What makes a dog the perfect pet? Some like a small Yorkie willing to sit on your lap for hours. Others like a big Labrador retriever excited to play fetch until the sun goes down. Still, there are those of us whose preference would be adopting a poodle mostly for show. Whatever it is, the love they give us and the love we give back to them is the most important.
Through owning two dogs, watching several others owned by other people, and petting the majority I see walking on the street there has only been one dog I met whose presence was so strong and heavy that people who never met him fell in love. His name was Kiko, the 11-year-old Newfoundland.
I met Kiko at work, a dog daycare facility. The first time I saw the 120 pound gentle giant I asked a coworker what his name was as the job required me to learn the names of about 100 dogs.
“That’s Kiko. He works here,” said the coworker. I thought it was a joke, but soon I realized he was right; Kiko did work there.
When Kiko started coming to the daycare facility, long before I worked there, he quickly earned a nickname, Chief. The nickname was so befitting because as any dog who dared misbehave near him would learn, Kiko was a police officer.
Whenever dogs would play too rough Kiko would discipline them. He never did it in an aggressive way either. With the little dogs all it took was a loud masculine bark. With the bigger guys sometimes it took a bit more. Kiko knew exactly how far to take it, never escalating to violence. For the more rambunctious dogs, Kiko would stand up from the ground and charge, sometimes even putting his mouth on the dogs. He would never bite down though. All he had to do was let them know he could if he wanted to. It was his way of teaching them right and wrong.
Kiko was already an old man when I met him and many of the stories others would tell had become folklore among the community of dog owners. The other dogs always felt safe around Kiko. A pug named Elvis would spend the day resting near him and a Weimaraner named Spencer would rest his head on Kiko’s butt. The dark-furred lovable giant always welcomed other dogs near. He knew his role as protector and he proudly embraced it.
“Go get ’em Kiko,” was all we had to say to get Kiko to work. The only reward he ever wanted was a little bit of praise and some water to drink. He never worked because he thought it would make us happy. Kiko did what he did because he knew it was the right thing to do. Justice had to be served.
Near the end, Kikos daily naps grew longer and his hind legs were growing weaker. Standing for Kiko was now a chore. His police work would usually take place while lying flat on the ground instead of on foot.
Sadly on January 7, 2014 Kiko retired from police work. We had all known he was growing older, but nobody thought this day would come. Our Chief was unable stand up since the previous night and his temperament was more down than ever. At 2:43pm with his dads present, Kiko left this world.
Immediately after the news was made public an outpouring of love came from all over. Kiko’s death was only the second since I started working with dogs and because of the love he gave us it hit extra hard. The unexpectedness and inability to say goodbye also hurt. Kiko had worked hard in the time I knew him though, and there is comfort knowing he gets to rest now.
Chief Kiko was the King of the Alpha Males. He was more than a dog. Kiko was justice in the form of a lovable dough-eyed creature.