October 31,1992 - June 10, 2005
This is one of the incredible animals that brought me home safely every night. He was fearless, noble, honorable and courageous everyday of his life.
I had the rare and fortunate occasion of being able to raise Cisco from 7 weeks of age. I raised, trained and handled him throughout his career, watched him grow old, then held him in my arms as he took his last breath. For almost 13 years he was my sidekick, and a friend and guardian to my family.
On his headstone, it reads, "Everything a police dog should be". And he was. K-9 Cisco could be your best friend - he loved attention, he loved kids, and at times he could be a comedian. He could also be your worst enemy - he showed no pity on thugs who preyed upon innocence, or who sought to do me harm.
This is the story of my Cisco. I could write a book on our time together, but this pretty much sums it up.
I was lucky to have raised Cisco from when he was seven weeks old. I cuddled him in my arms and knew that one day he would be something special. By 12 weeks I had taught him the sit, down, stay and bark commands. He barked often, so that one came pretty easy! By 6 months he weighed 50 pounds and I had him running 300 yard tracks that were 30 minutes old. At one year he was fighting with decoys in bite suits and had taken on the look of nobility that distinguishes the German Shepherd breed.
Cisco had boundless energy, nerves of steel and a never quit attitude. He was hard and courageous, and he knew it. K-9 trainers from around the world all gave testimony to Cisco’s big heart. In 1994 I decided to leave a career with the fire department and join the Gwinnett County Police Department. I had one goal in mind, Cisco was going to work as a police dog and I would be his handler. I had to wait to complete my probationary period before I could work with the K-9 Unit. In the meantime, I continued to prepare Cisco for work on the streets.
In 1996 our big day came. Cisco and I started working with Sgt. Spanky Davis, Rick Garner, and soon after, Rob Kenyon. I remember Cisco’s first attempt at catching a bad guy as if it were yesterday. On a cool evening around 10:00 pm, the City of Lawrenceville conducted a traffic stop. The driver had fled on foot and the city requested a canine. When we arrived on the scene, Sgt. Davis gave me the words I had been waiting to hear, “Harness up Cisco, we’ve got a bad guy to catch”. I harnessed up Cisco and took him to the area where the suspect was last seen. The years of training and hard work were about to pay off. Immediately, my big powerful partner threw his head up and started air scenting a wood line. He pulled into the woods, made a long sweeping turn to the left, traveled some distance (all the time pulling hard in his tracking harness), and began to bark as we approached the suspect several feet away. Nothing could describe what an incredible feeling it was to be working my Cisco! This was the first of the many adventures we went on. K-9 Cisco fell easily into the role of police dog; catching criminals wanted for kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated assault and many other violent crimes. He also helped search for lost children and elderly persons who had become disoriented. He had a unique style of tracking - he RAN! This quickly led me to coin the phrase “Fading Light Syndrome”, which was caused when Cisco left our back-up officers way behind as their flashlights slowly went out of sight.
Cisco’s age and an injury to his leg began to limit his abilities but never his determination. He retired from active police work but still served as an ambassador to the police dog community. In August 2000 I was recommended for the Police Achievement Medal based on outstanding service to the Gwinnett K-9 Unit, to which I credit Cisco. After I took a position with Lawrenceville Police, Cisco continued to help educate countless members of our community about the value of a police dog. He gave thousands of puppy kisses to the local children and made regular appearances for civic and church groups. K-9 Cisco went on to help educate over 1000 college students at the Georgia Perimeter College in the various learning theories. He was proof that positive reinforcement from using a kind hand, food, or his prized toy ‘kong’ brought great training success. The dogs that followed in Cisco’s footsteps greatly benefited from our experience together. He occasionally had his photo in the newspapers, almost always with children in his presence.
Over the years, my family and I had a wonderful time with Cisco. He was family - living in the house, vacationing with us, helping raise my children and protecting the family while I was at work. As he grew older our public appearances started to decline. He was in his golden years and spent more and more time sleeping. In order to keep his spirits up, I took him out occasionally for practice tracks or to let him find decoys hiding in buildings, but I noticed that he tired quickly and took a long time to recover.
In 2003, K-9 Bojar was on sick leave, so I called upon Cisco once again to work the streets. For a few shifts my old man rode shotgun and we loved every minute of it! On one night an officer confronted two suspects who fled on foot. Within minutes I was on scene and had Cisco in his tracking harness. He followed the scent of the two suspects that had fled, and that night my heart pounded as I once again had the pleasure of following behind Cisco as he located the bad guys. It would be Cisco’s last call as a police dog, but he continued to entertain audiences of all ages at public demonstrations.
In May of 2005, Cisco’s health started to decline. I had to help him up the stairs and catch him as he came down. Weeks later he needed help just to walk. In his last few days, he could not stand on his own. As I helped him outside, I saw for the first time in my life a look of fear in his piercing brown eyes. I knew it must be devastating for a dog who was once so strong, powerful and fearless to now be scared. I had long ago made a promise to us both that I would never let that happen. Cisco’s time was coming to an end.
On Friday, June 10th, 2005 I contacted Officer Dave Russell and asked him to take us to the vet’s office. I had the heart-breaking task of telling my kids that Cisco would not be coming home; that the vet was going to give him some medicine to help him sleep and when he woke up he would be in Heaven. It was only fitting that I put on my uniform along with a t-shirt with his name and the Gwinnett County logo on it. The trip was short and Cisco rested until we got into Lawrenceville. I helped him up and supported him as he looked out the window and watched the cars go past. Dave and I both chuckled as he barked at a person walking from his car.
Sgt. Spanky Davis, Officers Rick and Denise Garner, and Officer John Surowiec met Dave and I as we got to the animal hospital. They were there with me as I held my dear partner in my arms as he took his last breath. With a kiss on the muzzle, a pat on the head and the words “I love you Old Dog”, my Cisco was off to Doggy Heaven.
Thank you for the grand adventure Cisco.
And until we meet again, may you always run fast, bite hard, and fear nothing.
Officer Emory Griffith
K-9 Cisco in the prime of his lfe.
Cisco at 10 weeks. That little tail never stopped wagging!
Cisco was a tireless worker. He could be your best friend one minute, and then with the right command, your worst enemy.
Cisco was 26.5 inches at the shoulders and weighed over 100 pounds. To give you an idea of his size, that's a 6 foot A-Frame wall he is sitting near.
At home, I could always count on Cisco to watch over the family.
Brett, Brianna and K-9 Cisco 1997. One of Brett's first words was, Cisco.
Always under the watchful eyes of Cisco
The 'old man' loved playing with the kids. They could never figure out how he always managed to find them during hide-and-seek!
Peacemaker - Always willing to step in and lick away the tears.
Guardian - No strangers were ever allowed too close to those kids.
Playmate - He would retrieve anything thrown!
Friend - Always greeted you with a wagging tail.
Never had to worry about strangers getting to close to the kids.
Out in the rural part of Gwinnett County, off Harbins Roadin Dacula, sits a Pet Cemetery. Within this cemetery, nestled between rows of spruce trees is the final resting place for many of the local police dogs. We call it the Garden of Honor.
With the flags blowing above your head, and their markers at your feet, you can't help but feel you're walking on sacred ground littered with the spirits of the four-legged heroes. Most of these incredible animals died from old age, from injuries, others from illness, some in the line of duty.
I have six partners in that garden, K-9 Cisco, K-9 Gor-don, K-9 Beny, K-9 Bojar, K-9 Wind and K-9 Andor. What a fine tribute to the animals who's greatest reward was to be by my side.
Stop by and visit the garden some time. But remember, tread lightly, for in that garden rest my heroes.
June 10, 2005 Lawrenceville Police lower their flag to honor K-9 Cisco. The department treated him as one of their own.
With a kiss on the muzzle, a pat on the head and the words “I love you, Old Dog”, my Cisco was off to Doggy Heaven.
A final farewell to a very dear and special friend.
First of all, it is not about me, but of the incredible animals that I had the great fortune of knowing and working with. Over their careers, hundreds of criminals would fall victim to their incredible talents.
With that said - My name is Emory Griffith. I was a K-9 handler for the City of Lawrenceville and Gwinnett County Police Departments located in Georgia.
For five years I taught learning theories to over 2000 college and university students. It was from this same knowledge that I was able to shape the behaviors of these incredible animals which would make our communities a safer place.
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