Coward and K9 Courage

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Coward and K9 Courage

Coward and K9 Courage

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Could there be anything more rewarding than to go to work each day at a job that is meaningful and important? It’s even better knowing that you’re protecting the people and town where you live, and to be lucky enough to work side by side with someone you love, trust and respect. When that someone also happens to have big brown eyes, four legs and sharp teeth, you know that each day is going to be interesting, challenging and unpredictable.
North Port Police K-9 Officer Noel Coward and his seven-year-old Belgian Malinois, Sniper, are a team. Officer Coward, who, yes, is named after “the” Noel Coward of theatre, composing, directing and acting fame (he is a distant relative) – is one of three North Port police officers who work with service dogs used to prevent or detect crime.

A Belgian Malinois is similar to a German Shepherd but is smaller, lighter, and with its black mask and black-tipped fur, is a more energetic and agile breed. “It’s a ‘workaholic,’” according to Gabriela K. Urevitch, training director of Complete K-9 Academy, a colleague and good friend of Coward. She added, “I’ve known Noel for quite some time. We train dogs at the Schutzhund Club in Punta Gorda where he’s the training director. He is someone from which I draw much inspiration.” 

Officer Coward, who has been with the North Port Police Department since 1993 and is their canine trainer, decided at the age of nine in his home in New Hampshire that he wanted to train dogs. After seeing a television commercial on dog training, “it sparked my interest,” he said. His family owned several dogs through the years, and Coward worked with them all. He raised Sniper from a puppy and his hard work as a police dog trainer has certainly paid off. At the recent United States Police Canine Association regional field trials in Lady Lake, Florida, held in March, where the best trained dogs in the world are judged by police judges, he scored first place out of all participants. He also received special recognition awards and several first-place awards in narcotics, patrol, and searching buildings for narcotics. Urevitch added that Coward “almost always either wins or scores in the top five and the regionals and nationals, and he’ll be attending the national trials in October.”

Officer Coward and Sniper work and tra-vel together every day. Sniper has been used in tracking drugs, suspects, and evidence recovery. They visit local schools and other venues, demonstrating what they do and how well they do it.

Coward is the training director and co-founder of the Peace River Schutzhund Club in Punta Gorda. The word ‘schutzhund” is a German word that means ‘protection dog.’ It refers to a sport that teaches dogs obedience, tracking and protection skills. Coward can be found at the training grounds in Punta Gorda each Saturday training dogs. He said, “I love to work with dogs and kids. To watch an 11-year-old girl go out and work her dog in obedience, tracking and to be able to work with her and to watch her confidence level grow and go through the roof is so rewarding.”

He is also a martial arts and firearms instructor, but admits that “the bulk of my time is spent working with dogs and the people at the Schutzhund Club. We’re like a family. We train hard but then we’ll have a big cookout once a month.” Coward has also reached out to Russian dog trainers to learn their techniques and share American ones, to further his knowledge and skills.

So when you see a North Port police officer with his or her furry friend, know that your protection and well-being is their first concern. You can sleep well at night knowing that they’re on their beats together.

To learn more about the North Port Police Department’s K9 Division, call K-9 Officer Coward at (941) 426-3111 or email him at ncoward@northportpd.com. For information on dog training, contact Gabriela Urevitch at (941) 812-7188 com. For more information regarding the Peace River Schutzhund Club, please email jmhepler@comcast.net.

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