Getting the North Branford Police Department’s canine program off the ground hasn’t been an easy path, but Lieutenant David D’Ancicco is hoping the third time’s a charm as the department welcomed its newest member: a three-month old German shepherd puppy named Hanz.
Mario Bernardo will be the canine officer, which is a dream come true for the sergeant who has been with the NBPD for more than six years.
“There was a couple things I always wanted to do – one was becoming a police sergeant and the other was becoming a canine officer and I’m lucky I’ve achieved both,” said Bernardo, who knew he wanted to be a police officer since he was a child. “Going back to childhood, I remember seeing a cop and thinking they were a superhero. My parents instilled a respect of the law and I always wanted to be a cop.”
Bernardo has been interested in the NBPD’s canine program since its early days. The NBPD has tried to begin its canine program twice before – the first time was in 2009 and just before the puppy’s training, the officer chose to opt out of the program. With no other officer available to start the training, D’Ancicco chose to purchase the dog, Storm, from the department.
In 2010, the NBPD gave it another go, this time with the help of the Northford and North Branford Women’s Club, several other civic groups, schools and businesses in town. Chase joined the force, assisting on several arrests after completing training.
Chase was with the department for less than two years when canine officer Mauro Piroli’s contract was terminated. Because no other officers were trained as a canine officer, , which was born on Oct. 5.
Hanz and Bernardo are registered for the Connecticut State Police’s training class that will be held this fall. For now, Bernardo and Hanz are getting acquainted.
“He’s doing good,” said Bernardo. “I’m looking forward to socializing him as much as I can. We’ll go to the schools, Evergreen Woods, daycares to get him used to people and kids.”
Hanz lives with Bernardo, his wife and their 4 ½-year-old German shepherd – a breed Bernardo’s family owned when he was growing up. And come this summer, Hanz won’t be the baby of the family any more as the Bernardos are expecting their first child.
“My wife is 100 percent supportive and helps a lot with the dog,” said Bernardo. “I grew up with German shepherds – they’re very friendly, very loyal and good with kids. I’m really looking forward to raising and working with Hanz.”