Therapy Dogs Bring Comfort After Toronto Van Attack

With calm, unconditional love, and non-judgement, these dogs bring peace after a tragedy.

By Justyne Yuen-Lee
Marjan Iravani, a witness to the attack, hugs therapy dog, Buddy. Credit: Toronto Star / CARLOS OSORIO

Therapy dogs arrived at Mel Lastman Square (Toronto) this past week to comfort the community following a devastating van attack.  It was one week ago, on April 23, 2018, that a man claimed 10 lives and injured 14 others. A shocked city initially gathered its courage under the hashtag #TorontoStrong.  Now, witnesses, and those who barely escaped, must deal with the trauma. To help this process, St. John Ambulance therapy dogs offer their warm and fluffy bodies for hugs and petting.



Credit: Toronto Star / Carlos Osorio

The dogs briefly filled the sombre street with hope. Marjan Iravani, a witness to the attack, told reporters that after the accident, “the terrible feeling” just became worse with each passing day. Buddy, the Golden Retriever, gave her some peace, as she stroked his fur.


Credit: Toronto Star / Carlos Osorio

Buddy’s wagging tail and excited jumps brought squeals and cuddles from people passing the Square. Even employees, from businesses close by, rushed to the square with the news that dogs were in the area.


Credit: Toronto Star / Carlos Osorio

Buddy’s handler, Barbara Ruhr, frequently brings Buddy and Charley to visit the sick, the elderly, the lonely, and also to children’s rehabilitation centers. In Barbara’s experience, each person is different in terms of what they need from the dog. Some chat, while others silently enjoy the loving, non-judgmental comfort that dogs provide.

Ruhr said, “There are no words required because dogs communicate in non-verbal ways. And these therapy animals assume a lot of the stress. That’s why we have to be really careful with our dogs not to overwork them.”


Credit: Twitter / @680News

Students from a nearby school joined the square and gathered around a pile of flowers and other tributes in remembrance of a teacher lost in the attack.


Credit: Twitter / @torontocomms

These acts of love and kindness work to replace the devastation that the attack brought. Our thoughts go out to the victims and the families of the victims.