By EILEEN MCCLORY
Sgt. Tom Miller of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office knew the office’s K-9 social media accounts were gaining traction when he overheard high school students arguing at the Hancock County Fair last year about which K-9 was which.
Miller has used Facebook for the past three years and Instagram for the past two to showcase the K-9 he works with, Sonny.
The sheriff’s other K-9, Charlie, also has a Facebook page, Hcso Charlie, with 1,308 friends.
Miller said he wanted to do something different when he got Sonny, who is his second K-9 partner, in 2014.
Sonny’s actual job isn’t to be the face of the sheriff’s office, but to do narcotics searches and patrols. He and Miller train once a week with other K-9s from the area.
“I wanted things to be more public, and get the dogs out there,” Miller said.
He came up with the idea to have trading cards of several of the area K-9s and made a Facebook page in 2015 to promote the trading cards and Sonny.
In 2016, he started using Instagram. Other members of the sheriff’s office and a local photographer helped him shoot photos, he said, and he also began using his cellphone, a Google Pixel XL, to take photos of Sonny.
He uses Photoshop Express on his phone to edit the photos.
The Instagram account has exploded since 2016. Sonny now has followers all over the country and all over the world.
When Miller’s first K-9 partner, Kevin, died in May, Miller got packages from around the world with sketches of Kevin and Sonny. Kevin patrolled with Miller from 2008 to 2014.
Another Ohio police Instagram account, Ohio Going Blue, shares a lot of Miller’s photos and helps the account gain followers, Miller said.
He said he has a lot of local followers, who will ask if he will be in a specific place to do K-9 demonstrations.
With all the negativity that law enforcement officers get, Sonny and Charlie can help show the public another side, Miller said.
For example, Miller said he has worked with foster kids who were afraid of law enforcement because their parents had been arrested and were in the legal system. Meeting the dog helps the children see another side of law enforcement.
“You develop a bond with all the kids in a positive note, not in a negative note,” Miller said.
Plus, Sonny loves people and loves the camera. On a recent day, when a Courier photographer pulled out a camera, Sonny immediately came over to investigate.
“He’s definitely a ham,” Miller said.