By Dwight Hobbes
Even before Michael Vick’s infamous association with and incarceration for dog-fighting, the public imagination did not pair Black men and canines in a particularly shining light. The stereotype held of ghetto thugs, usually drug-dealers, abusing pit bulls by gambling on to-the-death matches or sporting them as vicious, four-legged bodyguards and sentinels for drug or money stashes — all of which makes an enterprise on the order of Big D’s Dog Training (www.bigdsdogtraining.com) all the more refreshingly welcome.
Going simply by the moniker Cooper, the internationally recognized behaviorist, handler, and instructor heading up Big D’s Dog Training of Circle Pines, MN owns and operates an inherited family business that couldn’t be farther removed from those unpopular perceptions. The thriving, nationally accomplished concern, he says, “started [in] South Minneapolis under the direction of my father, Catrell Cooper, who gave me the direction of hunting dogs.
“My mother, Lucille Cooper…gave me the direction of science in the relation to dogs, and my sister Phyllis…gave me my first dog, Munica, a Mexican Fox Terrier. In the AKC [American Kennel Club] world it would be just a
Smooth Coated Fox Terrier.”
By any name, his operation is in an enviable position. One, it offers services you don’t come by every day of the week in order to, if you wish, qualify your pooch for entry into such rarified events as highly competitive dog shows or have him or her become one of those life-saving heroes who sniffs out survivors buried after a disaster.
Offering a full range, the company trains canines in, among other capacities as described at the website, service (Allergen Detector, Helping Paws, and Helping Ears) and U.S. Airforce-certified working dogs that search for bombs or drugs and find and rescue lost hikers. There’s also the less exotic — obedience training and field training.
Two, this isn’t exactly the world’s most thoroughly integrated field. Cooper readily attests, “You will find very few [professionals] of color. Yet you will find none with my education and background.” That background includes, on top of a college education, “my military education. One may work hard and work to prove, but with this said one still must find opportunity. Yet opportunities are still controlled by societal views.”
Granted, he is not the most modest of men, but, to coin an old phrase, it’s not bragging, just fact. When he claims to be “the most accomplished handler [and] trainer in the dog world,” Big D’s Dog Training track record of educating and disciplining man’s best friend readily backs him up.
Graduates of his regimen strutted their stuff this year in England at both the famed Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show and the lesser known but nonetheless prestigious Crufts Dog Show. “We have also started the first Canine EMS academy, which will develop a group of skilled professionals who can help other pet owners worldwide with education and on-location EMS care.”
Don’t just take Cooper’s word for it. Teri Turner, breeder and member of the Spinone Club of America, Inc. is a highly satisfied client who offers, “Big D’s and Cartrell Cooper [have] been showing and training my Spinone Italiani for 10 years.” She corroborates, “Mr. Cooper is a very knowledgeable and hard working trainer. He communicates well with dogs both in the show ring and in the field. He has brought many prestigious wins to my kennel and has traveled all over the world with them.
“Mr. Cooper has worked with me to put hunt titles on my dogs as well as putting show titles on them… He always tries to do what is best for the dog whether it be getting them ready for the show ring, teaching them the ins and outs of hunting, or just to be a good family member. I will continue to use Big D’s Services for my current as well as future generations.”
Further, his list of certifications as professional dog handler virtually runs off the page. Just a few of them are, along with Bachelor of Science from the University of Wisconsin and PhD in Animal Behavior from the University Extension, Master Groomer & Dean of Students for The Cutting Edge Pet Grooming School, USA/Canadian Junior Handler Judge and NADTA — President (1989-1999) Animal EMT.
If anyone can help us to live down the stigma of those who have done their worst by dogs, it certainly is Cooper, and Big D’s Dog Training doing its very best.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.
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