Cruiser Turns OneDec 30, 2020 02:52PM ● By Grace Allen
It’s been a busy first year for Wrentham’s top dog.
Cruiser, the police department’s community resource dog, joined the force last January when he was only eight weeks old. Although the pandemic impacted some of his public appearances, the puppy still managed to win the hearts of plenty of residents.
On November 20, townsfolk were invited to celebrate Cruiser’s first birthday with a drive-by parade. Close to 40 cars filled with families drove by the police station to wish him a happy birthday.
“It was awesome to see the outpouring of support,” said Sgt. Dan Morris, Cruiser’s handler. “He even received gifts, which we didn’t expect.”
The community resource dog was provided through a grant to the Wrentham Police Department by Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey.
According to Sgt. Morris, the puppy has already made a difference in several situations involving children.
“We’ve used him at the school to get some kids with anxiety to their classrooms. We’ve used him at a car accident with a girl who was upset. He just has a very calming effect,” said Morris.
Cruiser, named by Wrentham’s school kids soon after his arrival, is an English cream breed of golden retriever known for its patient and gentle nature.
Cruiser was bred by Golden Opportunities for Independence (GOFI) in Walpole, a non-profit organization that pairs service and therapy dogs with individuals and area police departments.
Community resource dogs serve as a type of ambassador for police departments and offer a softer presence in the community.
“One of the reasons Cruiser’s role is so important is because in order to see and pet him you also have to talk to a police officer,” explained Sgt. Morris. “That really opens a lot of doors, communication-wise.”
Cruiser participates in training several times a week at Golden Opportunities for Independence and will continue until he’s approximately 18 to 24 months of age, said GOFI spokesperson John Moon.
According to Moon, Cruiser’s current training involves incorporating scent detection to facilitate finding seniors with memory loss or a child on the autism spectrum who may have wandered away from home.
“With the increased populations of elders and autism, a friendly face and demeanor like Cruiser’s will aid the officers in connecting with all parties, whatever their need,” noted Moon, who went on to say Cruiser is a “notable achiever” and “eager to work.”
Sgt. Morris, who also participates in some of Cruiser’s training, including socialization exercises at places like Bass Pro Shops at Patriot Place, agrees the puppy has aced his classes so far.
“He’s definitely got an A+ for the year,” said Morris.
At the start of the pandemic, when most of the state was shut down, Cruiser’s training went virtual. Morris and the trainers at GOFI held Zoom calls twice a week to work on the puppy’s lessons. Cruiser also participated in a Zoom meeting with fellow community resource dogs in early April.
“I never thought I’d be Zooming on a computer with dogs,” said Sgt. Morris of the canine social-distancing event.
Cruiser weighed in at 69 pounds on his first birthday. The puppy is receiving free lifetime care, courtesy of Wrentham Animal Hospital. But there are other expenses associated with a dog, and a GoFundMe account has been set up because so many people have asked how they can help, explained Sgt. Morris.
Cruiser also spends time with Officer Riley McGrath, his secondary handler, and School Resource Officer Todd Schwalbe. The puppy has a Facebook page and an Instagram account so his admirers can keep up with his doings around town.
While the pandemic has impacted Cruiser’s first year on the force, it’s clear he has a great career ahead of him, especially when he can finally interact freely with all segments of the population. Post-COVID, Sgt. Morris says his goal is to have Cruiser out in the community as much as possible, spending more time in the schools, visiting the senior center and the nursing homes, and attending Little League games at Sweatt Field.
“Cruiser gets really excited to see people which makes him awesome at his job,” said Morris. “He also seems to know which people he can play with, and which ones he should let pet him while he lies down. He seems to have a sixth sense about that.”
He added, “I don’t know how you train a dog to love people, but somehow, magically, Cruiser just does.”
Follow Cruiser on Facebook (www.facebook.com/OfficerCruiser/) or Instagram (officer_cruiser). To make a donation to Cruiser’s GoFundMe account, visit www.gofundme.com and search for “Cruiser Wrentham.”