ALPHARETTA, Ga. — One of Alpharetta’s K-9s has caught the eyes of the internet and has become an Instagram sensation.
Mattis, who turned 6 on May 26, has close to 30,000 followers on the social media platform, and that number is growing every day. He is a multi-purpose K-9 who does narcotics detection and patrol work, which includes finding misplaced or tossed objects and tracking people who might be suspects or are lost.
“I love that we get the opportunity to interact with the community like this,” said Mattis’ handler, Officer Mark Tappan. “Dogs are such a great bridge, and I love that people will talk to you because of a dog.”
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Tappan, a Marine veteran, used to work on a SWAT team where he was frequently set up next to K-9 units.
“I saw how people gravitated to the dogs,” Tappan said. “I remember thinking what an amazing bridge that is.”
He now works as the Alpharetta K-9 unit trainer, where he purposely seeks out K-9s that are sociable and approachable to the community. He regularly participates in demonstrations or meet-and-greets with residents to introduce them to Mattis and the kind of work he does.
But social media was where it really took off.
Tappan said he was nervous at first to create the Instagram account, having heard horror stories from officers in other police departments.
But the feedback, Tappan said, has been overwhelmingly positive from the city and the community.
“There’s not an agenda I’m trying to promote,” he said. “We’re trying to be genuine. It’s just me and Mattis being genuine. We’re not trying to convince anyone of any ideas. I’m trying to show how awesome this dog is and the things that he can do, and use it for things that are good.”
Mattis is well known for surviving a 30-foot drop in 2016 while chasing a suspect. The K-9 was able to land on the suspect and helped officers apprehend him. After the arrest, Tappan noticed that Mattis was showing signs of distress.
Mattis was rushed to North Fulton Animal Emergency Hospital and had to undergo emergency surgery for a lacerated liver and heavy internal bleeding. He has since made a full recovery and was back on the job a month after the incident.
Mattis’ bravery earned him the Outstanding Officer of the Year award and a Purple Heart, as well as recognition from former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, the K-9’s namesake.
But what Tappan is most proud of regarding Mattis is that through the Instagram platform, the two have been able to raise funds for several causes.
Coins 4 Cure, which helps raise funds for childhood cancer research, is one such organization.
“They have these jars that they place in businesses for people to fill up,” Tappan said. “We had over 30 or 40 jars placed nationwide because of the Instagram platform I had promoted it on. There were tens of thousands of dollars raised because of it.”
Tappan and Mattis have also campaigned for companies like TurningPoint Breast Cancer Rehabilitation.
“Those two things we have done impact-wise is greater than any police work or any call that we’ve been on,” Tappan said.
But outside of his police work, Mattis is an energetic dog who loves to play with toys and interact with his family, which includes another German Shepherd named Storm and Tappan’s children.
It’s those types of moments, which include a video of Mattis attempting and failing to jump into the back of a truck, that have become some of the most popular on the Instagram account.