News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

DCSO hound is on the scent in Sisters

In all of Washington and Oregon there is only one “employed” bloodhound in law enforcement. That would be Copper, all 81 pounds of him, assigned to the Sisters Substation of the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.

Copper is all muscle and all heart and every bit as playful as you might expect of any dog under two years old. But he also knows his job that he takes seriously.

Bloodhounds have been immortalized in dozens of Hollywood films featuring jail break and prison break scenes where the trusty hounds track down the prisoners through all sorts of gnarly terrain. It has never been fully decided if the loveable Disney character Pluto is at heart a bloodhound. Then there’s Bruno from Cinderella and Trusty from Lady and the Tramp adding to the lore and affection of the long-eared breed.

Copper and his handler, Deputy Sheriff Donny Patterson, just completed their rigorous certification testing in California’s Riverside County by the National Police Bloodhound Association, where the team of Copper and Patterson were put to the test on a number of scent trails including shopping malls, parking garages, and swampy and woodland areas.

The team may have had only a car seat, empty soda can or chip bag, cigarette butt, or door handle as a scent source to work the trail.

Being certified allows Copper’s work product to be admissible in court or other legal proceedings. Prior to his being fully credentialed, Copper had his first start-to-finish “find” about three months back when he located a “walk away” — generally a person who disappears of their own volition, not wishing to be found, or somebody with diminished mental capacity as in a case of dementia.

Copper’s job is limited to finding people, everyone from lost hikers to escapees, missing children to older citizens confused by their surroundings. One would think that with a bloodhound’s extraordinary sense of smell that they’d be the first line for illicit drug detection. Not so. There are five other K-9 teams in the DCSO, two of whom, different breeds, are dedicated to narcotic offenses. Dogs and handlers are highly specialized performing complex tasks.

It is said that dogs have up to 75 times the sense of smell that humans do, which does beg the question of what it must be like when they encounter a skunk or rotting fish.

Copper’s life began at Tamaron Ranch Bloodhound Kennels in Chowchilla, California. The all-tan-colored, purebred Copper is a donation to DCSO by Bob Cameron, a county resident who has a lengthy history of working with bloodhounds in the law-enforcement world. Cameron is himself a highly experienced trainer.

Everybody asks — well everybody who has a dog — if Copper sleeps on Patterson’s bed.

“Yes, and he takes up a lot of room,” Patterson says with an infectious grin.

The Donny/Copper team work four 10-hour shifts, which is a lot of car time. Patterson is just like all the Sisters deputies who cover a large territory through the gamut of policing duties.

Patterson admitted that Copper hates the car, even though it is a full-size SUV with specialized venting. There is a built-in, high-tech cooling system in Copper’s pad with an alarm system to warn Patterson remotely if the temperature reaches a point of concern for Copper’s well-being.

Copper’s favorite thing to do is search and rescue. He has participated in several — all successful. As a general rule, citizens are discouraged from interacting with working K-9 dogs. However, in Copper’s case, the public is encouraged to engage him when they encounter him. But ask first, as he may be working a scent. Patterson frequently does foot patrol in town, both as part of good community policing practice and giving Copper a chance to stretch his legs.


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