Friday, May 26, 2023

Windham EMT receives prestigious Red Cross honor

By Ed Pierce

Rob Parritt of Windham shares an undeniable bond with Windham Fire Rescue Emergency Medical Technician Dustin Andrews and because of it, Parritt is alive today.

The life of Windham resident Rob Parritt, left, was saved on
Jan. 24 by Windham Fire Rescue EMT Dustin Andrew, who
was off duty at the time. Andrew was presented with a 
Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action
at the Windham Town Council meeting on Tuesday night.
Back on Jan. 24 of this year, Andrews was off duty and traveling home near the Windham and Gorham town line when he observed a vehicle ahead of him driving erratically. Suddenly a bystander appeared in the middle of the road and waved Andrews down, telling him that the erratic driver had accelerated, left the roadway, and crashed into a snowbank.

Parritt says that he was on his way to work that night and remembers very little of that entire day. But what happened to him was he suffered cardiac arrest and passed out, crashing his vehicle.

When Andrews realized what had happened, he radioed for assistance and when approaching the crash scene, he discovered that Parritt was turning different colors inside the vehicle. He realized that Parritt was not breathing and required immediate medical attention. With the help of the bystander, Andrews broke out a window in the vehicle and the two of them pulled Parritt out. Andrews initiated CPR and continued it for about eight to 10 minutes before paramedics arrived at the site to take over and transport Parritt to the hospital.

Because of his training, bravery, ability to perform CPR and quick thinking, Parritt survived the incident and was taken to the hospital, where he spent about a week recovering from the harrowing ordeal. Hospital doctors implanted a defibrillator to monitor his heart rate and put a pacemaker in his chest to stabilize his heartbeat to keep it from beating too slowly and going again into cardiac arrest.

“I got to meet Dustin about two weeks later,” Parritt said. “I know how lucky I am to be here and how thankful I am that Dustin was there that night.”

Parritt is married with three children and eight grandchildren and attended the Windham Town Council meeting on Tuesday night where Andrews was presented with a Red Cross Certificate of Extraordinary Personal Action for his lifesaving efforts by Steve Thomas, Executive Director of the Red Cross of Southern Maine.

Thomas pointed out that a medical emergency can happen at any time and that quick action by a bystander can be the difference sometimes between life and death. He said that performing CPR during the first few minutes of cardiac arrest can double or even triple someone’s likelihood of survival.

In typical situations like this, Thomas said that any one of us could find ourselves as a victim, and any one of us could find ourselves as a bystander.

“Thanks to his training and fortitude, Dustin was able to be the bystander we all hope comes to our aid, and the bystander we should all aspire to be,” Thomas said. “Dustin succeeded in fulfilling the mission of the American Red Cross, to prevent and alleviate human suffering in the face of emergencies. He saved a life, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and his neighbor. May we all possess Dustin’s strength, courage, and lifesaving skills if ever they are needed.”

According to Thomas, it was his great privilege to present Andrews with a lifesaving award.

“His courage, bravery and training are something that we all can aspire to,” Thomas said. “You never know when you may also need to save a life. Dustin’s quick thinking, his bravery and his CPR skills are the reason Rob is with us at this ceremony tonight.”

Four months later, Parritt said he is feeling much better now and that he just can’t say enough good things about Andrews and all the Windham Fire and Rescue paramedics and public safety personnel who came to his rescue that night.

“These are simple outstanding young people,” he said. “And in Dustin’s case, I cannot ever thank him enough. “Not everybody would have stopped to help that night. He did.”

Andrews said that he was humbled to receive the award from the Red Cross and that it was presented with many of Parritt’s family in attendance at the council meeting.

“I’m happy he’s here and happy he made it,” Andrews said. “When you get right down to it, lifesaving is the reason why we do this.” <

In the public eye: Wescott to leave legacy of positivity at Windham Middle School

Editor’s note: This is another in an ongoing series of Windham and Raymond town employee profiles.

By Ed Pierce

Somewhere early in his teaching career, Bill Wescott learned that by being positive and helping his students to succeed, he too could succeed. It’s a philosophy that’s worked for Wescott for 46 years in his career, one that draws to a close with his retirement on June 16.

Bill Wescott will retire from teaching at Windham Middle
School after 46 years on June 16. During his long career as
an educator, Wescott has taught between 4,000 and 5,000
students by his estimation. He is the son of the late former
Arlington School Principal Robert Wescott and his wife,
Jean, who was also a teacher. PHOTO BY ED PIERCE  

He began his teaching career as a substitute with a long-term assignment filling in from November 1976 to June 1977 at Field-Allen School and then landed a permanent job at the newly built Windham Middle School when it first opened that fall. Wescott has been there ever since, teaching History and Social Studies to eighth grade students, although this year shifting over to teaching seventh graders Language Arts and History. By his own estimate, he’s now taught between 4,000 and 5,000 students in his classroom and says that he’s had the best job in the world.

As the son of two teachers, Jean and Robert Wescott, he grew up in Windham and graduated from Windham High School in 1972. He returned to town after earning a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Maine at Orono and credits Gary Moore, his first principal at WMS, as seeing something in him and offering him a job that has now lasted nearly five decades. During his long teaching career, Wescott has worked for five principals at WMS, including Moore, who was an English teacher when he attended Windham High and then later served as the Windham Schools Superintendent.

“To me, this is the best job in the world,” Wescott said. “No two days are alike. There’s a lot of energy in this place and the students really haven’t changed a lot. Some of the technology we use to teach them has changed and made it much more kid friendly.”

From 1977 to 1998, Wescott also served as a coach for three different sports, coaching girls’ JV soccer, middle school girls’ basketball and JV softball, with one season spent as the Windham High varsity softball coach. In the classroom, he’s helped students explore the history of America up through the War between the States era, although now he just covers from about the French Indian War in the 1700s up to the Civil War.

What makes him an exceptional classroom teacher is his innate skill of relating to his students.

“I have the ability to connect with the shy and quiet kids and bring them out of their shells,” he said. “Patience is so important for a teacher, especially since so many kids fell behind during COVID.”

Many of his former students have gone on to become teachers themselves, including more than a dozen alone at WMS this year.

According to Wescott, the thing he will miss the most about teaching is interacting with the kids.

“You have to expend a lot of energy to keep up with them,” Wescott said. “And it’s not easy trying to keep them energized. We’re teaching them what they need to know but also what they want to know.”

Of his siblings growing up, Wescott said that he is the only one of three boys and a girl in his family to follow in his parents’ footsteps and become a teacher.

“For some reason they didn’t want to do that,” he said. “In fact, most people don’t want to be a teacher.”

Through the years Wescott has had generations of students, who easily recognize him at the grocery store or while out shopping in Windham.

“One time a mother and a student walked by me, and the mother got this look on her face that she instantly remembered me,” he said. “Later that student told me his mother said she couldn’t believe that I was still teaching. She told him ‘Mr. Wescott was old when I had him.’”

His plans for retirement are to work as a substitute if needed in the fall. His mother is now 90 and he expects he’ll spend some time helping her too.

“I’ll figure it out,” Wescott said. “I always said I’ll know when it’s time to retire and it’s time. I have a cat and I’d like to travel and work on some hobbies.”

His advice for those wanting to follow his career path as an educator is simple.

“Students don’t remember what you taught them but how you made them feel,” Wescott said. “Be positive, make them feel good about what they can do and give them confidence.” <

Friday, May 19, 2023

Windham triathlete to represent U.S. at world finals in Spain

By Ed Pierce

Known as one of the most grueling athletic competitions ever conceived, those who compete in the Ironman Triathlon are tested by a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bicycle ride and a marathon 26.22-mile run completed in that order for a total of 140.6 miles. Many of the top Ironman competitors internationally will gather for the 2023 World Triathlon Olympic finals in Pontevedra, Spain in September and among those elite athletes will be Dr. Denise Allen of Windham.

Dr. Denise Allen of Windham will compete in the 2023
World Triathlon Olympic finals in Pontevedra, Spain in
September as a first-time member of Team USA. She picked
up the sport after being involved in an accident 10 years ago.
Allen qualified as a participant for Team USA at the USAT Nationals in Milwaukee Wisconsin in August 2022 and it will be her first time competing as a member of Team USA.

How she came to be involved in Ironman and Triathlon competitions in the first place is an unusual story though.

“In 2013, I was hit by an SUV in Windham while out on a long training ride. The crash left me with a fractured sacrum, multiple soft tissue injuries and a mild traumatic brain injury,” Allen said. “After weeks in the hospital, months of brain rehab, surgery, and years of physical therapy, I was ready to race competitively again in 2020. The pandemic pushed pause on that plan but provided an opportunity to amplify joy in sport. In 2022, I launched an aggressive race season, resulting in the title of Ironman All World Athlete, qualifying for and racing in the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in St. George, Utah, as well as qualifying for Team USA.”

Born in Portland, Allen grew up on her family’s farm in West Cumberland, learning the core values of working hard, doing what you love and being of service to others at a young age. Her extended family still maintains the original Allen Farm off Swett Road in Windham. U.S. Marine Corp Sgt., Jim Allen, the first Windham resident killed in action during World War II and for whom the Field-Allen School was named, is a distant relative.


She’s lived in Windham for the past 14 years. Previously, Allen graduated from Greely High School in Cumberland in 1989 and attended Columbia University in New York City, where she earned a Doctorate degree in Health Education specializing in health behavior and positive psychology. Allen has spent 25 years active duty as a call company and paid per diem national registry paramedic, and a ProBoard certified firefighter for the Towns of Windham, Naples, Cumberland, Falmouth. She’s wrapping up her 29th year as a National Board-Certified Health and Science Educator for students in grades 7 to 12 with 25 of those years teaching at Greely High School and four years as an American College of Sports Medicine Personal Trainer and Wellcoach.

Originally a marathon runner who competed in multiple Boston Marathons, Allen transitioned to triathlons in 2010 and that’s how she came to be involved in Ironman competitions.

“I compete in all triathlon distances, but prefer long course triathlon,” Allen said. “I have completed three full Ironmans, 15 half-Ironmans, and numerous sprint and Olympic- distance races. I am currently focusing on the 70.3 (half-Ironman) triathlon distance of 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 run. The 70.3 distance allows for work-life balance, and I can be competitive.”

She said that triathlon training is her keystone habit because it sets in motion a series of other health enhancing behaviors such as nutrition, sleep, and time spent outside.

“Training promotes the release of endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters create the biology of joy that enables me to show up as my best self in work and with friends and family,” Allen said. “The most challenging aspect is time management. I often say work gets in the way of my workouts. Time training for a triathlon is the equivalent of a part-time job. Sometimes it's hard to find a balance. On those days I have to give myself the grace to say, ‘training may not be what I want today, but it's ‘good enough.’ I’ve learned to embrace the 80/20 rule when life gets busy and to complete 80 percent of the training goals for the week. The key to getting results is consistency and commitment to the small stuff and these two behaviors are not mutually exclusive. It is generally the attention to this small stuff, such as strength, physical therapy exercises, nutrition, and ice baths that help to keep me consistent in my training.’”

According to Allen, before her bike accident, she would have said that running was her favorite and her top strength of the three disciplines, but post-accident, ironically, biking has become her genuine strength as she is an average swimmer.

“80 percent of my training is completed on a treadmill, in a pool, and on a bike trainer,” she said. “It’s safer inside. Training inside means that I can focus on the workout, the metrics, and nutrition without the worry of getting hit by a distracted or agitated driver.”


Now in training for the 2023 World Triathlon Olympic finals in Spain, Allen starts each day at 3:30 a.m. completing her morning workouts in her basement before work.

“After work there may be a second workout,” she said. “I complete mobility exercises every day with strength and conditioning two to three times a week. Weekends are for long workouts and double or ‘brick’ workouts. I try to get outside on my bike before everyone gets on the roads. Windham roads are very busy, and many do not have bike or pedestrian-designated lanes. Fortunately, my peak training occurs during summer vacation, giving me the flexibility to train with others and in different locations.”

The seed of her passion for an athletic lifestyle was planted in Allen at a young age, growing up on the family farm.

“Farm life gave me a strong sense of why functional health and fitness are so important and an abundant appreciation for nature. I was my absolute happiest running around barefoot in nature. This passion fueled my participation in cross-country running in middle and high school,” she said. “Later, this same passion inspired me to explore studies in natural sciences, health education, health behavior and positive psychology. These studies put into context what I had inherently known since childhood: an active, natural-life style is medicine that heals, facilitates joy, and promotes longevity.”

She says she’s excited to travel to Spain representing the U.S. in the 2023 World Triathlon Olympic finals. The athletes who will represent the U.S. in Spain have to pay their own expenses, and so Allen is now actively raising funds for travel, lodging, bike transport, uniforms, nutrition, insurance, and the Team USA and World Triathlon fees. Anyone wishing to help can contact Allen at drdeniseallen@gmail. com for a link about how to contribute, as a gofundme has been set up. Search Team USA - Triathlete to find the link. People can also follow her journey to Spain on Instagram at drdeniseallen.

But most of all, Allen says she’s grateful to have the opportunity to compete.

The triathlon community is full of high frequency humans that inspire me. It works because we share a similar training and sleep schedule, early to bed, early to rise,” she said. “Racing is an opportunity to meet people from all over the world and make new friends. I have met so many amazing people during my travels. I am inspired by all of them. I also love exploring and racing in the variety of natural landscapes.” <

Windham High pitcher reaches 500-strikeout milestone

By Matt Pascarella

When Windham’s varsity softball team traveled to Thornton Academy in Saco on Wednesday, April 26 it wasn’t just any game. In the top of the third inning, with the first Thornton Academy batter, junior Brooke Gerry reached the rare prep milestone of 500 strikeouts. Windham went on to beat Thornton Academy 10-1 that day.

Windham High junior Brooke Gerry holds
up a sign marking her 500th career strikeout
during a game against Thornton Acadermy
in Saco on Wednesday, April 26.
When Gerry struck out her 500th batter, the game was stopped. The team and Windham varsity coach Darcey Gardiner rushed the field and hugged Gerry. The next day, at home, there was a small ceremony where Gerry was presented with the team ball and a plaque.

“To be honest I never really thought about [reaching 500 strikeouts],” said Gerry. “Not that it’s not a big deal, but you see more players hit 100 hits, not 500 strikeouts. I personally wasn’t expecting it to be as big as it was, but [the closer I got] it seemed more real.”

It felt really good for her when Gerry reached 500 strikeouts. It was like all the hard work she’s put in over the years has paid off; it was great for her to have her team behind her.

Before Gerry steps into the circle each inning, she takes a deep breath and makes the switch from offense to defense. She clears the dirt and goes into her warmup pitches. She always remembers the game of softball is a 7-inning game, played one pitch at a time.

Gardiner said you hear a lot about 1,000-point basketball players or girls getting 100 career hits. Gardiner has never been a part of a pitching staff or had a pitcher throw 500 strikeouts; it’s something very rare. It really shows the work ethic and character that Brooke comes with.

Gerry started playing softball at 4 years old and began pitching at 6. She played for the 10-Under Flame at 8 but didn’t get to pitch much. She then moved to the Southern Maine River Rats travel team where Gerry pitched more, developed her skills and said that’s where her career took off.

“She puts the team first,” said Windham sophomore and catcher Stella Jarvais. “She isn’t selfish when it comes to throwing it for contact and letting the team field, but with her being so good it’s easy for her to strike people out.”

Jarvais said it was awesome and made her feel good to see her team succeed when Gerry reached her 500th strikeout.

“More than anything it shows character,” said Gardiner. “Beyond being an example with what she brings to practice, and, in the games, it also reflects on those younger kids who want to grow up and be just like her,” said Gardiner. “She’s definitely a role model for not only our group at Windham High School but all the youth from [Windham] Middle School going all the way down to T-ball.”

Mental toughness plays a big role in being a pitcher and a catcher; it’s something Gardiner and her coaches talk about a lot. You have to be OK with taking the blame and the spotlight being on you. There is a mental aspect that comes with being a pitcher you can’t always practice in practice. The work that Gerry puts on preparing mentally outside of the game is just as important as the physical stuff.

According to Gerry, she gives herself 30 minutes post-game to reflect on her performance; after that she moves on. She learns every time she’s in the circle, whether the game is good or a struggle. Gerry concentrates on the pitch in front of her and tries to not get too high or low during a game.

Gardiner said she handles that pressure like a pro. Gerry has experienced a lot of innings in the circle with highs and lows. You’d never know it because she rides that even keel, which is what you expect out of a pitcher.

“It’s not every day you see high school athletes who wake up every morning and strive to be better,” said Gardiner. “To better themselves and to better their teammates. When you see a junior reach 500 strikeouts, it really shows her character and her work ethic and what she brings to the people around her.”

Gerry has committed to the University of Rhode Island to play Division 1 softball and major in prelaw with a concentration in family services. <

Friday, May 12, 2023

WHS students undertake mock crime investigation with police

By Jolene Bailey

Windham High School offers a plethora of options for students to overcome struggles they might face outside of high school and into adulthood. For many, this includes attending college fairs and shadowing jobs; finding out their path that will unfold. One activity Windham High School does each year is a mock crime scene. Although the classes involved and scenario changes every year, the exercise focuses on English, math, and science.

Students at Windham High School work with investigators
from the Windham Police Department as part of an exercise
to solve a mock crime scene on schools grounds on May 3.
On Wednesday, May 3, students and members of the Windham law enforcement community interacted during a unique Crime Scene Investigation exercise on the school campus.

“The crime that was alleged was a motor-vehicle involved murder in which two neighbors had a problem with each other and shortly after a verbal dispute, one of the neighbors ran the other one off the road causing that driver to be ejected from the vehicle and subsequently pass away from injuries,” said Jason Burke, a Windham Police Department officer who was involved in the actual crime scene.

During the exercise, every WHS student has a role to play in solving the supposed crime. English students were the “detectives,” while math and science students were the “evidence techs” whose duty was to calculate details and handle the evidence.

“The key aspect of all this work is that both sides of the investigation must work together to solve the crime. Both roles needed each other to understand the complete experience,” said WHS teacher Adrianne Shetenhelm.

The exercise not only gave students insight into what it is like to solve a crime, but it also taught participants academic skills that they will need in and outside of a classroom environment.

“I was so proud to see my students, even often quiet ones who may not respond to a lesson within the classroom, engage with police officers, members of the community, and ask hard questions and work with peers to solve the crime. Many demonstrated clever problem-solving and leadership skills,” said Shetenhelm.

The planning process for the exercise started all the way back in September with the officers tasked with setting up the mock crime scene working collaboratively with the educators at Windham High. Each year there is a different mock crime at the school, with different lessons and story plots, and different actors participating, and this was the fourth year that the mock crime scene exercise was staged at the school. Expectations are that students will understand how the different pieces of evidence collected come together to show what happened, which tests are reliable, and which ones have a high possibility of error.

“We teachers work with the police to write this original scenario, and we work hard to manufacture the evidence students find on the scene, but we have to trust that our students will connect all the dots,” Shetenhelm said. “It's like designing a play but in addition to setting the stage, writing the script, and creating the props, you then just have to prepare and then trust that the students are not a passive audience but active participants.”

Teachers normally see students in a classroom setting five out of seven days a week and within this given time, teachers and students are able to create relationships and bonds. But outside of a teacher’s point of view, police officers aren’t as interactive with the students’ daily academic life.

"This event is a lot of fun to participate in. Not only do we get to help with the background preparation and planning, but we also are given the opportunity to teach in the classroom. On the day of the event the scenario brings all of the parts and pieces together to give the students an example of how academic knowledge is put to use in the real world,” said Burke.

All around us are skills for us to pick up upon, Burke said, and the mock crime scene investigation presents just such an opportunity. <

Raymond Community Garden cultivates enthusiasm for nature and food pantry donations

By Ed Pierce

If working in a garden teaches tolerance and preparedness, this year’s group of gardening enthusiasts working spaces at the Raymond Community Garden will be some of the most patient and watchful individuals around by the time that fall arrives.

Spaces are still available at the Raymond Community Garden
for anyone who wishes to grow flowers or vegetables for
personal use or to make donations to the Raymond
The Raymond Community Garden is open to anyone interested in gardening and is located across the parking lot from the Raymond Village Library at 3 Meadow Road in Raymond. The garden is open from dawn to dark although most of its gardeners come in the morning or evenings when it is cooler during the summer.

Under the direction of Leigh Walker, participants meet her at the garden and choose a space and spaces are still available for the 2023 growing season.

“In the 12 years the garden has been in existence, we have had as few as eight gardeners and as many as 24 gardeners each year,” Walker said. “I have 10 returning gardeners this year.”

According to Walker, gardening enthusiasts with spaces at the Raymond Community Garden typically grow vegetables and flowers in the garden.

“Some examples are tomatoes, lettuce, kale, eggplant, cabbage, green beans, zucchini, cucumbers, and many more,” she said. “Some who have been gardening with us for years grow perennial plants like asparagus and put in garlic in the fall for harvest the next summer. We have a ton of sunflowers and people often put in marigolds and other insect-repelling flowers.”

Walker said that this year there will be three Master Gardeners working with participants at the Raymond Community Garden.

“We have three Master Gardeners from the Cumberland County Extension who work with us, Linda Pankewicz, Margie Thumm and Richard Adams,” she said. “We have other gardeners who are very knowledgeable and are happy to help when questions come up. We are a very welcoming community if a new gardener wants to learn. We can connect the gardeners with one of the Master Gardeners but often they will see Linda at the garden. We are so thankful for the expertise they all provide for our gardeners. We are so fortunate to have them working with us.”

Funding for the community garden comes from several sources.

“We have two funding sources,” Walkers said. “Our goal is to keep access to the garden as inexpensive as possible so anyone can participate. As a program of the Raymond Village Library, we ask for a $15 donation to the library for one plot sized about 8 x 15. We add another 2 x 15 row to each plot and ask that the gardener grows and maintains food for the food pantry in the second plot. They can grow whatever they want to, but we can make suggestions of things we know the food pantry needs. If someone has a challenge with that donation, they should still come talk to us. We will always try to find a space for someone to garden if they want to and we have space. Most of our gardeners use two plots. Typical donations to the food pantry are tomatoes, green beans, lettuce, corn, cabbage, broccoli, kale, carrots, beets, cucumbers, squash, garlic and onions.”

The other source of funding is from the Cumberland County Extension Seed Grant, Walker said.

“They have been so kind to give us a few hundred dollars in garden needs each year,” she said. “We apply for the grant in the fall and request certain items that we need. They purchase them and provide them to us. It has been hugely helpful to our gardeners. Some items help us extend the season and deter pests, like row covers. Other items help us do the work that needs to be done like garden carts and tools. We are extremely grateful to the Cumberland County Extension for all the supplies as well as the advice and counseling they have given us over the years. I am not sure our garden would still be here without their support at key times.”

Along with those funding sources, Walker said they have plenty of support from others as well.

“The Town of Raymond has been a great partner as has the Plummer Family who has provided space for us and has been another amazing partner,” Walker said. “And, of course, the library is a huge support as well. We would not exist without all these people and organizations.”

Water is abundantly available for gardeners and the community garden uses a water barrel and watering can system.

“There are many water barrels available, and we do ask the gardeners to help keep them full,” Walker said. “One could use a hose to water, but we have found the watering can system and using mulch helps reduce unnecessary water consumption.”

The community garden uses organic practices with products that provide beneficial nutrients to plants and animals that do not harm them or the soil they grow in.

“Examples are using manure and compost to give your plant nutrients and not using chemical fertilizers and pesticides,” Walker said. “At our garden, we make sure that only organic seeds and plants are used. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides or weed killers are used. If anyone has extra manure that they would be willing to bring to us at the garden, we would be thrilled to have it. If they email me, we can set up a time for them to bring it by. We don’t have a truck so getting manure to the garden is always a challenge for us.”

All skill levels in gardening are welcome from experts to basic beginners.

“We love to have new gardeners. We can help in all ways, from choosing what to grow and what they can do to minimize the work that needs to happen in a garden,” Walker said. “I will say, people who want a garden will have much more success if they are willing to be engaged in their garden throughout the summer and fall. Gardening is not a plant it and forget it activity. But we are here to help along the way. With the Master Gardeners and the strong sense of community that we have with our wonderful gardeners, all gardeners have as much support as they would like. All they have to do is ask.”

Many gardeners in Raymond are looking forward to a plant sale starting at 7 a.m. Saturday, June 3 at the Raymond Village Library and Raymond Community Garden. It is a fundraiser for the library which supports the community garden and will feature some beautiful plants this year.

For more details about obtaining a space at the Raymond Community Garden, send an email to Walker at<

Friday, May 5, 2023

Rescue dog melts hearts of foster family while waiting for permanent home

By Ed Pierce

A Windham resident who fosters dogs through a Maine-based rescue group is hoping that a pooch saved from euthanasia in Florida last fall can find a permanent home soon.

Sissy, a 3-year-old bulldog mix, arrived in Windham last
September for what was expected to be a short stay with
foster parents while awaiting adoption. She still is
available and seeking a permanent home through the 
Maine-based Fetching Hope Rescue organization.
Since 2020, Robyn Sullivan has been fostering rescue dogs with Fetching Hope Rescue, which focuses on bringing adoptable dogs up from the south to find loving homes in New England. In three years, Sullivan has fostered 16 different dogs, all of which have been placed in loving homes, until Sissy, a 3-year-old bulldog mix with some pointer traits, arrived last September.

“We can only bring up as many dogs as we have fosters available and most dogs are adopted in the first 30 days,” Sullivan said. “Our usual methods of finding adopters don't seem to be working for this girl.”

According to Sullivan, Sissy, also known as Sassy, is a sweet, gentle girl who is content to hang out while you work or snuggle on the couch watching television. She also enjoys walks, playing and a good rope chew.

“We think she's being overlooked because she's older at age 3, but we see her age as a positive,” Sullivan said. “She's house trained, crate trained and has a decent handle on the basics such as sit, come, bed, wait, leave it. She is a bit shy at first, especially with men, but she does come around if you work with her. We have also been working with her on her reactivity with other dogs and small animals. Some dogs she clicks with right away. She would do best in a quieter home with older children or would be a great companion to someone who works from home or is retired. She's the right fit for someone, she just needs some additional exposure to find them.”

Prior to fostering Sissy, the longest dog that Sullivan had to foster was for about a month. She averages about a two-week stay for fosters which makes Sissy’s plight so unusual.

“When Sissy first arrived, she was nervous and shy. It can take her a bit to warm up to people, but once she's comfortable she's a love bug who isn't afraid to let you know what she wants,” Sullivan said. “We didn't like calling her Sissy because of her nervousness but didn't want to completely change her name so we started calling her Sassy. She sometimes lives up to that nickname. Toward the end of work one day, I was on a call and she was ready to go out and play. I told her she had to wait, and she barked back at me. The other person on the call noted that it sounded like she was sassing me. I told him that her nickname is Sassy and he agreed it fit.”

Sissy’s days are spent lounging in her office taking a nap or chewing on a toy while she works, Sullivan said.

“We get out a couple times a day to play or chase a treat in the yard. Evenings she spends snuggled up on the couch,” she said. “As soon as I get her bedtime cookie, she heads straight to her crate and is quiet all night. Sissy is generally a quiet girl, though she will let you know with a paw when she wants attention or needs something.”

Using the extra time Sissy has spent in foster care, Sullivan has been working with her on building on the commands she's familiar with and working with her on new skills.

“She has a good handle on 'sit' and is making progress with 'come' and 'leave it.' She is food motivated which helps with her training,” she said. “We met with a trainer in March to get some tips on her reactivity training. She isn't a fan of smaller animals such as cats, and small dogs. She gets along best with male dogs her size or larger. In her first foster home, she was close with one of the male dogs and she's had a couple play dates with a German Shepherd and lab/pit mix that went well. She would definitely need to meet any potential siblings.”

Sullivan lost her own dog last year and she currently doesn't have any other pets at home.

“That was how Sissy came to stay with us. Her first foster home was very active and had other dogs and she was having trouble settling,” she said. “She came to stay with us to help her relax and she's really come a long way.”

The best part of being a foster volunteer is couch snuggles and puppy playtime, Sullivan said.

“I've always liked dogs, and this is a great opportunity to get to play and hang out with a bunch of different dogs and work on my training skills without long term commitment or vet bills,” she said. “I've also met a lot of great people, volunteers and adopters.”

The hardest part of being a foster volunteer for Sullivan is the first few days where the dog is decompressing after transport and getting used to the house.

“Transport can be stressful and then they come into a new environment, with new people and sometimes new animals,” Sullivan said. “Everyone in the house, people and animals, have a heightened sense of awareness. Once they settle, it gets easier.”

Sissy was nearly adopted about a month ago, but that fell through, and Sullivan continues to care for her until a new adopter steps forward.

“She has been around people ages 5 and up. Young kid energy can be too much for her, but she is content to hang out somewhere quiet while they visit,” Sullivan said. “We think she would thrive in a home with older children. She’s adapted well to our 13-year-old and many of his friends or adults. Maybe someone who works from home or retirees. She likes to have her people around. I think a lot of people are wary of adopting an older dog, especially if there has been unknown trauma. It's really rewarding to work with a dog to overcome those issues and I know there are people who are willing to do that work. We just need to find the right one for Sissy.”

Potential adopters for Sissy would need submit an application on the website Once received, a representative reaches out to set up reference checks, a virtual home visit and an interview.

“Sissy is a sweet girl and great companion who just wants to be loved,” Sullivan said. “In spite of her issues, she is the easiest foster we've had. She doesn't chew things she's not supposed to, doesn't get into the trash, and will leave you alone if you're snacking on the couch, unless you share, and loves to snuggle.” <

Windham Police Captain Ray Williams retires after decades of service to town

By Ed Pierce

It was tough for Windham Police Department’s Captain Ray Williams to not put on his uniform and report for duty on Tuesday morning, but after more than 37 years of service to the community, Williams officially retired on Monday, May 1.

Captain Ray Williams has officially retired
after spending 37 years as a member of the
Windham Police Department. Hundreds of 
well-wishers and friends turned out to say
thanks and goodbye to Williams during a
special tribute to him on Monday afternoon
at Windham High School. FILE PHOTO     
He grew up in Cumberland and after graduating from Greely High School, Williams attended Southern Maine Community College and earned an Associate of Science degree in law enforcement technology. His first assignment in law enforcement came as a reserve officer for the Windham Police Department and he was hooked. Williams applied for an opening as a full-time police officer in Windham and was hired. His first official day on the job was Sept. 4, 1986.

In March 1987, Williams completed his studies and graduated from the Maine Criminal Justice Academy, and he then went on to successfully complete the Drug Recognition Expert School in 1991. At the time of his retirement, Williams is the last active member of the state’s first DRE School in 1991 that was still serving with his police department.

As the years rolled by, Williams logged more than 20 years of service as a member of WPD’s Patrol Division, including 13 years as a motorcycle officer. In that role, Williams stepped up and helped train hundreds of police officers from across Maine in developing expertise in the detection and processing of alcohol- and drug-impaired drivers.

His diligence at protecting Maine motorists and his keen ability to recognize impaired drivers before they could cause harm to others has not been overlooked. Williams was recognized in 2021 by the Maine Bureau of Highway Safety and the Maine Criminal Justice Academy for his lifetime contribution as a Drug Recognition Expert and his devotion to keeping Maine highways safe.

“Ray has taught in most all the DRE schools since 2003 and has taken on a mentorship role helping new DREs as they learn new skills,” said James A. Lyman, Coordinator of Impaired Driving Programs for the Maine Criminal Justice Academy. “For his years of dedicated service and overall contributions in removing impaired drivers from Maine roadways, in addition to his leadership and support for the Maine Drug Recognition Expert program, he was presented with this DRE Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Williams has continued to serve as a certified instructor for the Academy, traveling to Vassalboro when needed to teach officers and academy cadets. He’s led classes in Standardized Field Sobriety Testing, drug recognition, operation of the Intoxilyzer 5000ES detection system, and active firearms and urban rifle instruction. Since 2006, Williams has also run the Windham Police Department’s firearms program and has served as the department’s weapons armorer since 1993.

In 1998, Williams helped launch the Windham Police Department’s first motorcycle unit using forfeited assets he helped seize during a traffic stop. The money was taken from a drug courier transporting drugs from Connecticut to Maine. Enough money was seized to fund the department’s motorcycle unit, K-9 program and to purchase other equipment not covered in WPD’s budget.

He accepted an interim detective’s assignment to WPD’s Criminal Investigations Division in 2010 and was awarded the position permanently a year later in 2011. Williams worked on criminal investigations for the department until 2014, when he was promoted to Sergeant and reassigned to the Patrol Division once more as one of two of the department’s Evening Shift Commanders.

He was promoted to the position of Patrol Captain in 2020 and was instrumental in assisting the Windham Police Department’s transition in the construction and expansion of the Windham Public Safety Building on Gray Road last summer.

When it was announced that he would officially be retiring on May 1, hundreds of grateful citizens turned out to thank Williams for his service to the town at a special goodbye ceremony at Windham High School.

Windham Police Chief Kevin Schofield said Williams will be sorely missed.

“Thanks to Captain Williams for your dedicated service to this community, our department and to the law enforcement profession,” he said. “Congratulations Ray on a remarkable career.” <