Posted on March 1, 2017
Article & Photos by Jacqueline Bennett newsandviewsjb.com
A large turnout for the K-9 Iko fundraiser Friday night, February 24, kept Jim’s Pizza in Windsor, Connecticut bustling with a line at the door and filled booths and tables. So busy was the restaurant that a delivery person helped to seat patrons during the event that ran from 5-9 p.m.
“I didn’t think there would be this many people,” said K-9 Iko’s partner and handler, Officer Steve Vesco of the Windsor Police Department.
Meanwhile, the reason for the evening, K-9 Iko, sent his regrets – “woof, woof” – understandably detained while recovering from surgery. It is the cost of that surgery plus rehabilitation and medicine which drew an outpouring of support from the Windsor community and beyond, when it was learned that due to budgetary concerns the WPD would only pay $1,000 towards the expenses that are much higher.
WPD Capt. Tom LePore was quoted in the Hartford Courant, “Obviously we want to do everything we can do …To do more we would have to sacrifice in other areas of the budget, possibly including training for other K-9 dogs.”
After eight years of serving the public, Iko, 9, was set to retire on February 16. Just two days before however, while still on the job, the canine had an injury manifest – a herniated disc that resulted in paralysis of his rear quarter. Iko’s prognosis for recovery from needed surgery was good but given the bill, more than $7,000, Vesco was forced to consider euthanazia.
It was an end for Iko that Vesco could not bear and did not feel the canine deserved. His colleagues and friends, Wayne and Kimberly Cabral, Mark Rudewicz – animal control officer in Simbury, and Debbie Samsom of “Friends of Windsor Animal Care & Control” were determined that Vesco should not have to carry the brunt of the costs of Iko’s recovery alone. A gofundme page was set up and so was the fundraiser. Vesco expressed his deep and sincere appreciation.
He spent Friday evening going from table to table to thank supporters such as Ann Walsh, Janet Griffin, Joyce Phillips and Peggy Eberle. Phillips has been such a fan of the Vesco-K9 Iko team that she carries with her a photo card of the two.
“That photo was taken in Merrimack, New Hampshire,” Vesco told the women when he stopped by their table.
WPD Sgt. Bernie Petkis brought his wife Lisa and their son Evan.
“Steve and I attended the Municipal Police Academy together – 1995 – we were roommates,” noted Sgt. Petkis.
Samson could not say enough good things about the owners of Jim’s Pizza. Initially when Samson called about holding the fundraiser she said owner Pam Nikolis explained the restaurant was booked for fundraisers through May. However, after Samsom pled her case for K-9 Iko and the financial burden Vesco faced, Nikolis agreed to host the event.
“It was last minute, they just took us in,” said Samson.
Said Nikolis, “We wanted to give back to our police officers.”
Opened in 1966 by Nikolis’ parents Eleni and James, for years “Jim’s Pizza” was a go-to spot for community events. Following her father’s death the family retired from the business but three years ago they “came out of retirement” and bought back the restaurant. Now it is run by Nikolis, her mother and sister-in-law Denise.
This type of cohesive, cooperative spirit is indicative of the Windsor community, said Samson. Another example of the character of the town, she added, was the presence at the fundraiser of Darlene Miller and her daughter Melissa Rothhammer, who work at Dom’s Eatery and who helped sell raffle tickets for donated items. As well, a silent auction was held.
“They are here from a competing restaurant,” said Samson.
Vesco said March 1 by phone that the fundraiser netted some $3,000. The gofundme campaign stopped accepting donations at $13,035. The money will be deposited into an account for Iko’s recovery at Webster Bank.
“Iko is back home. He has a long way to go but he’s doing great,” said Vesco.
Now retired, Iko will live out the rest of his life as a pet with the Vesco family. Samson, who noted she is very familiar with the cost associated with veterinary care, said Vesco could be looking at additional expenses for Iko’s recovery.
“If we have to, we’ll do this all over again, ” said Samson.