Copper, a 16-month-old Black and Tan Coonhound, has achieved more in his 16 months than most people do in their first 10 years of life. Copper is a K-9 with the Cocoa Police Department in Brevard County, Fla. He’s also a certified therapy dog and a courtroom dog. We had the pleasure of meeting Copper at the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin. Copper attended the event and served as a breed ambassador at the Black and Tan Coonhound booth, as part of AKC Meet the Breeds.
At his breed booth, Copper was in his element. Kids and adults, alike, came up to pet and interact with this sweet-natured Coonhound.
AKC: Could you tell us about Copper?
Warner: Copper is a working police dog; he’s 16 months old. He belongs to the Cocoa Police Department over in Brevard County, Fla. [Copper] tracks, goes to all the school events, and helps children when they have to talk to police officers. He’s also a certified therapy dog, so he goes to court with witnesses when they need some help in the courtroom, and he goes and sits in on interviews with children who have been abused and need to talk to caseworkers. He sits with them while the caseworkers do their interviews.
And how did he get involved with doing all of those activities?
Cynthia Owens, at Oak Hill Kennel in North Carolina, bred Copper. [He] was basically a donation from Oak Hill Kennels to the Cocoa Police Department through me, since I’m on the Cocoa City Council. We gave him to the police department when he was 14 weeks old, and they trained him. He has done tracking, and then he got certified as a therapy dog, and he also has his certification so he can go to court and be in the courtroom with witnesses.
Copper also goes to school events. He’s been a part of toy drives, when they’re collecting toys for Christmas for kids. He hangs out with Santa Claus and participates in events with Santa. Whenever a teacher has a really good week in the classroom, he or she can call Officer Chris Hattaway (his handler), and he will bring Copper and a snow cone machine or a popcorn machine to the classroom and have a party with the kids.
He’s basically been used to teach children not only about dogs, but also about police officers, and this really allows Officer Hattaway, who’s our community resource officer, to have an opportunity to engage with children that he wouldn’t necessarily have. People will come and talk to Officer Hattaway because he has a dog. And they won’t necessarily do that with a German Shepherd Dog or a Belgian Malinois, but Copper is non-threatening, so they feel comfortable coming to talk to him and Officer Hattaway.
So he’s been a huge presence in the city — all the children in my city, if you say “Copper,” they say, “Oh yeah, we know Copper!” because he’s been to every school in the city. He also has his own Facebook page at K-9 Copper, so a lot of people know him through Facebook; he does videos of the events he’s been attending, so people can see what he’s doing.
What are Black and Tan Coonhounds normally known for?
Black and Tans are scenthounds. They were the first Coonhound in the AKC, they came in in 1945. They were developed here in America, and George Washington was instrumental in their development and their breeding. He actually had Black and Tan Coonhounds, so they’re pretty much the first First Dog! They’ve been around for a long, long time. Their primary job was to hunt raccoons, but because their noses are so good they can hunt just about anything.
Are Black and Tans normally used for police work?
No, as far as I know Copper is the only one currently used. I know some of the state and national park services have used them for tracking, along with Bloodhounds. I know the state of Ohio, at one time, had working Coonhounds on the state park service, but I’ve never seen another Black and Tan — we’ve looked and tried to find another Black and Tan as a police dog, and we haven’t found one. Our sheriff has bloodhounds for tracking, but Copper is the only Black and Tan we know of, at least in Florida, that works for a police department.
So he’s definitely one of a kind then?
Yes, he’s one of a kind! And he knows he’s one of a kind. He lives with Officer Hattaway, who has three daughters under the age of 10. Children are really Copper’s favorite things. He loves kids. And he loves to have his ears rubbed! If you rub his ears, you’re his best friend.
Copper is one incredible working dog. A special thanks to Brenda Warner for taking time to talk to us during AKC Meet the Breeds.
Want to stay up-to-date with Copper and all the work he does? Follow him on Facebook here.
And don’t forget to watch the 2017 AKC National Championship on Jan. 1 at 7 p.m. EST on “Animal Planet.”
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.