Acclaimed police dog put to rest

LAWRENCEVILLE - A kiss on the muzzle, a pat on the head and the words "I love you old dog" from his partner were among the final moments for a police dog who left many memories with those who met him.

K-9 Cisco, a 14-year-old police dog, was put to rest Friday after a long and distinguished career as a crime-fighter and ambassador for the Lawrenceville Police Department.

Officer Emory Griffith - trainer, partner, friend and family to Cisco - said his German shepherd was fearless and courageous in the line of duty.

"He'd put on his uniform and go to work and was a different dog than the playful dog we knew at home," Griffith said. "He was a tireless worker."

One case, where Cisco tracked down a man charged with kidnapping and aggravated assault, stuck out in Griffith's mind.

"Cisco hit the tracks and led us to a trailer at a construction site where he started barking at the door," Griffith said. "The other officers said they had already checked that trailer, but I said we needed to check it again and sure enough, we found the suspect hiding under a bench. Cisco was able to find something the other officers couldn't have found."

Cisco, who received many commendations in his time as a police dog, was more than just a partner to Griffith, he was family.

"He lived with us, vacationed with us and helped look after our kids," Griffith said.

Griffith said his children - ages 10, 8 and 3 - have known Cisco all of their lives.

"He always watched out for them, herded them around and would make sure he was in between the kids and strangers who might be around," he said.

When Cisco retired from active police duty, he continued to serve the community as an ambassador for police dogs everywhere by showing they were more than just "vicious attack dogs," Griffith said.

Cisco and Griffith would visit schools, civic groups and church groups where they would show how special police dogs are.

"Cisco loved children," Griffith said. "Kids would pull on his ears and tail, and he was just happy to be around them."

Griffith, with Cisco's help, would also teach about the learning process to psychology classes at Georgia Perimeter College.

"Students looked forward to when Griffith and Cisco would come give presentations. They would even bring friends and siblings because they enjoyed it so much," said Ray Huebschmann, a psychology professor at Georgia Perimeter College.

Cisco began to have increasingly more trouble getting around in May, and Griffith decided it was time to put Cisco to rest.

"I saw, for the first time in my life, a look of fear in his piercing brown eyes," Griffith wrote in a letter for Cisco's funeral. "I had long ago made a promise to us both that I would never let him be scared."

Griffith, along with several of his fellow K-9 handlers, took Cisco to the veterinarian where he would hold his partner for the last time.

"The hardest part was explaining to the kids that Cisco wouldn't be coming home," Griffith said. "We told them that the vet was going to give Cisco some medicine to sleep, and when he woke up he'd be in heaven."

Cisco will be buried Wednesday in the Garden of Honor, a special place reserved for police dogs, at the Oak Rest Pet Gardens on Harbins Road.

The ceremony, which the public is invited to attend, will begin at 1 p.m.