K9 Bingo, who was killed in the line of duty July 25

Police Service Dog Bingo’s death at the hands of a murder suspect in west Toronto two weeks ago attracted plenty of media attention, with a proper funeral procession and other K9s and their partners paying tribute from highway bridges across the GTA.

But that hasn’t always been the case. Too often the sacrifices made by police dogs goes unnoticed, beyond the palpable loss felt by their handlers and others in the narrow world of policing.

Nicole Wilmot, an artist and Courtice resident whose day job is with the City of Pickering’s Building Permit department, wanted to honour those dogs killed in the line of duty, as well as those who died after their years of service were over.

So she started painting portraits of the dogs and surprising their handlers with the finished art as gifts. In just a few years she has already done nearly 50 portraits of police dogs – all delivered free of charge to their partners.

Her latest portrait, of PSD Bingo, is being delivered to Toronto Police Sgt. Brandon Smith this week.

PSD Bingo. 2021-2023

Painting dogs, wildlife and sunset landscapes are Wilmot’s areas of expertise and she started painting dog portraits as a side gig before the pandemic. In February 2020 she painted her first police service dog, a Durham Police K9 named Havoc who had died at home at the age of 14.

“The first dog I did was for a friend, then I got a commission, then two and I started doing it just as commissions. But when I saw a posting of Havoc, a DRPS K9 that passed away, I had an urge to paint him as a surprise for officer Wayne King,” Wilmot said. “Then I saw that his twin brother had lost his K9 dog Blitz the previous September and I decided to gift him one too.”

Wilmot’s cousin Matt is a Toronto K9 officer and he had also lost his service dog, Siren, so she painted a portrait for him as well.

“His emotional reaction made me realize that in some small way I could give back,” she explained. “Our police officers get so much negativity for the job they do. They put their lives on the line for many people, some ungrateful, that I needed to show them they were appreciated.”

So she started scouring posts for K9s across Ontario then decided to branch out across Canada. It makes for a busy job and she has a pile of projects still on her to-do list.

The portraits are all done on her own dime though she does get assistance on delivery costs from Ned’s Wish, a B.C. charity that raises funds to help retired police dogs with their medical bills.

“When I get a painting done for the west coast they help connect me with the K9 officer’s address so I can mail off another surprise,” she said, adding that her cousin, who helped deliver several portraits for Toronto K9 officers, is setting up the delivery of her painting of Bingo.

“When I heard Bingo was killed in action I knew how the officer must be hurting. I know the bond they have with their partners.”

Bingo and Smith, who completed training just last December, were brought into a call in north Etobicoke July 25 after a suspect who was wanted for murder opened fire on police and escaped the residence. Bingo tracked the man and flushed him out of a backyard on Kingsview Boulevard where he opened fire once again, this time killing Bingo.

Another officer then shot the suspect, who has since been taken to hospital with a serious gunshot wound. The shooting remains under investigation.

Bingo was the first K9 killed in the line of duty in Toronto Police history.

Wilmot, who admits she “can’t paint people very well … but I intend to practice” also donates artwork to the Station Gallery in Whitby’s annual fundraiser. The dog portraits – especially the gifts to K9 officers across the country, are her bread-and-butter, however, and the work that gives her the most pleasure.

“I never charge police officers for these paintings. In fact, they never know its even coming,” said Wilmot, who has a German Shepherd of her own.

Ned’s Wish, the charity that helps set up deliveries of Wilmot’s portraits and has a mandate to honor the fallen K9 heroes, also keeps track of the responses from family members after they have received the portrait gifts.  “Heaven’s the place where all of the dogs you’ve ever loved come to greet you,” is the group’s mantra.

  • “I received a gift today from a supporter of Ned’s Wish. It was a painting of my first dog PSD Chrisa, who passed this year. The gift brought tears of joy, as now I can say she is back home again.” – Handler Jamie Dobson
  • Dobson was also Fallen Hero Jago’s handler, before he was re-partnered with Scott McLeod and killed in the line of duty. Nicky again gifted Jamie with a portrait of Jago. “Now they are home together” – Jamie Dobson
  • Edge took his job very seriously, but when with those he trusted he was a goofball and the best cuddler. You so perfectly captured his goofy smile! We can’t thank you enough for using your talents to pay tribute to fallen heroes and especially our handsome boy Edge – Karen Williams

“It’s been quite a satisfying ride.,” said Wilmot. “The joy I get from giving back and the genuine appreciation from the officers are amazing.”

Nicole Wilmot (right) with her portrait of Tyson. On the left is Tyson’s fur-parent Andrea

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