The death of Diesel, a French ‘RAID’ dog, in the wake of the horrific Paris attacks, made headlines around the world. The seven year old Belgian Shepherd was killed, apparently saving his handler’s life, when a terrorist blew herself up during a siege. Many took to Twitter, using the hashtag #JeSuisChien (‘I am dog’), to share their support and to post images of their own dogs, some holding French flags. But according to some journalists, this outpouring of grief for a ‘mere dog’ is not only “soppy and irrational” but also a demonstration of us losing our humanity.
“If anyone is more interested in marking the death of an animal than of the 129 people who died last weekend, they need to take a long hard look at themselves” one journalist wrote. But how do you judge that someone is ‘more interested’ in marking the death of an animal over a person? Do you count up the number of tweets sent relating to the human victims and compare them with the amount set aside for Diesel? Or is it the content of the messages themselves – are we ‘allowed’ to show emotion for a dog? The notion that showing support for Diesel somehow overshadows the tremendous amount of news coverage for the people who tragically lost their lives seems a little strange. If the writers of these articles truly believe that sharing a photo of a dog means that we no longer care about each other, surely taking the time to write 1000 words on the issue… Wait, surely in that time they could have been busy mourning the human victims!
Perhaps it is indeed true that the sheer scale and terrifying nature of the attacks in France and across the world are simply too much for us to comprehend, and it is easier to focus our grief on a single dog – a species that most of us care deeply about – than to even attempt to convey our grief for the human lives lost. But tweeting a photograph of our pets with the hashtag #JeSuisChien does not mean that we care any less about the people involved in the attacks. It just happens that Diesel has been the only reported animal casualty of Paris, and it is unreasonable to expect the average person to send a tweet for each individual human victim. Sending a solidarity tweet for every single turkey slaughtered this Christmas may be an action worthy of the phrase ‘over-sentimentality’ – but showing support for one dog, who died in a horrific manner, a dog who undoubtedly contributed to safeguarding human life throughout his years of service to the French police, is surely not.
Telling people who or what they can mourn is dangerous territory. For dog lovers, ignoring the death of a police dog in such awful circumstances is incomprehensible. Using an animal to highlight alleged ‘victim racism’ is quite frankly ridiculous. The fact that Russia has offered French police a German Shepherd puppy, Dobrynya, in a display of solidarity, shows just how important dogs are and what they can represent.
The name ‘Dobrynya’ apparently signifies ‘strength, kindness, bravery and selfless help’.
I think this sums up police K9s pretty well.