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By Danielle Hargraves

Aster, a local K-9 unit, has been making students smile at Masco for quite some time now, but few know who made her job possible, Detective Sergeant Brendan Gahagan.

  Gahagan joined the Topsfield Police Force in 2016, following in the footsteps of his father- trooper, bomb technician, and K-9 handler, Eric Gahagan. Just like his father, Gahagan’s dream was to have a K-9. With the support of police chief Neal Hovey, Gahagan got Aster in August of 2022. 

  “I had Aster for a week and a half before we began explosive detection K-9 training,” said Gahagan. “Fourteen weeks later, Aster and I became certified in explosive detection.”

  With those certifications, the pair has provided safety to many events in the Boston area, the most recent being this year’s Boston Marathon. The sports lovers of Masco can also thank Gahagan and Aster, as they have offered security to the New England Patriots.

  However, Gahagan did not want to stop at just protection.

  “Aster also completed multiple certifications by the American Kennel Club to be a Community Canine/Comfort Dog. With these certifications, Aster could go to work in the community,” said Gahagan.

 He knew that Aster had the potential to help people on a more personal level. Gahagan wanted her to join him as the school resource officer, interacting with kids in the Tri-Town to spread joy with her puppy-like demeanor.

  While Gahagan succeeded in his mission to bring Aster to Masco, it hasn’t been smooth sailing. Recently, Gahagan had to start a fundraiser within Masco asking for the basics- food, treats, toys, and monetary donations. Gahagan had initially received a donation from New England BioLabs in Ipswich, but funds quickly dwindled. Owning a dog is expensive, and Aster goes through one $100 bag of food per month. To help, Aster is supported by donations from the nonprofit Gahagan started, the Topsfield Police K-9 Foundation.  

  “I hope to raise enough money to have her food last another few months while other fundraising efforts are organized. Aster also has a habit of destroying toys quickly, so those tend to not stick around too long either. As far as treats, Aster will eat just about anything that is food,” he said. 

  The fundraiser was a huge hit, with an estimated $600 in donations along with many toys and treats. Due to the turnout, there is talk of opening the fundraiser back up towards the end of the school year.

  The duo has done so much for the Tri-Town and the Greater Boston area, and hope their efforts are realized and supported by the community.

  “I cannot thank everyone enough for their support of Aster, it truly means everything to me. Getting Aster was an uphill battle and I could not have done so without the support of Chief Hovey and this amazing Tri-Town Community,” said Gahagan.

  As the pair continue to provide safety and smiles to the community, they hope that their struggles will continue to pay off.