On March 14th, 2017, we lost the Greatest Detection Dog Ever. Today we lost a dog who has been my second partner since the passing of my Police Dog, Falco von Aramis. It is with the heaviest of hearts that I have to inform the world that we lost The Great Bruno von Falco.
I know many of our detection dog handlers will dispute the claim of Bruno being the best ever… and of course, defend their dog as being the best. But I think I can make a pretty good argument as to the greatness of this unlikely yet masterful detection dog.
Bruno was, in fact, an exceptional dog… but he did not start off that way. Several years ago when I had the bright idea of starting a security company (whole nuther story). And in this security company, we of course, decided to provide narcotics and explosive detection dog services. So the search for qualified dogs was on.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember all the details of how Bruno came to our attention but my memory tells me that he was with a family and due to a change in circumstances, they had to give him up so they called Falco K9 Academy. Upon testing Bruno I found him to be an average dog at best but he did not blow my socks off at the time. But he was good enough to keep him in the running and also because he was less expensive than a trip to Europe for a candidate.
Eventually, a man by the name of Lowin was selected as the handler to work with Bruno. So here I had an inexperienced former truck driver with a dog that was not the best of the best but still worth giving a try… PERFECT! As anyone knows who has ever started a business, sometimes you have to make things work to keep expenses down and to just get things started. So we gave both of them a shot. As we also learn in life, out of some of the biggest challenges and moments of adversity, comes your greatest accomplishments. You also have to dig through the rocks to find the gems. Thank God we did.
As training started, I remember Bruno sometimes just looking at us like we were crazy almost saying, “What the HELL! This makes no sense!” And although there were moments when we all were ready to quit and we had high levels of frustration, Bruno began to search for narcotics. Not only that, Lowin, who was all thumbs and toes to start, became an outstanding handler. They actually became a very effective team. It was night and day! It was amazing!!
Bruno and Lowin would go on to work in schools searching for hidden narcotics and almost immediately began to find dope in schools in Indio, CA and other areas. One time they even had an alert on a teacher’s desk where they found methamphetamine. The dope-taking teacher was removed from the school.
During this time, Bruno would also be trained to be a protection dog. And although Bruno was a lover, not a fighter, he would do bite work. Mostly for show but I have a feeling if he was needed to protect Lowin or his future handlers I am sure he would step up to the plate. Bruno was a big German Shepherd with a big bark. There are few people who would continue their aggression once Bruno made his presence known.
Bruno would also begin doing demonstrations with Lowin and that is when I first witnessed the willingness of Bruno to perform. He never missed! And if you know me, I will never say a dog and especially never a dog/human combination have the ability to be perfect. Because not ALWAYS are the conditions, human and dog perfect ALL at the same. But Bruno always found a way to have success in spite of imperfect conditions and an imperfect handler. Bruno would land us jobs and a lot of interest due to his performances. Lowin wasn’t bad either!
Unfortunately, the security company ended as quickly as it got started. Even though we were handling the security for Comic-con in San Diego and the Coachella Fest and Stage Coach events in Indio and countless other venues, it just was not to be. So we closed the doors and Lowin went back to Driving trucks and Bruno came home with me. For short time Bruno would become a part of my family and my very small children loved the big oaf. He would run around the backyard and bite at the bees and get stung every time. I would make videos of my small children performing obedience behaviors to show the power of Falco K9 Academy of training. It was great because Bruno was so much bigger than my kids.
During Bruno’s time with the security company, I began to get asked to speak on stage to hundreds of attorneys regarding detection dogs. One of the first events was Cesar’s Palace in Las Vegas to an audience of over 500 people. For some of you, you could not imagine speaking in front of 500 plus people… but imagine also having to perform a demonstration to show how a detection dog should look when they are searching for narcotics. I also did this while on mic and speaking to the audience while Bruno was searching. I also, I got the bright idea to hide the narcotic training aids in the audience. On their tables, chairs and on the food trays in the back of the room adding a whole new level of difficulty.
Here is what made Bruno the BEST DETECTION DOG EVER! Not only could he actually perform the job in the field and was proven. He performed these demonstrations PERFECTLY. And again, I never use that word in dog training or dog handling. In these huge auditoriums with my voice coming from all the speakers in the room. With a packed room and often standing room only I would place 6 hides amongst the crowd and along the walls. With people moving around, eating food, talking and lifting up their briefcases… Bruno would begin picking off the finds one at a time. I would work both on leash and off leash. At some venues, I would even send him from the stage while I stayed on stage and he would go out and make the first couple finds without me. At no time did we rehearse or do pre-training before the event. He would just do it. Sometimes I would arrive at the venue make the hinges on a break, bet on stage and do the talk and demonstration; back up the aids and leave. Never once preparing or doing anything in advance.
We performed this talk at Planet Hollywood and the Golden Nugget in addition to Cesar’s Palace over the years in Las Vegas. We began to get invited to speak all over the Unites States. We would fly to Texas, North Carolina, Oregon and Aspen Colorado to name a few. And he would never miss a hide. No matter how difficult I made the finds or even if someone moved a chair without me knowing with a hide on it… he would find it. In the case of the moved chair (which happened more than once) I just had to trust him. The first time I pulled him off because I thought it was the wrong chair, and on mic admitted that sometimes dogs make mistakes. I even joked that the attorney that was sitting there may have “keestered” some dope before the event. After the audience laughed, I sent Bruno back out and he went to the same chair. I finally had to look under the chair and there was the dope. The audience member then said, “Oh sorry I took this chair from over there because the one that was here was broken”. On this day I learned to trust Bruno even more.
While Bruno was living with my family I received a call from a wonderful lady by the name of Cher Aballano. She advised me she loved German Shepherds and she was interested in getting one to do detection work and some bite work. After talking to her, I thought maybe she might be interested in Bruno because I was so busy with other people's dogs, I was not able to spend much time with my own dogs. Plus Bruno looked like the perfect dog for her… that was until I met Cher for the first time in person.
Cher came to my office to meet Bruno and in walks a woman in her 60’s and about the size of my 10-year-old. I am sure she weighed 80 to 90 lbs at the time. The same weight as Bruno. After a bit of back and forth, and needless to say, Cher fell in love with Bruno and desired to take him. However, this is when we found out his hips were starting to shows signs of dysplasia. And in the end, Cher decided to take Bruno anyway and it has been a match made in heaven ever since. Cher has cared for Bruno above and beyond what I had hoped for Bruno. He was the luckiest dog on the planet.
Eventually, Cher would be hired by the LA County Sheriff’s Department to perform searches on the Metro Rail. She was never so proud and excited to get her uniform and pose with Bruno on the day she was sworn in.
An agreement that Cher and I had is that I could take him to perform our talks when needed and to do odd jobs here and there and we did. We continued to perform all over the USA, Pet Expos, Television, Churches and more. And no matter how sore he was he would always, ALWAYS make the finds. He could always be pet and he would always pose for the camera.
Bruno overall was the perfect detection dog and just simply the perfect dog. This story would be 3 times as long if I continued to tell you stories of our adventures together and the unlikeliness of him even becoming a detection dog. But I hope this gives you a sense of what a loss Bruno is. Not only for Cher, Lowin and myself but also for the Detection Dog Community. Bruno was a great representative of what a detection dog can and could do.
A few days ago, Cher called me to let me know that Bruno was sick and he was being X-rayed. She said they had found something on and early X-ray but on a second X-ray, they could not find what they saw the first time. Because of this and by the way he was acting, they needed to do more tests. At his point, the expenses had reached thousands of dollars. But Cher would never give up if it meant saving Bruno’s life and making him as comfortable as possible. Yesterday, on my birthday, I got the call from Cher where she told me that Bruno had died in her home at approximately 12:30 am pst. A Necropsy would show that Bruno died of cancer. The veterinarian said it was so bad that there was no reason why Bruno should have been able to walk, eat or even jump. Yet he did! What else would you expect from the Greatest Detection Dog Ever?
Thank you, Cher, for giving Bruno a great life and thank you Lowin for starting his career as the Best Detection Dog EVER.