Free

I seldom if ever make mention of what anyone would consider to be “personal” items on this site. Everyone has their own issues, issues that make mine seem irrelevant. I just feel the absolute necessity to say the following..

Some of you may know that I am a canine officer for the St. Louis police department. March 14, 2011 at 0745, my retired canine partner Basko vom Kokeltal passed away, twelve years and eleven months.

Some may say, “big deal, its just a dog.” This “dog” was responsible for well over two hundred seizures and he personally made it his business to make sure that I made it home every night. That was no “dog”. I had considered whether to “brag” on Basko here, to talk of the many amazing “finds” that he had during his career. I don’t believe that that is what he would have wanted. We just did our job. However, there are a few stories about my buddy that I need to tell.

Before I had actually been placed in the canine section, our head trainer at the time Mike Perkins, called me on the phone and wanted to know if I wanted to go with him up to our training facility to meet what he called, “my dog”.. This was dangerous as I hadn’t been moved yet and I didn’t want to “bond” with the dog even for a minute if I weren’t getting moved into the division. I went anyway.

As we pulled into our canine training facility, Mike pulled the car to a stop inside of the gate. To my right are the kennels and there was only one dog there at the time Basko, and all that I could see was the outline of his ears as he had a very dark black face.. Mike gets out of the driver side of the vehicle and then it happened..

This dog which had been just sitting there.. Staring.. Suddenly began jumping and barking in an almost berserk sort of fashion. He was chewing on the chain link that made up the sides of the kennel. Dog saliva was flying everywhere and the only thing that I could think at the time was, “THIS is the dog that they want to give me?” As Mike made his way along side the kennel to the back door of the facility, the show didn’t end, it actually increased in amperage.. Here I am sitting in the passenger seat.. I remember thinking that I had better get out just to see how he would respond to my presence, after all, he is in a kennel, he can’t get at me..

I opened the passenger side door. As God as my witness, Basko just sat down. He didn’t take his eyes off of me.. Is this good or is this bad.. I walked along side the kennel. Not a sound, not a motion. I walked to the front of the kennel. This is it. There is only one way to find out how this will go, besides the accompanying stitches will make for an interesting story for years to come. I opened the kennel door.

Basko exits the kennel and looks right at me. Mind you, when a “working” dog “stares” at you, it is meant as a confrontation. I did the most illogical thing that anyone could have done in that situation. I leaned over and hugged this dog. When working with “working” dogs, when they are “good dogs”, you verbally praise them in a silly high-pitched voice. I said, “Go get your Binky”.. Imagine, a ninety pound dog dashing away to then return with his rubber Kong toy and drop it at my feet.. (I called his toy a “Binky” which most people call what their infant children gnaw on, but he understood me anyway and from then on it was his “Binky”..) He just wanted to play and play we did..

Basko had actually been the second dog of a handler that had quit the department. The family adored the first dog and Basko sat outside alone for the most part. When the handler quit, Basko sat at the training facility for nearly three months.. I didn’t really know it but he really needed a hug..

The thing that kills a “working” dog is the notion that they no longer “work”. We have had “retired” dogs die in less than two weeks and most of them don’t even last a few months.. I vowed to not allow that to happen to Basko and the only way to do that was to “trick” him into believing that he was still “working”..

I started working with young Daimon, who is trained in the fine art of EOD (explosive ordnance detection) in July of 2009. I kept Basko and Daimon separated by a door in the basement of my home. Every night after I would get home with Daimon, I would feed him and put him up. I would then bust through the door, turn the radio back on and take Basko to “work”.

Basko would then jump into the back of the police car and we would go to one of the dozens of parks in the city. He would do his “obedience”. He would do an “article search”. He would do a narcotics hide. Then he would play ball and get brushed. Dogs have no semblance of time when they sleep, so I would drive around in the car with the police radio on until he went to sleep. I would then pull into the driveway again, let Basko the “still working” dog out and he would be fed.. I think that he really fell for it..

After a very rough night last night, I knew that I had a decision to make. I never wanted to make the decision that God normally makes, but I could not bear to see Basko suffer. He always was completely impervious to pain of any kind. Even though I knew of this high level of tolerance for pain that he had and I could see that he was struggling.

It was actually special this morning as there was nothing in the world Basko loved more than playing in the snow. Out of nowhere, it started snowing quite hard this morning and Basko got to play “snowballs” again for one last time. I would make snowballs and smack him with them. He would try to catch them with his mouth and if a dog ever laughed, this was when Basko was laughing.. His “little brother” Butch, our Jack Russell Terrier and Basko’s best friend in the whole wide world, came out and played with him one last time as well. Even as we awaited the vet to arrive at his office, Basko still wanted to play in the snow.. So we did..

As the vet prepared to make the injection that would still a heart that I thought would never stop beating, he said, “are you ready for this?” I could only look at him and say, “I will never be ready for this but I cannot see him suffer..” This morning, I bear hugged my Basko as he took his last breath at 0745. I now ask myself if I told him often enough just how good of a dog he was. Did I pet him as much as I could have.. Did I hug him as much as I should have.. I only hope and pray that I will get the chance to do so again.. If I am lucky, when its my turn to go, I will see that very same face, sitting there and staring.. Waiting for me to again play with him..

When we train with our dogs, when the training scenario is over we tell our dogs one word to let them know that they can “let down” just for a moment. We tell them that they are “free” and they usually run and jump and celebrate another job well done.

My Basko dog, you are “free”..

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49 responses to “Free

  1. Family,

    Please excuse this personal note relative to Basko.

    Thanks as always,

    Larry

  2. No excuses needed, Larry. I was very moved by your account. Being a farm boy I know how special animals can be. Our dog was “Specks” and I was too young to remember how he got his name, but he was a part of the family and took very good care of us. God Bless you for your great love for “just a dog”, Basko, and for sharing with this family.

  3. Carmen Wilke

    Love you. Wish I was there with you.

  4. Sorry to hear of your loss. Anyone who thinks of them “as just a dog” has never been blessed with the unconditional love and total acceptance they give. “The Art of Racing in the Rain” by Garth Stein is a wonderful book for anyone who has lost a great friend.

  5. Larry,
    We have 2 dogs here in SC. We had 3 but we recently had to put Fame down. Her sister was named Fortune. It is hard for “a little right of Attila” me to shed a tear, but I did reading your post. There is a reason why dog is God spelled backwards. Regards & sympathy Kurt

  6. Larry I know and feel your pain. The pain to your heart and soul is immense! I had to put my Brandy down ‘boxer’ and it is definitely a very difficult decision and task. Keep on Keepin on!!!

    Fred

  7. Robert LaCoe

    Larry. We send our heart felt condolences to you, your family, and your other dogs. We had 2 poms that lived long and loving lives. If there are errors please excuse them as it is hard to see the key boars though tears. God Bless all animals large and small. Bob

  8. Christine Bissell

    My dear brother, how you move me with your words and your life. Of one thing I am certain, Basko knew and felt your love every day of his life with you. Your writings of your feelings for Basko show the perfect expression of the love and bond between us and our beloved pets. Working dogs or not they are a vital part of our lives. I love you Larry, I admire you and your dedication to your job and your dear Basko. I know this same love goes for Butchie and Daimon, there is always room in our hearts to accept another but no one takes the room that was reserved for the ones who have passed. I still grieve for my dear Andy who passed unexpectedly in December of 1995, he was only 7 and we packed alot of love and fun in that time. My heart goes out to you, breaks for you and Basko but you will all have fun again. I hope he’s playing with Troubles now and they are good friends. Love to you as always – stay safe,
    Your sister, Chris

  9. I read you all the time…love your articles. I have never posted but this is one fine tribute to a great partner in your life. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Basko. I used to be in law enforcement and the friends and partners you work with …the good ones are friends for life and through eternity….God Bless.

  10. We’re so sorry to hear, Larry. He was quite the pooch and we know he will be deeply missed. XOXOXO

  11. I read you all the time…love your articles. I have never posted but this is one fine tribute to a great partner in your life. My thoughts and prayers are with you and Basko. I used to be in law enforcement and the friends and partners you work with …the good ones are friends for life and through eternity….God Bless

  12. This is a wonderful website that has helped me and many others I know who have lost a special four legged member of the family.
    http//rainbowbridge.com/poem.htm

  13. They sure do become a part of our families, don’t they? It has always been a wish of mine that our companions lived as long as we do, so we wouldn’t have to say good-bye to them. There is no shame in wanting to offer some sort memorium to an old friend, and the fact he walked on four legs instead of two makes no differences.

  14. Prayers and positive thoughts to you today. Thanks for sharing Basko with us. We were honored to know him, too.

  15. Denise McMillian

    Dearest Larry – After reading your beautiful words, I had to wipe tears away before beginning this message (and will probably wipe a few more away after I’m finished). I’m so very sorry to hear about Basko – the work the two of you did together touched so many lives, but the love that you two had for each other, the support, the loyalty, the trust was even more amazing. I’ve never seen two beings so in tune as you and Basko. Whether working or playing – always as one, seeming to read the other’s thoughts and moves. I know a lot of that comes from the unbelievable training you both had, but there was something more, something intangible, just like the moment you wrote about, when you two first met. That was an amzaing story and it was so clear, right from the start – You just knew and he knew, too. Together, already…just as you always will be together. Nothing can take the wonderful memories away. He was a hero and a buddy -what more could anyone want? Larry, you are always in my thoughts and prayers. Please keep safe. I’m hugging both you and Basko in my mind right now. Love, your sister, Denise

  16. Larry, as Robert LaCoe was, I was moved to tears as I read your wonderful tribute to your “working mate”! May God comfort you in your great loss.

  17. Claire et J-C

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Miss you and Carmen.
    I always read your posts but never comment as I would sound like most of your readers.
    I always enjoy and most often agree with your analysis of any subjects you comment on. Thank you.

  18. Thanks for sharing this story, Larry. It was difficult to finish reading through the tears falling on my keyboard.

    “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”
    —Anatole France.

  19. Margaret in CT

    We’re tasked with such a difficult responsibility when it comes to deciding to relieve our animal companions of their suffering. You helped your Basko out of this life kiindly and unselfishly. He was fortunate to have you in his life—and you to have him.

  20. Alabama Redneck

    Dear friend Larry.

    I know I haven’t posted for quite awhile now but sharing your personal life about Basko and the decision you had to make really touched me as I have had to make the same decision in the past. I was gifted with a Shih Tzu that had been terribly mistreated. She was a rescue dog that had an inordinate fear of men. With gentle handling and lots of love she became my constant companion and she was always ready to go for a ride in the car or outside to play. I spoiled her so much. Four years ago she started to have trouble with her hind quarters and developed cancer. It was so hard for her to go outside and I had to carry her down my front steps for her now very short walks. It finally got to the point where she was losing control of her body functions and I knew she was suffering. I took her to my vet and she died in my arms very peacefully. Even the passing years have not dimmed the memory of her and I still miss her sparkling eyes and wagging tail when I asked her to go outside. There are some things that time cannot heal and the love we receive from a dog and our love for them is one of them.

    Thank you for sharing your moment in time for the grief I know is in your heart for your beloved Basko. Perhaps he and my Kizzy will meet and then be waiting for us when out time comes.

    May God bless you, Larry, for your love of animals. I always like to think that God entrusts His little animale to our care and we can only take care of them with love.

  21. Larry, I always knew you were special and now I know why. Dog is God spelled backwards and dog lovers are a breed apart. Sorry for your loss. I know how attached you get. I know how holding your friend during the injection is a very emotional experience so I wish you a new special friend. If only most people were as faithful as our dogs.

  22. I have had to do this 4 times in my life to my 4 best friends…Your blog brought back all the memories as I type with tears in my eyes…..

  23. Dear Larry,
    What a lovely story and tribute to your dear friend BASKO. Thank you for sharing it with all of us. You and Basko will be together again…that bond goes on into all eternity. God bless you both.

  24. Larry,

    So very sorry to hear of your loss this morning. My heart goes out to you for I know the pain you are feeling. I pray that all the wonderful memories you have of your dear friend Basko will ease the sadness and help you laugh a little as you recall your wild times together. He sounds like he was one special friend. God bless.

  25. I am a retired LEO with a disability in the line of duty after almost 30 years. I have been reading your site for some time but have never commented before. I agree with 99.9% of things you write but have never felt the need to respond as to me it was “preaching to the choir”. I am a female and have done some wondrous things in my career. I know that I have made a difference.
    The loss of your family member and best bud, Basko, makes me want to reach out and tell you some things. You will never forget him; the hurt will fade somewhat, but the touch and smell of him will be with you forever, as it should be. The joy you knew he felt by being with you will bring a sad smile for many years to come, but it will be a smile. I have worked 2 cases of the death of a canine officer,
    the first, the dog was killed also. The second, the dog was positioned over his fallen master, still protecting. It is a sight I will never forget.
    I also had the opportunity to take a shift of 15 deputies to Miami arriving about 6 hours after Andrew hit. After working 20 hour days for about 5 days the “guys” decided they needed a night off. I volunteered to babysit the dogs and motors and other equipment. When the handlers came back in about 4 A.M I was sound asleep with their ferocious dogs in the tent with me curled up around me. They said I “ruined” their dogs.
    By telling you this I want you to understand I know your closeness with Basko and the love that you had for each other. If the table was turned he would have done the same for you. In the future, the snow days can be “Basko Days”…and he will live on. God bless you and our 4 legged partners.
    *and Kris was absolutely on the money; the Art of Racing in the Rain is wonderful beyond words.

  26. Jeff Potts, California

    Larry,

    I came closer than most to business end of Basko vom Kokeltal that night I came down your basement stairs to say “hello” unannounced. That dog protected you with unbridled ferocity. It was a comfort to know he was riding patrol with you every night; Heaven help any “bad guy” who tried to mess with Bosko’s partner. I was proud of him for that, as I am of you. Thank you both for you work and dedication to the safety of your community.

    Jeff Potts

  27. Well, my mascara is running and keyboard is wet.
    Sorry to hear about your friend, Larry. I know you did one of the hardest things in your life, but you did it out of love and compassion, that’s what matters the most. I’m sure with a love like that, you’ll see him again.

  28. Dear Larry,

    You don’t have to apologize for sharing something personal with the family. We’re here to support each other regardless of the topic. Speaking of sharing, when my first dog Kelly passed away, I found this poem, and I thought that you would find it as comforting as I did when my Kelly died. I’m certain that Basko will be waiting for you when your time comes. Here’s the poem:

    My Forever Friend

    I know that it must be different now that I am no longer here. I can see how much I was loved, and how all of you did care.

    It will be hard at first when you look around for me hoping to find me lying on my bed or outside beside my favorite tree.

    But someday, what you will begin to see, although it will take some time, is that you brought happiness to me, and forever it will be mine.

    Remember, it’s the family I had that means the most to me. So, please don’t be sad, it was just my time to leave.

  29. Larry, our deepest condolences are with you. We are mourning with you.
    Our two year old shepherd was killed two plus years ago when he ran into traffic. Our three boys, then 11, 19, & 24 were devastated, as were we. I have not seen my college aged son cry harder. I have not seen my family in such pain.
    To cope with our loss, we immediately sought out another shepherd. Although Rex is no replacement for Diesel, he has brought us many hours of joy. He is now one year and four months, born on Thanksgiving. Still a puppy.
    Larry, thanks for all you do. And hang in there. God is with you. And so are we.
    P.S. I read your stuff all the time.

    P.S. I read your articles all the time.

  30. I am so glad to know this about you Larry. I’ve had many dogs in my life time. My parents had a Veterinary Clinic in Chicago when I was growing up. Later, my dogs were as much a part of my family as my children. I had a grooming parlor and pet store and my dogs went to work with me every day. They knew what the routine was. As I read about Bosco (my mother had a dog she adopted by that name) I started to weep…not just for your loss but also for mine. I also was faced with that very difficult decision. Here is just another example of conservatives with such a love for the creatures God introduces into our world. Why do the libs want to make us uncaring? I just really needed to comment on this I was so touched.

  31. In the last year I’ve had to put down a very well loved cat who thought she was a dog (fetched, came when called, etc) and a too young, gorgeous palomino half Arab horse, and in years past, a dog. I am reliving that pain as I read your tribute to Basko. There’s nothing like the love of an animal–no conditions, no other agenda, just never-ending joy to see you and to make you happy. I think this rates position in the primary email, not just as a click-through.

  32. Larry, my friend, I thank you for your wonderful relationship of you and Basko. I can only offer my tearful and deep consolations in your loss of Basko but I will try to assure you that you have shown him the love and brotherhood and that you needn’t question seeing him again once you when are “free.” You shall be joined together, God does let dogs into Heaven.

  33. Dear Larry, I am so sorry for your loss. I truly understand your pain as I had to put my Akita, Ceara down in September. She was almost fourteen and and was a loving, faithful, and protective companion. When her organs began to shut down, I couldn’t bear to have her suffer. It is never an easy thing to do but it isn’t right to keep our faithful friends here when they are, clearly, uncomfortable and in pain. God Bless You for your love and care of Basko.

    The following poem has always comforted me and I hope it will do so for you as well.

    Rainbow Bridge

    Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

    When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
    There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together.
    There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

    All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.
    The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

    They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent; His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

    You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

    Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together….

    Author unknown…

  34. JR NOT OF DALLAS

    Larry How touching is this story about ROSKO.
    So many have written in reply and commented on losing a pet DOG
    We had to do the same thing this past year to our sixth dog and it never
    is easy. I am going to have my wife read all these messages and right now I am having a hard time telling her it’s coming. She had to hold ROSIE
    our eight year old BEAGLE while the vet performed his duty. One of our
    doge was a GERMAN SHEPHARD named Eric Von Wolfhousen a police
    dog reject obtained from my wifes brother a policeman handling a dog.
    Winter hopefully is over so we are considering another valuable friend
    or two to add to our family.
    Bless you for all you do and for your love of animals.

  35. JR NOT OF DALLAS

    APOLOGIZE NAME OF YOUR DOG S/B BASKO

  36. Bill and Jean Campbell

    Dear Larry,
    We were saddened this morning to learn that Bosko had died. Carmen had mentioned many times how difficult living had become for him, but I am sure this was a very painful decision for you.
    We were very proud to have had Bosko as our Granddog. Not everyone is priviledged to be Grandparents to such an outstanding police offficer.
    The Bible teaches that God gave man dominion over his creation. We have a responsiblity/stewardship to love and care for creatures that need us and count on us. Bosko was blessed to have you in his life and you were blessed to have him. I pray that you are able to count your blessing and cherish your memories. He was really a great dog. Love ya, Larry. Mom and Dad Campbell

  37. Thank you Larry for sharing your loss with all of us. Sharing is always good as others can help comfort us with their kind words. Losing a good friend is never easy and never forgotten. God Bless You, Larry

  38. Judy & Ed Brown

    Larry, What a wonderful tribute you have written to Basco. I hope I spelled his name right. It was spelled different ways by people who made posts, but I used your spelling of his name. I was very moved by what you wrote. I have heard about Basco in the past from Jean. I do understand your pain for Ed & I lost two sister labs, Ginger & Phoebe, a few years ago (two years apart). We now have another lab, Amber, who we love so dearly. She is 4 years old. I loved those other two, but this one…. well, there just aren’t words! She isn’t actually named after Amber C, but named because of her beautiful Amber color. Her name, however, does remind me so often of my niece Amber (Amber would never know how often I do think of her), as I do of Carmen too. Thank you for writing and for sending the posting to me. Love, Carmen’s Aunt Judy

  39. Im a phone call away anytime you need me.Love you bud

  40. No apologies necessary…this is just as important as everything else you write. And in response to those that say :So what, it’s just a dog,: try having one for 16 years, or 12 in your caase. They are every bit a part of the family. I am truly sorry for your loss.

  41. Oh..and Gaackkkk…my spelling and punctuation went to heck and a handbasket..:)

  42. Larry, Thank you for sharing your memories and loss of your beloved Basko.
    Oh, how our dogs have a way of becoming such a part of our lives. I too, have lost pets. We have had Jack Russells since the 80’s and it was never easy to see them go. Our little clowns who have passed are Zed, Zoe, and Zoot and now we have a smiley Zack. They were all unique and loved.

  43. Wow, what a moving article ( I don’t think anyone could read it without getting a tear in the eye, or a lump in the throat) – thanks for sharing your feelings .
    It is obvious from the many comments above , that you have many friends out here in cyberspace, and I join them in wishing you the best. And, I am confident that Daimon will help ease the pain and fill the void.
    Stay safe.

  44. Family,

    Here is the latest from the TOTD site:

    http://noleftturnztotd.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/today/

    I promise not to belabor or bore anyone with this subject again..

    My thanks to each and every one of you for your kind words,

    Larry

  45. Larry,

    I was sorry to read of Baskos passing. My dog Jack, who was with us for 7 years, was hit by a car last October and killed. I still miss him. I also hope to play with my buddy again.
    My heart goes out to you at this time and I will remember Basko and you in our prayers.

    Sincerely,
    Ninth

  46. I love your writing though I never comment but this time I had to. I am so sorry for your loss. Truly. I hope Basko is basking in a happy place. God bless.

  47. whiskeytangofoxtrot

    Thanks for sharing the story. I miss my bo Rowdy too; two years later, I still can’t think of him without a tear. Yes, you did hug Basko enough and tell him how good he was- it’s in every word of your story.

  48. beyond disgusted

    Dear Larry,

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Basko was indeed very special and will never be forgotten. As Basko “picked” you, my GSD Cisco vom Haus Franck picked me when he was a 7 week old puppy. I trained and titled him to SchH II. To me, he was the best dog in the whole world & I told him that frequently throughout his life. I lost him to cancer two days before Thanksgiving. My heart still breaks, I know exactly how you feel.
    My release word was also “free”!
    Thank you for sharing Basko’s life with us; your family loves you.

    Nancy Aspinwall

  49. Upon posting I will go and bear hug my “girl”.

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