ELLIE IS A beautiful 4-month-old chocolate lab that has joined the Nashua Police Department as both a community therapy dog and tracking dog in partnership with Operation Delta Dog.
The precious pup will be working side by side with her handler, Officer Jonathan Turcotte.
Operation Delta Dog’s main base and training center is in Hollis. The nonprofit’s mission is to rescue shelter dogs and train them to be service dogs for veterans who suffer from PTSD and brain injury.
Swim With A Mission, the Bedford nonprofit that raises money for worthy veteran service organizations, played a major role in issuing a sub-grant for Operation Delta Dog to obtain and train Ellie.
Charlotte Troddyn, executive director of Operation Delta Dog, tells me that Nashua police reached out to the organization to form a partnership for a therapy dog that could help the department cement a stronger bond with military veterans, those vets living in Nashua’s transitional housing communities and other vulnerable citizens who may be feeling distressed.
As it happens, Ellie’s handler, Jonathan Turcotte, is a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in Security Forces, and did a stint with the National Guard prior to joining Nashua police.
Capt. Thomas Bolton, a 20-year member of the police department and supervisor of the Canine Unit, describes Ellie as being an exceptional dog. She provides a “much more robust tool” for the demanding work police do each day, he said.
Ellie has been trained “to find lost people, lost articles related to crimes and still offer the right temperament for emotional support,” Bolton said. “Time is always of the essence in many of these cases,” and a dog like Ellie was carefully selected right down to the exact litter to match the department’s needs.
What makes Ellie the ideal therapy dog is her versatility, says Carolyn Barney, the director of training for Operation Delta Dog. “She is perfect for high-energy, for things that are active,” meaning that Ellie has been trained for detection, scent, etc. If she were used for a search, for instance, she would have the stamina, intellect and ability to help track down a missing person. Ellie also has a calming presence with the right demeanor for comfort work.
Troddyn sees the partnership with NPD as a win-win, adding that “Nashua Police have bent over backward for our organization,” by allowing aspects of training such as familiarizing dogs with using stairs and elevators and seeing police in uniforms to take place at police headquarters.
Operation Delta Dog is a unique nonprofit that “does not charge anything for a service dog,” Troddyn says. “We are 100 percent free to people.”
And that isn’t easy to accomplish as it typically costs about $25,000 to pair the right pup with the right recipient (vet) and includes about 1½ years of training together as a team.
The organization relies on individual donations, corporate sponsorships and private foundation grants. Donations are always appreciated and can be made here.
Donations are also welcome at Swim With A Mission here.
These are difficult times living in a COVID-world, and veterans in vulnerable positions especially deserve a safe and supportive environment for reclaiming stability. A therapy dog can serve Nashua citizens by diffusing a tense situation, helping residents build stronger relationships with police and becoming a friendly, furry face to many.
I believe that Ellie will warm the heart of everyone she meets and also bring much-needed hope to those who may be struggling in the Gate City.
Joan Stylianos is a Nashua native. Her column appears every other Thursday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.