K-9 Officer Toumayan Shares her Passion with the Community


Officer Sylvia Toumayan and K-9 Charik, photo from Concord Patch

By Gabriella Gage

Mirror-Spectator Staff

CONCORD, Mass. — In 1999, Concord Police officer Sylvia Toumayan found a way to combine her passion for canine training with her dedication to helping fellow citizens as an officer of the law.

For years Toumayan had dreamt of starting Concord’s first K-9 program because of the potential benefits she envisioned to the department and community. “I always had the golden aspiration of being a K-9 officer,” said Toumayan.

Toumayan single-handedly founded the program after training and preparing the first K-9 named, Pativ, which in Armenian means “honor.”

Years later, the K-9 unit of the Concord Police has proven to be a huge success and has inspired other local communities to work with K-9s.

Toumayan, a native of Lexington and current Chelmsford resident, has served on the Concord force for 15 years. “I joined the force because it was pretty exciting to have the opportunity to help people and make a difference,” said Toumayan.

Toumayan, a dog lover by nature, was passionate about Schutzhund, a dog sport developed in Germany that tests the breed suitability for German Shepherds. The practice involves training a dog in tracking, obedience and protection.

Pativ had a dramatic impact on the department. Before his death in 2007 after struggling with illness, Pativ was instrumental in the apprehension of more than 34 missing or wanted individuals, as well as more than 40 drug seizures. Pativ was also described as “friend, co-worker, public figure and family” on a local memorial site.

Pativ was replaced on the force by Charik, also trained and owned by Toumayan. Both dogs were trained by Toumayan to respond to German, Armenian and English. Toumayan learned Armenian at a young age from her mother and grandmother. “I am proud to be Armenian,” said Toumayan and added that she loves that Charik understands Armenian as well.

Charik may originally hail from Holland but has made the local community his home serving as a “huge asset” to the force. Charik’s job is anything but a walk in the park. He is utilized in narcotics searches, finding missing or wanted persons and is often the first to enter a dangerous scene, including sites of possible explosives. “A trained dog is going to be able to convey various scenarios to you with its body language,” explained Toumayan.

Toumayan also serves on the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council (NEMLEC), a professional law enforcement organization that maximizes and expands member resources and capabilities by sharing equipment, knowledge and personnel. It is composed of 54 cities and towns, including Concord, from across two counties.

As members of NEMLEC, Toumayan and Charik played their part in the April Watertown manhunt for Boston Marathon bombing suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. “We were given an area to search and secure. We had to be incredibly slow and methodical clearing houses, garages, etc. It really was a team effort. There were several ‘ghost calls’ and not a lot of information […] we were definitely worried that there were explosives on around.”

Recalling the day of Tsarnaev’s capture, Toumayan said, “We were one of the first specialized SWAT and K-9 units on the scene. We were across the street [from the boat site], holding the perimeter.”

After the capture, “People were elated,” recalled Toumayan. “It was a nice feeling that people responded in a positive note after such a tragedy.”

As Charik’s owner, Toumayan is responsible for his care, training and expenses, and contracts him out to the city. There is a gift fund set up for the K-9 unit so any citizens wishing to donate to Charik’s medical expenses and other needs may do so.

“[Charik and I] have received a lot of great support from Concord, and from surrounding communities we aid through NEMLEC,” said Toumayan.

In addition to her official duties, Toumayan offers demonstrations and meet-and-greets of the K-9 training to local groups and schools, and enjoys sharing her passion for both police work and K-9s with others.