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Summer Classes Going to the Dogs

Submitted by on June 5, 2024 – 7:38 pm

Haverhill, MA (June 4, 2024) – Northern Essex Community College’s comfort dog Winnie got a glimpse into her future on Tuesday. She was joined on the Haverhill Campus by comfort dogs from eight law enforcement agencies for a meet and greet sponsored by the Essex County Sheriff’s Department.

Tuesday’s event was the first of three of these gatherings, which will include training for the officers and dogs, and will culminate in an obedience competition in the fall. Essex County Sheriff’s Department Captain Laura Dow and the Department’s facility dog handler Officer Christian Guzman spearheaded the effort to bring these dogs together.

Winnie welcomed her new friends

“It’s a way for us to all to come together, to share stories and lessons learned, and see how we can best work together to share our comfort dogs with our communities in the best way possible,” said Dow, who also heads the Department’s K9 Unit. “There’s a lot of camaraderie among K9 officers and we want to continue to foster these relationships.”

Comfort dogs have become an integral part of community policing and are often found helping in schools or care facilities, said Essex County Sheriff Kevin F. Coppinger. He said this event was done to support these officers and dogs, as well as to provide some free training.

For Coppinger, the decision to add a comfort dog to the Department was about helping Essex County communities, but also about taking care of employees.

“Being in law enforcement comes with unavoidable stress. When these dogs walk into our facilities, it lessens the burden a bit. It gives an officer who may be feeling overwhelmed a chance to breathe and receive a little love from a happy dog,” Sheriff Coppinger said. “It’s about officer wellness, but it’s also a way for us to support our communities and bring these comfort dogs out in times of need, especially when tragedy strikes.”

Charles Young of Professional Canine Services of Middleborough provided training at Tuesday’s event. The trainings are made possible by a grant from Essex County Outreach, a collaborative effort of Essex County law enforcement agencies and the Essex County Sheriff’s Department to combat substance use disorders and mental health matters.

“This was a great event for all of us and our dogs,” said Officer Guzman. “This is such a great crew of officers and these dogs are just the best. They can’t help but make you smile.”

Attending the training were:

Essex County Sheriff’s Department Officer Christian Guzman and partner Pasky
Peabody Police SRO Eric Ricci and partner Ella
Rockport Police SRO Mike Anderson and partner Luna
Gloucester Police SRO Pete Sutera and partner Ace
Manchester-by-the-Sea Police SRO Andrea Locke and partner Daisy
Northern Essex Community College Police Lt. Keith Walker and partner Winnie
Massachusetts State Police Trooper Chad Tata and partner Luna
Swampscott Police SRO Brian Wilson and partner Sora
Hamilton Police Officer Michael Girolimon and partner Luca

Winnie officially joined the NECC family in April as a 9-week-old puppy. Once her training is complete, she will provide stress relief, calm nerves, and bring cheer to students, faculty, and staff.

Information about Winnie, her schedule (once she’s fully entered service), and more will be available on her webpage. Her adventures are also documented on her Instagram page: @neccwinnie.