Sisco : An obituary

Sisco The Dog

 

I thought long and hard about this blog post; and the overriding logic behind it was how many customers over the years show a genuine interest in our canine team and ask after them when we meet with them. It's not written in the usual style, but I feel that as a member of the team from day one, it's deserved - and it'll hopefully help me, Sisco's mum, and his human brothers to come to terms with his passing.

This week, we said goodbye to one of our first "employees", Sisco.

We set K9 Protection Ltd up what now seems like way back in 2011 - it was a family affair, and a key part of that family was Sisco the dog. The original business model was to fill a void that existed in the security industry, which often need a different approach to security dogs, but that obviously grew out to where we are today. If I'm honest, I didn't expect the company to grow past a handful of dog handlers offering seasonal services, and if you told me back then we'd be employing 22 people and turning work away because we're too busy, I'd not have believed you.

I first met Sisco as a 6 week old puppy on a farm in the middle of South Wales. He was a pedigree rottweiler with champions galore in his papers; his dad guarded a scrap yard, and his mum stayed home to look after the pups - And we instantly fell in love. My partner at the time was cautious.. A rottweiler in the house? Two young children in the house? What about all the bad press.. what about their viscous tendencies? But this soon subsided when this 6 kilo bundle of black and mahogany started using her leg as a climbing frame, instantly winning him a ticket home.

As a puppy, Sisco was the typical mischief you'd expect from any pup.. only with the weight to back it up. He was only a year younger than the youngest child, so the mischief would generally start and finish with this pair, whether it be chewing the house, crawling under the table and getting stuck, or just generally doing things that *should* make you mad.. but didn't, and this continued for much of their lives.

As Sisco grew up in to the slender bodied, fat-headed beaut that he became, I started running a pub where he rapidly became a character in the pub, often sitting on the roof and singing along to firework displays and passing ambulances. There were a number of panicked calls from people passing by saying "do you know you've got a dog on your roof", and fairly regular attempts to explain to the RSPCA that he would let himself out, and that was "his spot", but all ended with a generally lighthearted conversation. As he got older, it was obvious that Sisco's instincts were in tune with what you'd read about any rottweiler, he was a watcher who would regularly sit back and watch the world go by, but also pick up on small behaviours that would go un-noticed to the majority of people. This is the point I thought it may be worthwhile working with him, and investigated getting him in to training so this is what we did. I was dubious initially - would he fail as a working dog? Would his personality deteriorate? Would it make him aggressive? Fortunately, the answer was No. We trekked up to Hitchin and trained with Shaun Leatham; a trainer that took all of what was good about Sisco and developed this with me, which over time gave me a partnership which was based on 100% loyalty and trust, and gave me the dog I wanted to work with; I can categorically say that I will never find another dog that works the way I do and things the way I do. Since this time, we've worked together in a number of places, whether it be on building sites, industrial estates, or where Sisco came in to his own was the festival field - How many people reading this can categorically say their dog has saved lives? How many people reading this have had their own life saved by their dogs on a regular basis; sometimes through simply being at my side, other times from noticing someone sneaking up on my blind side, and reasonably regularly from simply using his nose to tell me someone's two fields away moving in my direction? To have an animal do this for you is truly an honour.

 

A few anecdotes:

At one festival when Sisco had not long started out - I think it was his second year in service, we were called to respond to a possible intruder rustling through the bushes by a concerned trader. Within about a minute, Sisco had tracked me to a small barb-wire fence with a gentleman from the Irish travelling community one leg over about to enter our inner perimeter. I announced myself and warned to the presence of a dog, and at this point I started to question the gent on what he's up to - turns out he's going for a walk. After about a minute of my questions on where/why he's walking on our side of the fence, and after the response team had turned up, the classic line which I still remember "Would ya call the dog back a little bit, because my balls are a bit painful with the questions" - turns out that with Sisco's mere presence, this gent had not wanted to move, despite having a barb penetrating through his trousers, and thus teaching a valuable lesson!

Some years at festivals, the drug cocktails are worse than others. This one particular year the little cherubs had taken to mixing Ketamine and liquid acid, which was creating some interesting hallucinations - Throughout that weekend, we'd been called everything from Taliban to the devil's horsemen. With Sisco being a level headed dog, I was happy to do something I wouldn't often take the risk with, and that was use him in the public access areas of an event: On this one occasion, we were called to provide over-watch to a situation which had developed with an assault suspect who rapidly became the patient, and was taking his drug cocktail out on paramedics and welfare. We'd just moved the situation backstage as the headline band were coming off in to their tour bus. With what could be quite a major situation, the presence of a calm and quiet dog could be all it took to pacify a crowd from the normal "security are duffing him up" cries, not only from the public, but from traders and artists too. On this particular occasion, we had the situation under control when suddenly the keyboard player had seen something going on, and rushed over to the scene... And started fussing Sisco, and telling me how he loved rotties and how handsome he was! Dude! Not the time! How many security dogs, no matter their training would have wagged their tail a bit, given a lick, and stepped so the chap was no longer blocking his view, whilst a couple of my colleagues explained to the musician how daft his move was!

A dog that I could truly use at festivals as a diverse general purpose dog, that never needed to make a bite, had fun in what he did, and would go from manning a fence line, to two minutes later sitting between my legs showing disgusted parents a trick that our youngest had trained him in sharing ice creams with children!

There's plenty more, but I'm sure those of you that work with us on a regular basis will be bored of hearing them already.

Sisco retired last year.. not that he wanted to, but I felt that with me being on the ground less, it was the fairer thing to do; so the trip to the vets this week for a routine sprain (as a big dog of nearly 9 years old, he used to bash his legs and tail trying to get up to mischief), to hear the news that my best friend, my working partner of 6 years, and the king of my house had cancer in his front leg which was about to split the bone wasn't something I was prepared for - Money at this point became no object - if it would have helped I'd have sold personal possessions to pay for his treatment.. he'd earned money for me, for the company, and it's only fair that he had it spent on his health, but then the kicker - even with amputation, aggressive chemotherapy, and learning to walk at 38kg with only one front leg, I'd only be buying him a couple of months. For me, it would have been easy to say yes, but in my heart I knew it would have been for my own selfish inability to live without him, and would have given him no quality of life he'd have been happy with.

As I write this, I'm three days in to life without Sisco in it, I've two bitches who are kinda looking every time they hear the door go, and it hurts. It's bad enough losing a pet, but when that pet has literally been your team mate, your partner in crime (prevention), and your conscience, it breaks you. I follow a number of Police dog units on various social media, and as I write this there have been three Police dog handlers who have gone home from their shift without their partners and several across the world who are touch & go; some through old age related illness like Sisco, and others through being assaulted in the line of duty. In four days time, the "Finn's Law" petition is being debated in Parliament, with view to giving police animals status over and above that of "property" - Something that I'd appreciate you looking in to and seeing how you can help raise awareness if you've read this far.

If you've stumbled across this as a potential new rottweiler owner, don't believe the press.. but don't think it's easy. You will not find a more compassionate, caring and family oriented breed than this. If you want a dog with a big heart that will look out for you and your family, then look no further. To get that dog, you have a strong willed canvas which will debate with you, test you, and regularly have you pulling your hair out - every day is worth it.

Thanks for reading.
Paul.

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