Eagle Scout's Project Builds New K-9 Course for Conn. State Police Troop

May 3, 2024
With no money to repair its old K-9 obstacle course, Connecticut State Police Troop C's K-9s had to train elsewhere. That's when a 16-year-old boy and his Eagle Scout project stepped in.

By Jamila Young

Source Journal Inquirer, Manchester, Conn.

TOLLAND, CT — With its K-9 obstacle course in a state of disrepair and a lack of funds to replace it, state police at Troop C looked to alternatives to create a course as special as its canine officers.

And it was a soon-to-be Eagle Scout who accepted the challenge.

Troop C Detective Jacob Bissaillon, along with K-9 Trooper Kyle Kaelberer, reached out to Tolland Troop 15 Scoutmaster John DiVenere with the idea of building a replacement course, hoping that such an endeavor could be an Eagle Scout project for one of the scouts.

"Our other obstacle course had been here almost 20 years. It was pretty dilapidated," Bissaillon said. "Only a few obstacles were remaining from it. Most of it had been torn down years ago."

Kaelberer said that because the original course was located close to Interstate 84, even with a wire fence, the proximity to the highway created a dangerous situation for both the dogs and the handlers.

With no funding to repair the old course, the troop's K-9s had to train at other police departments or at a K-9 training unit.

That is until 16-year-old John Sleeman jumped at the chance to help.

John said he decided to build the obstacle course because he "wanted to do something big that would help the community," and because he was already a volunteer with the K-9 Olympics.

With input from Kaelberer, extensive research online, and a host of volunteers from the troop and the community, John built a maze of 10 obstacles that include platforms that move when jumped on, ramps to climb up and run down, a wooden barrier to jump over, and tubes to run through.

"This type of exposure is crucial to developing a K-9's confidence and exposure," Kaelberer said. "The new obstacles have all been constructed with pressure-treated ground contact lumber and then stained and sealed, and will surely be here a long time."

The new course is located closer to the parking lot, allowing for a safer place to train.

"I was very happy with it," John said of the finished product.

DiVenere said that it was always evident that John had leadership potential, as he had been one of the leaders of his group during a backpacking trip through the Connecticut section of the Appalachian Trail four years ago.

"Even back then, it was clear he was going to be a good leader," DiVenere said.

He said John has since been elected by his peers to be the senior patrol leader, which allows him to make decisions, and plan meetings and outings for the troop.

John said that when he decided to build the new obstacle course, he felt "pretty good about leading" from his previous leadership experience, so he had no concerns.

"I thoroughly enjoy it. I consider myself a leader," he said. "I was a little worried, but I knew I could do it."

Bissaillon said that between constructing the course and completing the site work, the course took about three months to finish.

"I was thrilled once I saw it. I couldn't believe how well-constructed it was, and how quickly it came to fruition once they got the approvals," Bissaillon said. "We always want to improve the quality of the training that we have here."

Bissaillon said that although the course is at Troop C's headquarters, other troops and municipal police departments with K-9s will be able to use it as well.

But for now, Troop C's two K-9s, Drago and Apollo, have a place to run and train, with Drago taking a crack at it during the course's grand opening on April 26.

"He did very well," Bissaillon said of Drago. "He was able to accomplish almost all of the obstacles on the first try."

DiVenere said that although the obstacle course is completed, John still has a few obstacles of his own to complete in order to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, a rank that very few scouts achieve.

"John is an excellent scout. Always has been," DiVenere said. "He comes from a great family. He's a great leader, and this project really shows the qualities of his abilities to plan and lead."


(c)2024 Journal Inquirer, Manchester, Conn.

Visit Journal Inquirer, Manchester, Conn. at www.journalinquirer.com

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