Tyngsboro Select Board meets ‘Officer George’

TYNGSBORO — A special guest attended Tuesday night’s Select Board meeting and with a wag of his tail won admiration from all.

“He stole the show,” Select Board Chair Ron Keohane said of Officer George, the police department’s community resource dog.

The meeting was Officer George’s introduction to the board, although he’s been on the job since 2019.

He is owned and trained by Officer Bethany Bonczar, and he came to Tyngsboro as part of a rescue effort in Alabama. He, his mother and six siblings were taken from a hoarding environment. All found homes.

Bonczar has experience in handling, training and breeding dogs. She has privately trained dogs with behavior, aggression and obedience issues. She is also a school resource officer.

Bonczar proposed a community resource dog to Chief Richard Howe and Deputy Chief Shaun Woods, and they approved.

Before reporting for duty to the police department, “George was specifically vetted for traits related to his temperament, such as confidence, gentleness, comfort level meeting new people and reliability in unusual environments. Above all, we were looking for a dog that loved people and being around them in any situation,” Bonczar told the board.

Tyngsboro Police Officer Bethany Bonczar and community resource dog Officer George take a break from training. (Courtesy Bethany Bonczar)

She has kept up his training ever since, and recently Officer George became a certified therapy dog.

Bonczar’s proposal to Howe and Woods was well-timed. COVID-19 was on the horizon, and the mental health ramifications of that disease are still being felt, especially in schools.

George patrols Tyngsboro schools and the Greater Lowell Technical High School with Bonczar as his partner. They deal daily with mental health issues.

When their day is done, Bonczar and George return home. George, she says, goes out in the yard and runs.

George, who is almost 4, is part beagle and part boxer. Bonczar was told he’d probably be 30 pounds. He is quite a bit more than that. He inherited the markings on his coat from his beagle ancestors, but his size from his boxer ancestors.

When George first came to live with Bonczar, fellow officers warmly welcomed him. But three years ago, some members of the Select Board were not enthusiastic.

As Howe explained, he had just disbanded the town’s K-9 unit because the town did not need a dog with those skills.

While three members of the board supported the change, two did not. Supporters were current Select Board Chair Ron Keohane and former board members Rick Reault and Steve Nocco. Board member Hillari Wennerstrom and former member David R. Robson were opposed.

Keohane and board members Katerina Kalabokis and Eric Eldridge had no problems showing their enthusiasm for George. New member Andrew “Mike” Moran wasn’t present because he was attending his daughter’s graduation. Wennerstrom was also absent.

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