In every good story, there is a dog.
John Grogan’s “Marley & Me” narrates the mischievous adventures of his beloved Labrador retriever, Universal’s 1995 film “Balto” brings readers on a husky’s cold journey through the Alaskan wilderness, and who could forget Old Yeller —what a tear jerker.
But the narrative of Gloucester’s furriest friend might be a new classic.
To highlight the work that the Gloucester Police Community Impact Unit’s resource dog Ace has been doing over the past two months, the unit has published an interactive story book about what a day in the life of this golden retriever truly looks like.
The book was written by School Resource Officer Mike Scola with a helping paw from Ace, of course.
“I felt like kids would see Ace but not everyone would get to meet him,” Scola said. That, he added, was the inspiration behind creating the book, to illustrate the impact Ace was making in the community.
“The book was more intimate and more inclusive,” Scola added. “It has an educational piece, personal piece, social piece, plus the big piece is the social-emotional piece.”
Ace, who receives training from Walpole-based Golden Opportunities for Independence, works alongside School Resource Officer Peter Sutera at O’Maley Innovation Middle School. There, the dog provides comfort to children who may need de-escalation assistance — primarily those who have attention deficit disorder (ADD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), who are on the autism spectrum, and other behavioral problems. Ace also will be trained to assist in locating missing persons.
“Everything we are doing in policing right now is we are trying to find innovative ways to deescalate situations,” police Chief Ed Conley said Thursday.
“Ace’s ability to de-escalate situations has already been proven here within the school system,” Conley added. “He seems to be one of the most effective tools.”
Ace’s 25-page memoir not only takes the reader through his work with the Police Department and at the school, but also includes an interactive questionnaire at the end to teach kids about what a community resource dog is and more about their local police department.
When Ace comes to the rescue for a child in distress, that child will get to pet the pooch and take away a stuffed animal that looks just like his or her new hero.
The Gloucester Education Foundation awarded $5,000 to the Community Resource Dog Program which will make is possible for Ace to spend additional time in classrooms and for the Police Department to publish the new book.
“Supporting our kids’ mental health and well-being during this incredibly challenging year is a priority for us at Gloucester Education Foundation,” said Aria McElhenny, executive director of the local nonprofit. “Ace brings joy, smiles and comfort to our students, and, we’re thrilled to partner with the Police to help make sure as many kids as possible will benefit from this wonderful program.”
Essex Agricultural and Technical High School’s teacher Mark Blanchette and his class printed the books.
Through the collaboration between three organizations, a stuffed animal and book will be placed in every elementary classroom in the school district.
If parents are interested in purchasing a book or stuffed animal, they can contact Lt. Jeremiah Nicastro at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All money raised through a purchase of a stuffed animal, book or both will be put into replenishing Community Impact Unit’s stock.
“I think we are onto something with Ace,” Conley said.
Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or email@example.com.