That picture up there, that’s my dog. His name is Dio. He’s a Siberian Husky, maybe mixed with something else – he’s smaller than most huskies (though still within breed guidelines) and exhibits standard husky behavior: He’s playful, especially with other dogs, likes to roughhouse at the dog park. He’s really affectionate, most of the time, but sometimes he just wants to hang out in the other side of the house, away from the hubbub. My wife and I, we’re both thirty and we don’t have kids, so we pour a lot of affection into the dog. He’s an easy little guy to love. We’ve had him about a year and a half, found him on Craigslist. A family was forced to get rid of him, as huskies were placed on their apartment’s restricted breed list – they can be destructive, and it’s not uncommon for apartments to be wary. They rescued him after he’d spent his first year or so as an outside dog, and he’s just turned three. He’s never aggressive toward anyone, though he is usually suspicious of strange men, and the only time he’ll growl is if one starts swatting at his head to pet him when he’s not ready.
Anyway. He’s a good boy.
My number one fear in life, attributed directly as a result of all of the reading that I do for this job (I’ll be billing Sumpter & Gonzalez for my therapy, I’m sure), is that the police are going to kill my dog.
It’s a specific fear, for sure, but it’s palpable. I’ve seen plenty of videos of police brutality, read even more stories, that involve police – young men with guns and authority they didn’t really earn – attacking people, and dogs, too. I’m not so worried about being attacked by the police myself. In most of the videos, even the one where the cop runs over and kills a 17 year old boy on a bicycle, the police’s victim did something to provoke the cop. Oftentimes, it’s something totally legal, like riding your bike down the street in a manner consistent with traffic laws, or celebrating after a basketball victory, and there’s no justification for the attack. But you can still see how the person’s actions, which they were in control of, caused the incident – if you don’t want to run the risk of being attacked by the police, don’t ride your bike during a Critical Mass event, don’t be a college kid running around in a good mood after your team wins, etc. Stay meek and avoid a situation in which a police officer might opt to beat you to prove some point, and the odds are you’ll go through life without getting beaten by a cop. It’s a form of petty tyranny, sure, but at least the ball’s in your court.
But for a dog – not so much.
Take Bear Bear. Bear Bear was a husky – 3 years old, like mine, who’d been adopted by a young couple after being fostered by a family who’d rescued him. Also like mine. His owners, like my wife and I, liked to take him to the off-leash dog park, where he can run around – huskies need a huge amount of running time, as they’re bred for pulling sleds – and interact with other dogs (they’re also extremely social, since sled-pulling requires a pack).
Also like my dog, Bear Bear was known for playing rough. Not aggressively – no history of violence in either animal – but the breed’s mouthy and likes to roll around with other dogs. With my dog, my wife is always quick to explain that it’s just play to another owner, and most of the time, after observing, they recognize that their dog’s not in any danger, and they roll around and have their fun. (Sometimes, they’re clearly uncomfortable, and we’ll hold Dio while they retrieve their dog.)
This Monday, Bear Bear was at an off-leash dog park in his Maryland hometown when another couple brought in a German Shepherd, who was on a leash. Bear Bear ran over to the other dog, they started playing, the other couple got nervous, and the man – an off-duty federal police officer – decided to shoot Bear Bear.
The husky lay down – which is the detail in this story that breaks my heart, since I know that’s what Dio would do, too – and bled to death. The vet was unable to save him.
As of yesterday, there was no investigation and no claim of wrongdoing – the Anne Arundel County police said that a crime had not been committed. As of today, after huge public outcry, there has been an investigation opened. We can all take heart that the police will fully investigate before deciding that no crime was committed, at least.
In any case, it won’t bring back Bear Bear. Won’t do anything about my very specific puppycide phobia, either.