SALISBURY — After patrolling town streets solo for more than 10 years, police Officer Michael Tullercash spent his first overnight shift July 3 with a partner: a 65-pound, 18-month-old German shepherd named Chapo.
Together, Tullercash and Chapo make up the department’s K-9 team, succeeding recently promoted Lt. Richard Dellaria and recently retired canine Herc.
“I’m excited to take over,” Tullercash said. “It’s a position I always wanted to be part of and I was fortunate to be accepted.”
Tullercash went through a 17-week Boston-based K-9 training program and graduated July 2. Their first action together came just hours into their partnership when they were tasked with finding a man who broke into a Merrimac home.
Although the man remains at large, Tullercash said Chapo did everything he was supposed to do.
Tullercash, a Salisbury resident, joined the department in 2004 and after spending a few years at the Ipswich Police Department, returned to Salisbury in 2011 to work the 7 p.m.-to-3 a.m. shift.
Tullercash and Chapo will be working the same hours but Tullercash knows full well that a K-9 unit is essentially on call around the clock. Chapo will be living with Tullercash and his other dog, Niko.
“They do get along with each other,” Tullercash said.
Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler said it was important that the department continue its K-9 program beyond Dellaria and Herc. Dellaria is now the department’s second-in-command.
“It’s been a valuable asset for us the last seven years and I expect that to continue with Officer Tullercash and his new partner, Chapo,” Fowler said. “We will have the benefit of a K-9 team well into the future.”
The program’s continuation was made easier by the owners and trainers at Fox Hill Farm in Amesbury. There, Chapo was raised and trained over a long period by Sean Castro.
“He did a great job,” said Fox Hill Farm’s Brigitte Deitz.
Deitz, who oversees operations at the family-owned Kimball Road farm, said Chapo was the perfect choice to be the department’s new police dog.
“He’s happy and stable around all types of people and environments,” she said. “But when needed, he can turn on his drive and get the task done.”
Deitz said soon after Chapo began training, she could see the dog’s potential and alerted Dellaria.
“I really believe he would be the one,” Deitz said, regarding Herc’s successor at the Salisbury Police Department.
Both Dellaria and Fowler praised Deitz and everyone at Fox Hill Farm for not only finding Chapo, but getting him ready for the job.
“We are very fortunate that we have experienced people at the kennel to help identity potential police dogs,” Fowler said.
Dellaria said Tullercash was a great choice to succeed him. Having worked the same shift for years, Dellaria said Tullercash was able to see Herc in action countless times.
“He will do excellently,” Dellaria said, adding that Tullercash has the perfect demeanor and put in the time necessary to work with a police dog. “I’m excited to see the program move forward.”