Meet Our People

Amy Halm


Founder Amy Halm is a big-picture thinker who formerly worked as an executive-level spokesperson in the telecom, high tech and healthcare sectors. She has worked with public, private and nonprofit organizations.

So no one was more surprised than her when the simple act of adopting a retired police dog evolved into a successful business detecting narcotics in the private sector. Raised on a working dairy farm, Amy was quite accustomed to having animals as business partners, but drug detection dogs had not been in her career plan until meeting K-9 Dargo.

Co-founder Dargo passed on in 2016, but his successors, K-9 Lucy and K-9 Widow, are Amy's new work partners.

Amy’s experience in the healthcare industry, and especially her interest in mental health, steered her toward the growing field of addiction recovery, where Desert Drug Dog has been embraced as a key partner in supporting patients through the healing process.

Amy holds a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising from Northern Illinois University, where she also studied psychology.

Crystal Priorello


 In 2016, Crystal adopted a puppy and enrolled in obedience classes. Enjoying success with weekly sessions, she began training daily with longtime friend George Daniolos of K-9 Defense. It was at one of these sessions that Crystal met Amy Halm of Desert Drug Dog and felt an immediate connection. 

Time off from her career as a Real Estate Analyst allowed her to explore her new-found love for working with canines. In addition to titling her own dog Indy in multiple AKC events, she was inspired by the high-drive working dogs. It wasn't long before the pieces fell into place for Crystal to become a professional handler and trainer, splitting her time between Desert Drug Dog and K-9 Defense. 

Crystal's previous volunteer experience with foster children and people in treatment facilities is a perfect background for her current job. Her desire to help people through difficult times comes into play daily at Desert Drug Dog. She and her K-9 Partners Pi and Meli are critical members of the team.

Dana Thelander


 Dana has spent her entire career working with animals, in vastly different settings ranging from driving a stagecoach pulled by mules in the tourism industry to protecting life and property at a Level 1 trauma center as a K-9 Patrol Officer. Along the way she also worked as a veterinary technician, a professional dog (and people) trainer, and as a 911 Operator/Dispatcher for the Colorado State Patrol.

Through all of these jobs she honed the skills she uses now as a professional narcotics dog handler. Her hospital background and positive attitude are highly valued at the treatment centers where patients are often struggling with the challenges of new recovery. Her trauma center and emergency dispatch experiences give her the sensitivity and empathy that are so key when working in the field of addiction.

In addition to handling and training detection dogs, Dana holds a certificate in graphic arts from a local college and works at a design and printing company. As such she is our go-to person for the design of our marketing materials. In her spare time, Dana is the Supreme Aunt of Choice with her four young nieces and nephews and loves spending time with her family.

George Daniolos


George Daniolos is owner and director of training at K-9 Defense, LLC. He is the Lead Trainer on contract for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office K-9 Unit, helping them develop a science-based training program for their patrol and detection dogs. He is also Master Trainer at BNSF Railways Police Department K-9 Unit and at Dignity Health St. Joseph's Hospital. George has titled, trained, raised and developed champion dogs for personal protection, law enforcement, private security and the military.

With this background, it is a privilege to have George on the team at Desert Drug Dog, as our dogs receive the same high caliber training as the best police dogs. George’s practice of consistently using rewards-based training is evident in the way our dogs work—they are effective, happy and confident in the search, and social with people. 

George holds a Bachelor of Criminal Justice degree from Northern Arizona University and is a much sought-after instructor and speaker by law enforcement, military and civilian organizations. His articles appear frequently in Police K-9 Magazine and K-9 Cop Magazine.

Jeffrey Ellish


Everyone needs advice, and Jeffrey J. Ellish has guided us financially since before the business even started. His insight, strategic thinking and blunt honesty have greatly contributed to our success. Jeffrey has more certifications, awards, and honors than we have room for here, but suffice it to say he is one of the most brilliant and trustworthy people you will ever meet in the financial world. His company, Ellish Wealth Management, is affiliated with the well known Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. 

K-9 Dargo


Although he's long gone, K-9 Dargo was the co-founder of Desert Drug Dog and the reason for its inception. He is still famous among our long term clients, and during his career was featured on numerous newscasts, including the national show Fox & Friends. Dargo was certified as a therapy dog as well as a drug dog, and spent many hours in patient rooms comforting both patients and families in very stressful times.