Person of the Week
Officer Dahlstrom and Cyrus Begin K9 Training with State Police
Officer Jon Dahlstrom began training with K9 Cyrus at the Connecticut State Police K9 Unit earlier this month. (Photo courtesy of Jon Dahlstrom )
Jon Dahlstrom has enjoyed serving his hometown of North Haven as a police officer for the past 6 ½ years, working in the patrol division. Over the summer, though, when a K9 position was posted, he knew he wanted to pursue the opportunity.
The North Haven Police Department (NHPD) had had two K9s, including Taro, who works with Officer Marcus Artaiz, and Koda, a yellow lab who recently retired. With Koda retiring, the NHPD had secured a place in the fall session of the state police’s K9 training program and began the process of choosing the officer to work with the dog.
Jon applied for the position and completed the necessary tests and interviews, including one with the state police panel, which gave its recommendation to the NHPD.
“When Officer Artaiz got Taro a few years back, I’d help with training,” says Jon. “I always knew in the back of my head that if this position opened up, I’d definitely go for it. I’d talked to past K9 handlers who have said it’s the most rewarding experience you can have.”
Jon was chosen for the job and from there, the process moved very quickly. He accompanied members of the NHPD to New York, where they chose their dog, who was bred in Slovakia. Two members of the NHPD have had extensive K9 experience, including Michael Alogna, who headed up the state police department’s K9 program, and John Battick, who was a K9 officer with the Hamden Police Department for many years.
“Luckily we have officers who are past K9 handlers so it was great to have their input,” says Jon. “I went up there as an observer and they chose the dog that would be best with the department and with me as a first-time handler. They knew what to look for as far as the drive, manners, and temperament.”
They chose an 18-month-old German shepherd named Cyrus, who moved home with Jon at the end of August. The pair started training with the Connecticut State Police K9 Unit on Oct. 19.
In the month leading up to training, Jon and Cyrus began bonding and getting to know each other. Growing up, Jon and his family had always owned German shepherds so he was familiar with the breed’s temperament and needs.
In addition to getting familiar with Jon, Cyrus has been getting used to his home life as well, which included getting to know Jon’s wife, Karolyn, and his step kids.
“He has acclimated to the home very well,” says Jon. “He’s good with the kids and my wife and everyone loves him.”
The transition wasn’t like getting a pet dog, though. Since Cyrus is a working dog, Jon and his family have talked about different ways they can interact with him as things like ball play are rewards for training.
Now, Jon and Cyrus are in the beginning weeks of their 14-week, full-time training program that includes classroom time, obedience work, tracking training, and more. There are six other K9 teams in their class.
“Week one has been challenging, mentally and physically, and it’s going to be a challenging 14 weeks, but it’ll be fun and rewarding,” says Jon. “We have good instructors up there who are willing to help. It’s almost like I’m starting over again even though I’ve been a police officer for 6 ½ years—like I’m a rookie back in the academy—but I’ll do what whatever it takes to make us a successful K9 duo.”
After graduating high school, Jon wasn’t sure what path he would take and didn’t know he’d be heading to the police academy. He began taking classes at the University of New Haven and his mother suggested that he would make a good police officer. Jon graduated with a degree in criminal justice in 2014 and was hired by then-North Haven Police Chief Thomas McLoughlin, who recently retired.
“I was always thankful for the opportunity Chief McLoughlin gave me,” says Jon. “I like being a police officer here because I grew up in town and now live in town with my wife and kids. What better than keeping your family safe when you’re working?”
Jon is not only thankful to McLoughlin, but to the rest of the administration, his supervisors, current chief Kevin Glenn, and his fellow officers, noting that his chiefs and the administration has always been supportive of the K9 program. Jon’s support system extends beyond his professional life as he noted that his parents and his wife, Karolyn, have always been supportive of him in achieving his goals.
“Since the day I started in 2014, we’ve always had great leadership and great guys working at the department,” says Jon. “I’ve always been thankful for everything my parents did raising me and I know I wouldn’t have gotten this far without their help. Karolyn and I support each other in our goals and we enjoy raising our family in North Haven, which has so many resources and a great education system.”
Though training Cyrus will be taking up much of Jon’s time, especially through the 14-week program, when he has spare time, he enjoys golfing, spending time with his family, parents, and grandparents, bonfires, and sports.
For now, he is focusing on the training program and is looking forward to being out in the community with Cyrus after completing their training.
“I’m looking forward to being able to take him out so residents can see us,” says Jon. “For now, we definitely have a lot more to learn and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get better. A K9 is definitely a great tool and a benefit to the department.
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .