Copper, the Whiteside County police dog that puts smiles on faces

Kim Cavazos, jail administrator at Whiteside County, introduces Copper the county's new comfort dog to people in Tampico Sunday during the town's parade.

MORRISON – The Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department is going to the dogs, but that is a good thing.

A department that already had two multipurpose K-9 Unit dogs recently added a community comfort dog. Copper, a 10-week-old golden doodle was purchased for $1,700 from Desi Doodles, a pet service in Prophetstown.

Copper has a much different job than the two K-9 Unit dogs already on staff, Amor and Chico. Those two ride with patrol officers and perform duties like drug searches, apprehensions, and search and rescue.

Copper will spend much of his time at the April House Children’s Advocacy Center, just up the street from the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department in Morrison. April House is place for children who have been the victim of crimes to stay and be interviewed by police and other professionals.

“Because these kids are victims of crimes, and there are such horrible crimes against them, we wanted something to try and brighten up their experience with police,” Whiteside County Sheriff John Booker said. “That’s when Copper came into the picture. We’ve been talking, and the staff has been wanting a community comfort dog, so now was the time to step up and do that.

“Copper comes to work every day and puts a smile on people’s faces. It’s definitely an added improvement to our police work. We’ll go into nursing homes, hospitals, schools – just to put a smile on people’s faces. He handles that job very easily.”

The Sterling Police Department has a community comfort dog, Brinkley, that has been making the rounds, including several trips to April House. Booker thought it was time to give Brinkley a break.

“Brinkley was overworked and constantly over here at April House,” Booker said. “We want to lighten up his load, for when these kids come in for these forensic interviews.”

Copper’s first day on the job was July 11, and he’s been on the go ever since.

“We get phone calls. We get emails. We get messages,” Booker said. “He needs to be everywhere. Everybody wants to see him. We have people coming into the sheriff’s office just to see him. The other day, we had some kids in to see their dad before he went to prison. They were very much emotionally upset, and Copper came out on his own, went up to the kids and put a smile their faces.”

Copper is in the early stages of a year-long training period with Susan Jacobs, a professional dog trainer with more than 30 years of experience. Each Tuesday, Copper is taken to the Rock Falls Community Building, where he is taught not to scratch and bite and jump on people, to name a few things.

“Some of it’s just puppy stuff that he’s going through, but yes, he does have training to do,” Booker said.

“He is an excellent dog,” said Kim Cavazos, jail administrator and Copper’s primary handler. “He’s doing great on all of his training. He’s very calm. He chills out. He’s not hyper. Everywhere we’ve gone, everybody’s happy to see him. People can pet him. We go all over.”

An added bonus is the cost – it is minimal. Before Booker became sheriff 3 years ago, there had been a fund that was already established for K-9 Unit expenses, through generous donors. That is how all three of the K-9 Unit dogs were purchased.

Purina provides food, while PetSmart also aids in feeding the animals and grooming. Private and corporate donations keep the K-9 Unit fund operational. The only expense is veterinarian bills.

“It isn’t any tax dollars that are going toward this,” Booker said. “People that complain that their tax dollars are going toward four-legged animals, that’s not true. This is no expense to the county. It’s all donations, and you can’t spend this money on anything else besides K-9 stuff. That’s why we have the two multi-purpose K-9s, and the community comfort dog.”

Amor, a German Shepard, joined the force on Feb. 25, 2020, while Chico, a malamute, began working in Morrison on May 19. They came from a company in Michigan.

“Chico’s a little bit smaller than Amor,” Booker said, “but he’s picking things up good. The two of them get along great. They go places together and work together. They like Copper a lot, so the three of them get along good together. They’re just a great addition to the department.”

Copper is also a bit of an Internet sensation. He has his own Facebook page, CopperWHCOSheriff, and already has about 1,000 followers.

“There’s so many people that have commented, because I’ll put quirky stuff on there,” Cavazos said. “Along with his pictures, I’ll put captions, and there’s been a few people that have commented that it makes their day. They look forward to his daily updates, so I have to come up with something unique every day.”

Kim Cavazos, jail administrator at Whiteside County, introduces Copper the county's new comfort dog to people in Tampico Sunday during the town's parade.