by Dave Boehler
for The Beacon
Despite being new to town, Copper is one of the most popular residents of Elkhart Lake.
“I think he probably already is,” chief of police Michael Meeusen said. “We have more Facebooks hits when we post pictures of him than we do for anything else.”
Copper, who was born Jan. 31, is the only therapy dog in the Sheboygan County area and has been with the ELPD for about five weeks.
He not only has his own social media profile, but his fans can also click the “K-9 Copper” link listed below “Staff” on the department’s website to learn more about his new therapy program.
“Just seeing the way he interacts with the community, seeing people come to the police department just to see him, is what’s kind of cool,” Meeusen said.
As soon as the ELPD found out it was getting the dog, it sent pictures to the elementary and middle schools so each class could come up with a name. The department looked through them and picked Copper.
“That one stuck out pretty quick,” Meeusen said. “Once we saw him and his color.”
Copper was nine weeks old when the department received him as a donation from Blueberry Cottage Labradoodles.
“We knew right away he was the one,” Meeusen said. “Just the way he acted. He’s very social but yet he calms down very quickly. He’s able to lay there and just relax by people, not like a typical puppy where he’s jumping all over the place. I mean, he’s a puppy and he jumps. But he’s very quickly able to calm down and sit there. He’s good around large groups of people, he’s good around other animals, kind of everything we’re looking for in a dog that is meant to calm people down.”
Copper’s cuteness doesn’t go unnoticed, either.
“Yeah, that helps, too,” Meeusen said. “He’s a good-looking dog.”
The department even potty trained Copper, and he has a mat next to Meeusen’s desk where he sleeps during the day. At night, he goes home with the chief, who also has a German Shephard.
“They play all night long,” he said.
A few years ago, Elkhart Cares contacted the ELPD about a K-9 program and then COVID-19 happened.
“It kind of made the idea even more real because of all the issues with kids in schools and all that,” Meeusen said.
The chief says mental health is the main reason for bringing Copper on board. He’ll help decrease stress and anxiety with people they have to deal with, whether it’s telling someone their loved one died or helping kids cope with the loss of a student because of suicide. Students with social issues who can’t communicate well or those with special needs will also benefit.
“It just changes their mood whenever the dog is around,” Meeusen said. “A lot of it is just dealing with mental health, anxiety and stress, and also helping people interact with us. Officers in full uniform can sometimes be intimidating, so by having a dog with us, it kind of helps break down the wall that might be there.
“From the times he has been (out in public), it’s far exceeded what we thought he would do. The years I’ve been here, I’ve never had somebody come knock on the door that just wants to see the dog, or pet the dog. So it’s kind of cool to see people coming into the police department that would normally never come in here.”