The tortoise and the hound: A rescue story

Friday, July 27, 2018


Copper, a 10-year-old bloodhound who worked for the West Valley Police Department, takes a sniff of Harold, a 4-year-old female Sulcata tortoise in Herriman, Utah, Monday.

HERRIMAN, Utah (AP) — This is a story about a tortoise and a hound. It’s not a children’s book, but it very well could be.

Harold is a 4-year-old female Sulcata tortoise. Copper is a 10-year-old bloodhound who worked for the West Valley Police Department for nine years. Copper is retired now, but his stellar career involved tracking down missing people.

“Probably one of the most memorable, most high-profile cases we were involved with was we found a 6-year-old that had fallen down a drainage ditch,” said Copper’s owner, Sgt. Shane Matheson. “He had been missing for 5 ½ to 6 hours before Copper and I were called out.”

Copper is used to following his nose, and on July 5 he followed it right out of an open gate at his Herriman home.

“I always say that when his nose turns on, his ears and everything else turn off,” Matheson said. That’s when Copper became the missing one himself.

“I came out of my garage and there was a beautiful dog,” said Ashley Johnson. “And I remember thinking, ‘I think that’s a bloodhound.’”

Johnson found Copper in her yard and then went to social media. She posted his information on four different pages and soon found Copper’s owners, who lived right down the street.

“We’re definitely grateful for her and her family for keeping him safe for us,” Matheson said.

But the story doesn’t end there. You would think it would be hard to lose a tortoise, but five days later that’s exactly what happened.

“It’s the first time I’ve lost Harold,” Johnson said. “And my son kept saying, ‘Mom, where toto go?’ Where did the turtle go?”

Harold was grazing in the front yard when she wandered away. Johnson looked for the tortoise for three days without any luck.

“I looked in everyone’s yards. I looked under every rock, I looked between boulders, I looked everywhere and could not find her,” said Johnson. “I was just devastated.”

That’s when she remembered Copper and his famous nose.

“They were missing their tortoise and they wondered about the possibility of us looking for Harold,” Matheson recalled.

So they put Copper on the case.

“It had been over two days that she was missing and it had rained four or five times in between,” Johnson said.

But Copper led them straight to Harold, who was burrowed in a neighbor’s flower patch.

“She was hiding next to our neighbor’s retaining wall,” said Johnson. “If tortoises want to hide and if they don’t want to be found, they won’t be found.”

It was a very happy ending for both the tortoise and the hound.

“It was just meant to be,” Johnson said. “We were meant to meet Copper and he helped us find our pet.”