Sasha extends paw to Officer Steven Fumicello.

Sasha offers a paw to her handler, Officer Steven Fumicello.

Photos by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Campus & Community

Sniffing for smiles

Meet Sasha, newest member of Harvard police force. Her duty? To spread joy.

3 min read

Sasha, an 18-month-old black Lab is the newest member of the Harvard University Police Department. Careful, she may steal your heart.

“I’ve given her more hugs and kisses than my wife of 28 years,” quipped Steven Catalano, the department’s public information officer.

Sasha has been making fast friends since arriving on campus in late August. On a recent patrol through Harvard Yard with her handler, officer Steven Fumicello, passersby called her name. Some stopped for a cuddle, with comments like, “It’s been a day. Can I have a moment with Sasha?”

Fumicello invites the uninitiated with the now well-rehearsed introduction: “This is Sasha. We use her for community engagement and wellness. She doesn’t sniff for guns, bombs, or drugs, just smiles.”

Since Sasha’s arrival, Fumicello, who has been at Harvard since 2002, has shifted to a more outward-facing role. “We try to visit with all the officers starting their day, put a smile on their face, and then we’re out the door.”

Close-up of Sasha's nametag.
Close-up of Sasha's face.

Sasha comes from Puppies Behind Bars, a program that has incarcerated individuals train facility and service dogs for veterans, first responders, and police departments.

Catalano said Fumicello is perfect for the job. “I can’t think of another person in the department who would be as good as him, from his temperament, from his working with the community in the past, and how he is with Sasha.”

Sasha is making a difference already, Catalano said, even inside the department. An officer recently was stressing over an IT issue. “Sasha got up from her bed, went over, and put her head on his leg. It was perfect. It is hard not to be calm. … She picked up on the tone, the vibe, the feeling in the air. That’s how perceptive she is.”

Catalano said Harvard’s police department is always looking for opportunities to engage with students, faculty, and staff — from safety talks to bicycle and laptop registrations to self-defense courses.

“This is just another piece of our overall picture,” he said. “The cutest piece.”

“The pandemic … added a lot of stress to everyone’s lives,” Fumicello said. “And this is perfect timing for Sasha to arrive on campus to help with that stress.”

Feline lovers might be wondering whether Sasha has met Remy, “the Humanities Cat” known to roam the Barker Center. “They admired each other from a distance,” Fumicello said. “It was a positive interaction.”

Students pet Sasha as Fumicello walks her through the Yard.
Kendra Morris ’26 (from left) stops to pet Sasha with classmates Kasim Domac and Bradley Shearer.
Sahsa plays peek-a-boo with Fumicello.
Sasha and Talia Vaught.

Sasha performs “peek-a-boo” for a visitor and befriends Talia Vaught ’26.

Sasha responds to more than 50 commands from basics like “sit” and “stay” to crowd-pleasers like “high-five” and “salute.”

Sasha sits.