NYPD Det. Brian Simonsen will never meet Casey, a young Yorkie poodle mix found starving and abandoned with a broken leg — but the officer is saving his life.
Instead of sending flowers, the family of the officer, killed last week by friendly fire, has asked mourners and well-wishers to donate to Healing Haven Animal Foundation, a Long Island-based charity that raises funds to help pay veterinarians who care for seriously ill or injured dogs and cats.
"We feel it's a great honor," Dr. Lynda Loudon, the veterinarian who founded Healing Haven, said Tuesday. "So many lives will be saved."
Simonsen, 42, of Calverton was shot in the chest by an officer last week while responding to a report of an armed robbery at a T-Mobile store in Richmond Hill in Queens. Police have said he and six other officers opened fire when the alleged suspect, Christopher Ransom, 27, of Brooklyn brandished a realistic-looking imitation pistol and pointed it at them.
After Simonsen's death, Loudon said a mutual friend led the detective’s family to Healing Haven "because animals were so close to his heart.”
In addition to his official portrait and a picture from his wedding, the foundation's website features a photo of Simonsen with a black cat lying with its paws on his chest and another of him cradling a dog.
The money raised by Healing Haven goes toward caring for animals, often in shelters, that otherwise would be put to sleep, Loudon told reporters at a private home in Floral Park.
The foundation also aids seniors struggling with veterinarian bills, which can escalate as medical care for pets gets increasingly sophisticated.
As an emergency veterinarian, Loudon said, "I saw pet owners making decisions to euthanize animals I could save. I wasn't OK with that," she said.
Loudon said she gets two to three calls a day from Long Islanders or individuals in other states, all needing help, Loudon said. "Right now, we're focusing on local," she said.
One day, she hopes to open an animal sanctuary with a hospital on the Island.
As mourners gathered in Hampton Bays this week to remember Simonsen, the first NYPD officer shot and killed in the line of duty since 2017, Loudon said donations have been pouring in to her foundation.
About $6,000 has been donated since the Simonsens chose this way to honor the detective, she said. The foundation’s fundraising campaigns raise about $100,000 a year, Loudon said.
"We are so privileged to be in this position; we feel it's a great way to honor him," Loudon said.