October 22, 2021

Dog, handler meet

Red begins training for duty with SUNY Cortland police

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Red, a German short hair pointer, is SUNY Cortland’s first police dog. Red visited President Erik Bitterbaum office Thursday and is headed to train with campus Police Officer David Coakley, in background.

The dog exited the elevator Thursday and leaped toward SUNY Cortland Police Officer David Coakley. A smile spread across Coakley’s face.

Coakley had always wanted to work with dogs and now he’ll have a chance to as Red’s handler. Red, a German shorthaired pointer, is the college’s first bomb and missing person’s canine.

“I’m excited,” Coakley said.

Red was visiting the president’s office at SUNY Cortland; the first time he met Coakley, and college President Erik Bitterbaum and other college officials.

University Police Chief Mark DePaull announced the department was looking for a dog in late November.

The department received $3,800 from the Sean M. Walsh K-9 Memorial Foundation to buy and train Red. The foundation is the same one that found a dog for the Cortland Police Department.

Although Sharon McNeil, of the Walsh foundation, is an alumna of the college, it’s not the main reason she helped university police.

“What we care about is giving you the money to get the dog for your police force,” McNeil said. “Red will be the first bomb dog in Cortland County. That to me is the most valuable part because it’s filling a need.”

Red is greeted by Sharon McNeil, east coast director of Sean M. Walsh K9 Memorial Foundation with handler Officer David Coakley, at right.

In September, DePaull said he wanted to get a dog to use on campus during large events.

“We wanted to get a canine, but we needed it to be a benefit to the college,” DePaull said. “Since 9/11 and the terrorist attacks, campuses have been considered soft targets.”

Red would also be able to find missing people, routinely check buildings and inspect suspicious packages.

University police will also have an agreement with the Cortland police and Cortland County Sheriff’s Office to use the dog if needed.

The department chose a German shorthaired pointer for several reasons. His floppy ears makes him a student magnet and he is a more athletic dog, meaning he’ll be able to work longer than some other dogs, DePaull said.

Red is already going through a five-month training process at Homefront Canines in Cortland. At the end of that, he’ll go through another month of training with Coakley. DePaull expects Coakley and Red patrolling the campus by August.

The owner of Homefront Canines, Donnalyn Moran, also an alumna, said it feels great being able to do this for the college.

“When they first approached me, I wanted to go above and beyond because they are my alma mater,” Moran said.

Right now she is teaching Red to build confidence and introducing him to smells.

“When they’re this young, you want to build confidence and have him think for himself,” Moran said. “You don’t want to much obedience. When we put too much control on a dog, they get dependent on us.”

DePaull said the department is almost ready to outfit one of its vehicles for the dog as well. It will cost $12,000 and come from the department’s budget.

He also said SUNY Oswego’s and SUNY Geneseo’s police departments are interested in getting a dog.