He’s all bark, no bite, and he’s already a local sensation.
It’s been just one week on the job for Gary, Endicott’s new standard poodle comfort dog, but he’s already taken interviews with local media and, on Wednesday, was officially sworn into duty as an active member of the College’s Public Safety and Police Department.
The swearing-in ceremony, held on National Puppy Day, drew more media as well as members of the Endicott community, and was presided over by Kerry Ramsdell, Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety, who said the special day was marked by progress, dedication, and support.
“My staff of police officers, public safety officers, and dispatchers work tirelessly every day and night to support our entire campus,” she said. “Over the last few years, together with my staff of police officers, we’ve witnessed a drastic increase in the number of service calls related to mental illness. Attempting to adopt new ways of supporting our students—and providing an additional comforting, calming presence at some of these service calls—led us to Gary.”
In December 2021, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on the urgent need to boost support for young people facing unprecedented mental health challenges exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. “The COVID-19 pandemic further altered their experiences at home, school, and in the community, and the effect on their mental health has been devastating. The future wellbeing of our country depends on how we support and invest in the next generation,” said Murthy in his advisory.
Gary is one of many recent steps Endicott has taken to address the student mental health crisis. The College has also created a new Wellness Center, switched healthcare providers, and increased clinical staffing.
A trained comfort dog—raised to be steady, calm, and reassuring to people in a variety of environments—Gary comes to Endicott from the New Hampshire-based nonprofit Hero Pups Inc., which provides comfort dogs to veterans and first responders. The entire Endicott community helped support his arrival after Bill and Maryann Gilet P’24 sponsored the Comfort Dog Initiative during this year’s Giving Day.
Recalling the calming effects of Hero Pups comfort dogs who visited campus last semester, Endicott College President Steven R. DiSalvo, Ph.D, said that was when he knew Endicott needed a permanent pup.
“This is really an effort on behalf of Endicott to make sure that we are tending to the needs of our students, our faculty, our staff, and this is just one way to do it, but it’s an important way,” said President DiSalvo.
“His mission will be simple: enhance and support the lives of all Endicott community members with comfort,” said Ramsdell. “He is trained to support community members in times of trauma and crisis, so Gary will provide a source of unconditional love and support to people on some of their hardest, most stressful days.”
Working alongside his full-time handler, Officer Elliot Lanciani, Gary will generally be available for service calls from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., Thursdays through Monday. Students wishing to request a visit with Gary can scan a QR code or place a request through Gary’s personal webpage.
As for what Gary had to say about all the fanfare? No comment, as per usual. He’s too busy being hounded for hugs by Endicott students—just the way he likes it.