This holiday season, the community is getting the ultimate gift.
Can you guess?
Hint: It has four paws, two furry ears, and offers endless numbers of snuggling opportunities.
Meet Ace the English golden retriever, the newest and furriest member of the Gloucester Police Department’s Community Impact Unit.
“We are constantly brainstorming new ideas and promoting new community policing programs,” Lt. Jeremiah Nicastro said, explaining that the process of getting the 1-year old dog only took a matter of six weeks as “everything just worked out.”
Ace, who received training from Walpole-based Golden Opportunities for Independence, will work alongside School Resource Officer Peter Sutera at O’Maley Innovation Middle School to provide 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. He also will be trained to assist in locating missing persons.
“Being a therapeutic dog is really his primary objective,” Sutera said.
If children in one of the district’s other schools need Ace’s assistance, Sutera is prepared to make the trek to offer the opportunity to all who may need it.
While the community may be familiar with the Gloucester Police Department’s K-9s, Ace serves an entirely different purpose.
“Having Ace is more for using a New Age policing that focuses on bridging the gap between police and kids,” Sutera said, explaining that the “new age policing” is focused on showing citizens and children` that police officers are regular people.
“To show kids in schools that we are human beings as well,” he noted.
Sutera said the idea of bringing a dog onto the Community Impact Unit’s team was inspired by the line of work he did prior to joining the seaside team.
“I worked at a special education school before coming here,” he said. “I saw the effects of the ‘dog day’ and how the kids used to look forward to it so much and how it changed them.”
The Police Department was able to acquire Ace — whose price tag came to $16,000 — through the support of the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, a Framingham-based non profit.
“The Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism is proud to partner with the Gloucester Police Department Community Impact Unit in keeping people and families with autism safe in their community,” the Flutie Foundation said in a statement sent to the Times. “With the help of the Flutie Foundation’s initial funding, the Gloucester Police Department will increase autism awareness in the community with Ace, the new Community Resource Dog.”
The Flutie Foundation provided the initial funding and the unit has until next August to reimburse the foundation. The unit members have set up a GoFundMe page, https://bit.ly/35PWGkn, and are looking to do some community fundraisers over the course of the next year to garner this financial support, Nicastro explained.
He also noted that zero percent of tax dollars were and will be used to cover the expenses of their new team member.
While Ace’s bills will not be coming out of taxpayers pockets, generous locals have willingly put pen to paper to support the unit’s initiative.
Cape Ann Veterinary Hospital's Dr. Jeffrey French from offered free lifetime vaccines, yearly checkups, and monthly pills.
TLC Whole Life Natural Pet Food has offered a free lifetime food supply.
Essex County Co-op in Topsfield has donated $300 worth of dog cages, beds, toys and treats.
EZYDOG has donated $350 worth of dog harnesses.
Lyon-Waugh Auto Group's Warren Waugh, a Gloucester resident, has donated a large amount of money toward the Gloucester Fund.
The support for Ace goes far beyond the bridge as the Essex County District Attorney’s office has expressed its support of a community resource dog.
“The Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett has pledged support for Ace and is working with the Gloucester police and school departments to introduce a program to provide additional support to children who have experienced trauma,” said Carrie Kimball of the District Attorney’s office.
“Pete is going to be a busy guy, Ace is going to be a busy dog,” Nicastro laughed.
He isn’t kidding.
In addition to serving the school district, the Community Impact Unit is planning to have Ace visit the Rose Baker Senior Center, senior citizen housing complexes, and nursing homes with patients who are suffering from Alzheimer's.
“This dog is not just for children, it is going to be for the whole community,” Nicastro said.
Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Gloucester Police's newest K-9, Ace, has his first assignment will be at The Open Door's food collection at Gloucester High School at 32 Leslie O Johnson Road this Saturday, Nov. 21, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Children are encouraged bring a bag of food to donate at the food collection to put their hat in the ring to win a free 3-month family membership to the new YMCA and four additional smaller prizes.
The community can purchase specially designed patches to show support for Ace. More information on the patches will be announced soon.
Local businesses have the opportunity to support Ace's service to the community by "adopting" the furry friend for a month.
By donating to the Gloucester Fund, businesses will get the opportunity to have Ace wear their logo on his harness for the month.
All proceeds will go towards promoting civic, cultural, educational, athletic, or other benevolent purposes or activities in benefit of the city's residents. Those interested may contact the Community Impact Unit at 978-325-5470.
Donations to reimburse the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism for funding $10,000 of Ace's $16,000 purchase price may be made at https://bit.ly/35PWGkn.